I’ve been waiting a long time for this. Being a huge fan of the original Pumping Iron, the first trailer for Generation Iron promised more of the same… over 30 years since the original was first released! This concept, alone, was nothing short of a treat for fans. The original film introduced the world to a charismatic, charming young bodybuilder named Arnold Schwarzenegger who nurtured a crazy dream to become an actor. To this day, the film is well loved as a cult classic and also introduced us to great personalities in the history of the sport, like Lou “The Incredible Hulk” Ferrigno, Franco Columbu, Mike Katz, plus memorable scenes such as Arnold’s controversial “cumming” speech, Franco lifting a car and the (even today) tense Olympia showdown between Arnold and Lou. It was a great documentary with lovable characters, strong drama and a candid insight into a world not widely seen at that time.
Today, it’s safe to say that bodybuilding is far more widely known and even engrained in many areas of popular culture. The commercial fitness industry today is merely an extension of its bodybuilding roots. And since stars like Schwarzenegger, Stallone and Van Damme became big in the 1980’s, muscles have been part of the mainstream.
On this note, Generation Iron still has its own game plan. While muscle-bound heroes are more widely accepted, there is still a stigma associated with the sport and image as a whole. Much like Pumping Iron, this is where the film breaks down stereotypes and introduces us to a set of real personalities with far more to offer. While providing an insight into the sport and process as a whole (training, competition, psychology), the ‘story’ of the documentary hones in on the rivalry between reigning Mr Olympia, Phil Heath, and determined underdog Kai Greene, who hopes to dethrone the champ. Much like the Arnold/Lou rivalry of Pumping Iron, one man enjoys the popularity and glamour of his lifestyle while the other emerges hungry from the dark, gruelling confines of the gym, ready to attack. It’s a classic rivalry and works very well once again. Other contenders we meet include Branch Warren, Dennis Wolf and we’re even treated to cameos from the likes of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Lou Ferrigno, Ronnie Coleman, Jay Cutler and action star Michael Jai White. The film is narrated with gravitas by Mickey Rourke, which adds a nice depth to the narrative.
Generation Iron is a not only a great bodybuilding and fitness documentary, but a very solid production and worth seeking out for any serious documentary fan. It’s insightful, inspiring, motivating and communicates a positive message about the intelligence and process of these often overlooked athletes. The film is a great achievement by director and producer Vlad Yudin and his team.
Moving on from the feature itself, one minor disappoint for me was a lack of special features on the DVD. In this sense, it’s very much a ‘bare bones’ release with only the film featured on the disc. Luckily it’s a very good film and still highly recommended but, in my view, this is the kind of subject matter fans will be passionate about and want to see more of. Just look at the special edition of Pumping Iron which was packed with content and extras! Having said that, while this would’ve been nice for Generation Iron, I’m genuinely happy to just see the film released in the UK and I hope we can all support this release to demonstrate the value of these films in the marketplace.
Generation Iron is out now on DVD from Signature Entertainment.
Check out the trailer below!