“Generation Iron” Review: Inside Muscle

Generation Iron LowResPosterIn the pantheon of great body-building documentaries, there are the seminal film “Pumping Iron” and the seminal film “Pumping Iron.”  As a matter of fact, there have been very few documentaries covering the subject of bodybuilding since Arnold Schwarzenegger became a star in that documentary.  Well, Vlad Yudin’s new documentary “Generation Iron” may not launch the sport of bodybuilding into the world’s consciousness – but it does provide an excellent look at what it takes to compete for the sport’s biggest prize, Mr. Olympia.  The film is a more than worthy successor to “Pumping Iron” as it reveals the maturity of body-building as a sport and as a very lucrative business.

Covering the year leading up to the 2012 Mr. Olympia competition, “Generation Iron” follows seven of the world’s best bodybuilders including current “Mr. Olympia” Phil Heath, his nemesis Kai Greene, Branch Warren, Dennis Wolf, Victor Martinez, Hidetada Yamagishi, Roelly Winklaar and Ben Pakulski.  Each of the competitors has their own approach, attitude and life story and their contrasts are quite interesting.  One is just getting out of prison, another is an accomplished painter/street performer and another even has a woman trainer.  Each of the men portrayed in this film is worthy of more screen-time, but “Generation Iron” is a smart film in leaving you wanting more.  In many ways, body-building comes second to  the intense lives and struggles shown on screen.  From diets to work-outs to losing or gaining sponsorships, these men function as chess masters as they navigate every step taking them towards the Mr. Olympia competition.

The access each of the bodybuilders gave to the filmmakers pays off handsomely as the audience is brought much further inside the non-gym lives than “Pumping Iron” ever came close to.  The ramifications of their dedication to winning “Mr. Olympia” really brings home the costs one must go through to perform at an elite level in any endeavor.  The popular image of body-builders as muscle heads really takes a hit as we meet several competitors who are highly intelligent and even scientific about improving in their sport.  The scene where one of them is hooked up to an electronic muscle stimulator and then being interviewed in a laboratory was quite unexpected.

The hyper-competitiveness of the sport and between the competitors is on full display as each man tries to find and take any advantage they can find.  This hyper-competitiveness is no better displayed than between the rivalry of Brooklyn-born Kai Greene and current Mr. Olympia, Phil Heath.  Similar to the competitive rivalry of Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier, each man seemingly wakes up each day wondering what the other is doing to beat them.  The other body-builder’s stories have great merit also, but the underdog Greene and current champ Heath brings “Generation Iron” to another level.

Mr. Olympia Challenger Kai Greene Courtesy, The Vladar Company

Mr. Olympia Challenger Kai Greene
Courtesy, The Vladar Company

Director/Producer Yudin’s efforts to make “Generation Iron” stand on its own are clearly shown on the screen.  But he does pay homage to the past and in an interesting way, acknowledges the great shadow that “Pumping Iron” and Arnold Schwarzenegger have on the sport.  Arnold is interviewed for the film, as is Lou Ferrigno (who himself served as Arnold’s nemesis in “Pumping Iron”) and the history of the sport is succinctly explained for anyone unfamiliar with body-building.

This documentary (narrated by Mickey Rourke) is completely accessible to film lovers, gym rats and pretty much everyone else.  The visuals are stunning, the various storylines are intriguing and the ultimate success or failure of each man is compelling.  “Generation Iron” is Rated R and in theatres now.  4 Stars out of 4. 

© 2013 The Willams View

Posted in: Interviews, Reviews

About the Author:

Jennifer Williams is an accomplished writer, interviewer and critical reviewer having written about or covered many subjects of interests. Having graduated from Tulane University, La Salle University and New York University, Kevin's career background in Politics and Civic Affairs, Public Relations, Marketing, Non-Profit Management and Filmmaking have helped inspire much of her past artistic and creative efforts. Jennifer directed and co-produced the documentary feature film, Fear Of A Black Republican. Her latest film, Rebel Song, looks at a middle-aged American Celtic Rock band and the music inspired by the Irish Republican Army (IRA). Rebel Song is expected to be released in 2014. In addition to The Williams View, Jennifer is also the Entertainment and Politics Editor for Politisite, a Contributing Writer for Townhall, Breitbart's Big Hollywood, Liberatchik and Hip Hop Republican. Jennifer has been interviewed or profiled across many Media outlets such as the Washington Post, Christian Science Monitor, Philadelphia Inquirer, Kansas City Star, L.A. Weekly; Current TV, Christian Broadcasting Network, Huffington Post Live, Al Jazeera and BET News; radio programs ranging from National Public Radio, Voice of Russia - American Edition, the Mark Davis Radio Show, the Chris Stigall Show, the Steve Deace Show, the Bob Grant Show, Victoria Taft Show, to the Michael Eric Dyson Show and many others.

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