Current headlines might have you believe that the Internet - or the various online subcultures that we collectively refer to as the Internet - has it in for Hollywood. The Sony hacks have been embarrassing for producers and so frightening for the studio that it may sit on a feature made by Seth Rogen, who, despite his stoner vibe, is one of the industry’s most reliable box office performers. Meanwhile, Anonymous is attacking Swedish government sites in retaliation for the sinking of The Pirate Bay, long Europe’s go-to source for illegally shared content (including a lot of light-on-dialogue shoot ‘em ups).
But the Internet isn’t any one thing and two eccentric Finnish filmmakers have come to California to prove it.
Tero Kaukomaa and Timo Vuorensola first rose to something not unlike prominence in 2012 when they crowdfunded Iron Sky, a film that dared ask this question: What would happen if Hitler actually escaped to the Moon then returned to wreak his vengeance on America and her Sarah Palin-lookalike president? The entire thing was an exercise in ridiculousness. The acting was horrible. The box office returns were lackluster and the critical reception was kauhea - that’s awful in Finnish.
Still, the venture could be described as a massive success.
Though not a particularly desirable product or defensible piece of art, Iron Sky was funny. And it's mere existence was a coup for the citizens of the Internet, who could in good faith take credit for its (minor) success and the (major) interest it stirred up. The trailer, released on Energia Productions profitable YouTube channel, has been viewed over 14 million times. The trailers to the sequel, several of which have debuted over the last week, have reached over two million people already. And there’s this: Tero and Timo haven’t yet made that movie, which is due out in 2016, yet. They need a crowd to do that and the trailer is what gets the crowd. Everything else comes after.
These guys have made the Internet part of their filmmaking process. Whatever you think of their work - Jesus firing automatic weapons appeals to a very specific audience - it’s significant that producers are taking it seriously. In particular, Arnold Rifkin, the man behind Live Free or Die Hard and a lot of other Bruce Willis movies, is teaming up with the duo to make Jeremiah Harm, a movie about a relatively obscure comic book character. The teaser for that movie is on YouTube despite the dearth of information on its IMDB page. Fans are already building their own aliens on the project site.
Both Iron Sky 2 and Jeremiah Harm will live free or die online. Neither is likely to see the inside of an AMC, which is just fine by all concerned. These movies are intended to be good enough to stream and laugh at and enjoy. That’s why the visual effects are so much better than the acting: The point is the psychotic braggadocio of the endeavor, not the seamlessness of the execution.
And that makes sense if you see Timo and Tero as genre filmmakers, which they assuredly are. They’re guys who invented their own genre, Internet-First B-Movies, and they’re currently the best in class (Zach Braff being a distant second). The fact that they’ve taken such an interest in Hitler is actually indicative of the scope of their mission: They’re uniting the citizens of the Internet toward the common cause of outrageousness. That’s different than what Sony was attempting with The Interview; Sony tried to make something outrageous behind closed doors. If there is anything anathema to Internet Culture, it’s closed doors. The Fins’ transparency protects them.
Why won’t a bunch of Neo-Nazis mount an assault on Iron Sky 2 for depicting the Fuhrer astride a dinosaur? Because the counter attack would be devastating. Citizens of the Internet hate a dictator (whether it’s in the form of government or a film studio), but they protect their own. In so much as Timo and Tero are from Scandinavia, they’re also from Reddit. That makes them the safest provocateurs in America.