Reviews - Specialty Releases


Film Review: Generation Iron

A minor degree of star power won’t do much to muscle this release to higher visibility.

Sept 19, 2013

-By Justin Lowe


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1385598-Generation_Iron_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

The annual Mr. Olympia bodybuilding contest, established in 1965 and currently considered the preeminent competition and tastemaker in the field, gets its close-up from Russian filmmaker Vlad Yudin in this uneven documentary that references 1977’s Pumping Iron in the title. Primarily of interest to insiders and fans, Generation Iron should see a swift shift to ancillary before the platform release gets much chance to expand.

A curious individual sport where most of the action takes place offstage, professional bodybuilding attracts a fervent worldwide following focused on a relatively small group of aspirants and contestants. With origins in Classical weightlifting competitions and other demonstrations of male strength, bodybuilding has evolved into a multi-million-dollar industry incorporating specialized gyms, workout equipment, dietary supplements, clothing lines, entertainment products and media hype.

Well-known contenders include Lou (“The Incredible Hulk”) Ferrigno and seven-time Mr. Olympia Arnold (“the Austrian Oak”) Schwarzenegger (whose careers both benefited from the exposure Pumping Iron afforded them). The two are champions who epitomize the sports’ entertainment aspects and provide Yudin with the pop-culture angle to get behind the sport’s veneer of masculine invincibility to examine just what makes these competitors tick as they prepare for the 2012 Mr. Olympia contest.

Profiling seven professional bodybuilders across the U.S., Yudin naturally gravitates toward 2011 champion Phil Heath, a soft-spoken, powerfully built African-American athlete from Denver. Although Heath speaks modestly of his accomplishments, his impressive gym workouts and weightlifting routines reveal a deeply driven competitor.

Russian-born Dennis Wolf, a tightly wound, blond bundle of muscle, idolizes Schwarzenegger and displays a similar craving for the media spotlight. Japanese contender Hidetada Yamagishi is the only Asian interviewed and at 5’5” and 220 lbs. considers himself an outlier to be reckoned with. Heath’s strongest challenge, however, comes from Brooklynite Kai Greene, a street-tough athlete who turned to weightlifting as a teen, in part to avoid the risk of falling into a life of crime.

Following the group over nearly three months in the lead-up to the national title, Yudin examines their training routines, diets and lifestyles, as well as profiling their personal and family lives. These intimidatingly huge men, with their sometimes grotesquely distorted physiques, on the whole turn out to be kindly and even humble—at least on camera—as they pursue their lifelong dream with unflagging drive and dedication.

Unfortunately, Yudin struggles to convert this characteristic determination into narrative momentum, held back by repetitive scenes and uneven pacing, and dissipating nearly an hour on intercutting among the seven with interviews, workout sequences and oblique discussions about “supplements” and performance-enhancing drugs, which several acknowledge are prevalent in the field, but none will cop to abusing.

Ironically, beauty contests are an apt comparison for all the training, preparation and presentation involved in bodybuilding—as the competitors perfect their physiques and preen before admiring crowds—an analogy that seems lost on both the filmmakers and talent. At the same time, they fail to present any coherent description of how competitions are organized and scored, required performance elements or how winners are determined, even with Mickey Rourke as an inspired choice for the voiceover. Although his delivery seems as often poetic as it is narrative while filling in the contestants’ backstories, Rourke is also frequently far too grim or grandiose performing Yudin’s overwrought script.

Technically the film is basic but intermittently effective, although the audio on the sole, critical interview with Schwarzenegger—who observes at a hopelessly loud event that bodybuilding combines aspects of both sport and entertainment—is distractingly compromised, and much of the B-roll neglects to add any layer of significant detail.

In fact, it seems that Yudin isn’t entirely clear what he wants the film to be, referring to it both as a Pumping Iron “remake” and a “sort-of sequel,” as well as a “docudrama,” when it’s actually a fairly straightforward sports doc.
The Hollywood Reporter


Film Review: Generation Iron

A minor degree of star power won’t do much to muscle this release to higher visibility.

Sept 19, 2013

-By Justin Lowe


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1385598-Generation_Iron_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

The annual Mr. Olympia bodybuilding contest, established in 1965 and currently considered the preeminent competition and tastemaker in the field, gets its close-up from Russian filmmaker Vlad Yudin in this uneven documentary that references 1977’s Pumping Iron in the title. Primarily of interest to insiders and fans, Generation Iron should see a swift shift to ancillary before the platform release gets much chance to expand.

