The best thing, worst thing, and main thing, about the weight lifting documentary “Generation Iron” in about the time it takes to watch the trailer.
TEXT OF VIDEO REVIEW:
It’s not the muscles that freak me out in bodybuilding, It’s the veins. Aren’t they supposed to be further inside of the body than that?
“Generation Iron” is a body building documentary brought to you by the same producers who did “Pumping Iron” several years ago. It follows several Mr. Olympia hopefuls as they prepare and compete for the grand daddy of all muscle bound spectacles. We are given an inside view into a world most of us are happy to dismiss based on the freakshow nature of it’s participants. But is there anything worth seeing past the bulging biceps and protruding pectorals? Of course!
That’s the beauty of humanity right? Even in such a specific subset of people, there is uniqueness, beauty, and surprise and the movie drives it home right off the bat. These men are shown as articulate, cultured, and thoughtful and we open with cuts of muscle bound men feeding babies, painting portraits, doing performance art, and yes even taking a relaxing bubble bath. And there is more even beyond the “we aren’t who you think we are” display. As this documentary shows us that these competitors are driven by different goals, circumstances, and methods even if they all end up flexing on the same stage. I think the best thing about the movie though is that it is edited so well. It does a great job at taking the pieces of this words and putting them together in a coherent and interesting way. It’s also extremely educational and I walked out feeling like I knew more about the sport of bodybuilding than I ever thought I would. But what separates the great documentaries from the good ones is that they can move from education to captivation, and this one doesn’t
It’s not that it doesn’t try. You can feel the creators trying to channel amazing docs like “King of Kong” and “Spellbound” but there just isn’t enough story to work with here, and that’s the worst thing about it, and why it ultimately falls flat. Those docs (King of Kong especially) were blessed with stories and characters that developed into extremely dynamic ways. This, not so much. At the end of the day it’s about a bunch of guys who want to win, how they try to do it, and who wins, and nothing really happens to turn that on its head. So it ends up coming off more like one of those Olympics puff pieces on the athletes rather than an engaging story. These characters are interesting, they just aren’t compelling. I guess I should probably also mention that they don’t even address the steroid issue until about an hour into the movie and even then it is only cursory. As if they just wanted to throw out a “Hey, everybody does it and we aren’t sure what the big deal is” to the audience. At that point, just don’t bother putting anything in. Also, major points deducted for using Mickey Rourke as the narrator. I get that he is from that world in some ways, but I could barely understand him half the time. I mean, people loved “March of the Penguins” and Morgan Freeman hasn’t been a penguin a day in his life , at least that I know of.
Overall “Generation Iron” is an interesting look into an often dismissed culture that though crafted well, and of no fault of the producers, just failed to capture any really interesting stories. I give it a C.
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