Strangely enough this was one of a number of films that I have been sent, over the years that I hadn’t actually requested for review. In this case, as body-building isn’t really my thing it hadn’t really crossed my mind to ask to review it. However, I decided to take a look anyway, after my curiosity was piqued by the blurb on the press release that accompanied the disc. This blurb indicates that ‘Generation Iron provides insight into the professional sport of bodybuilding’ as it follows a number of men as ‘they compete on the international stage’.
Basically, bodybuilding enthusiast Vlad Yudin has obviously spent a fair amount of time tracking down a bunch of these guys and has travelled with them from all over the world as they head toward their ultimate goal, namely to compete in the Mr Universe contest in Las Vegas. A rather lethargic sounding Mickey Rourke narrates, at least for some of the time, while the rest tends to let the visuals tell their own story.
Generation Iron is well shot and Yudin has obviously gone to a lot of trouble to try and interview some of the heroes of the bodybuilding circuit. But the main crux of the story resides in the stories of several of the competitors and the documentary demonstrates well the amount of dedication and sacrifices these guys have to have/ to make in order to be the best at what they do.
Unfortunately, one of the problems with this documentary is that it’s hard to really get behind some of these over-muscled guys as some of them come across as pretty unpleasant characters who have egos the sizes of buses and tend to be completely obsessed with what they feel they ‘need’ to achieve, namely a perfect body sculpture; well, in the eyes of the body-building community anyway. But this is my issue with body-building as a sport, it seems too reliant on the judge’s personal preferences as to what looks good or not. It’s not like, say, the world’s strongest man, where various tasks are carried out during a certain time period and the fastest and strongest win. This is way more subjective, it seems to me, which kind of seems unfair on the contestants. It is perhaps more akin to a human version of Crufts!
I’m sure it won’t surprise you that this kind of sport features some interesting characters, ranging from Mr Hulk himself, Lou Ferringno, who has a brief cameo appearance, to ‘Grandma’, an ex-body-building champ herself who now trains some of the younger, up-coming guys, with mixed results. The film is quite educational about the world of bodybuilding and its participants, explaining some of the tricks of the trade to obtain that ‘perfect symmetry’ and dropping in a few astonishing facts such as it’s not unusual for a bodybuilder to consume over 7,000 calories a day when they’re training.
Where the documentary misses a trick is that it never really gets to the bottom of the whole steroids issue. I’m guessing Vlad struggled to get people to talk about it on camera, but it’s blindingly obvious that there is a steroid problem within the sport and that many contestants are probably damaging themselves in the long-term for these short-term goals.
It all ends at the 48th edition of Mr Olympia with a couple of the best combatants posing and gurning hard alongside each other, watched by thousands of slavering fans, keen to get their annual fix of spray-on tans and popping veins.
Overall Generation Iron is a reasonable documentary that seems to achieve most of what it probably set out to do, but I couldn’t help feeling that it was a bit too much of a fan-boy look at the sport and that there’s a darker side to it that Vlad wasn’t able or willing to reveal.
Generation Iron has recently been released on DVD and is being distributed by Signature Entertainment. There were no special features on the disc, which kind of surprised me as I’d have thought there would have been lots more footage shot, which could have nicely padded out a ‘making of’ supporting documentary. A bit of a missed opportunity…
Review by Justin Richards