A curious individual sport where most of the action takes place offstage, professional bodybuilding attracts a fervent worldwide following focused on a relatively small group of aspirants and contestants. With origins in Classical weightlifting competitions and other demonstrations of male strength, bodybuilding has evolved into a multi-million-dollar industry incorporating specialized gyms, workout equipment, dietary supplements, clothing lines, entertainment products and media hype.

Well-known contenders include Lou (“The Incredible Hulk”) Ferrigno and seven-time Mr. Olympia Arnold (“the Austrian Oak”) Schwarzenegger (whose careers both benefited from the exposure Pumping Iron afforded them). The two are champions who epitomize the sports’ entertainment aspects and provide Yudin with the pop-culture angle to get behind the sport’s veneer of masculine invincibility to examine just what makes these competitors tick as they prepare for the 2012 Mr. Olympia contest.

Profiling seven professional bodybuilders across the U.S., Yudin naturally gravitates toward 2011 champion Phil Heath, a soft-spoken, powerfully built African-American athlete from Denver. Although Heath speaks modestly of his accomplishments, his impressive gym workouts and weightlifting routines reveal a deeply driven competitor.

Russian-born Dennis Wolf, a tightly wound, blond bundle of muscle, idolizes Schwarzenegger and displays a similar craving for the media spotlight. Japanese contender Hidetada Yamagishi is the only Asian interviewed and at 5’5” and 220 lbs. considers himself an outlier to be reckoned with. Heath’s strongest challenge, however, comes from Brooklynite Kai Greene, a street-tough athlete who turned to weightlifting as a teen, in part to avoid the risk of falling into a life of crime.

Following the group over nearly three months in the lead-up to the national title, Yudin examines their training routines, diets and lifestyles, as well as profiling their personal and family lives. These intimidatingly huge men, with their sometimes grotesquely distorted physiques, on the whole turn out to be kindly and even humble—at least on camera—as they pursue their lifelong dream with unflagging drive and dedication.

Unfortunately, Yudin struggles to convert this characteristic determination into narrative momentum, held back by repetitive scenes and uneven pacing, and dissipating nearly an hour on intercutting among the seven with interviews, workout sequences and oblique discussions about “supplements” and performance-enhancing drugs, which several acknowledge are prevalent in the field, but none will cop to abusing.

Ironically, beauty contests are an apt comparison for all the training, preparation and presentation involved in bodybuilding—as the competitors perfect their physiques and preen before admiring crowds—an analogy that seems lost on both the filmmakers and talent. At the same time, they fail to present any coherent description of how competitions are organized and scored, required performance elements or how winners are determined, even with Mickey Rourke as an inspired choice for the voiceover. Although his delivery seems as often poetic as it is narrative while filling in the contestants’ backstories, Rourke is also frequently far too grim or grandiose performing Yudin’s overwrought script.

Technically the film is basic but intermittently effective, although the audio on the sole, critical interview with Schwarzenegger—who observes at a hopelessly loud event that bodybuilding combines aspects of both sport and entertainment—is distractingly compromised, and much of the B-roll neglects to add any layer of significant detail.

In fact, it seems that Yudin isn’t entirely clear what he wants the film to be, referring to it both as a Pumping Iron “remake” and a “sort-of sequel,” as well as a “docudrama,” when it’s actually a fairly straightforward sports doc.
The Hollywood Reporter
Post a Comment
Asterisk (*) is a required field.
* Author: 
Rate This Article: (1=Bad, 5=Perfect)

*Comment:
 

More Specialty Releases

Small Time
Film Review: Small Time

You might not buy a used car from the guys in Small Time, but you will enjoy the movie about their exploits, even their exploitations (of others). More »

Fading Gigolo
Film Review: Fading Gigolo

Some top screen talent gets lost in the silliness surrounding the amorous adventures of an unlikely gigolo and his even more unlikely pimp, with writer/director/actor John Turturro the shtupper “ho” co-starring with Woody Allen as the mercenary shtup-enabler. Yarmulkes off to Turturro’s brave but deeply ill-conceived comedic foray into Brooklyn’s Satmar Hasidic community and other alien territory. More »

A Promise
Film Review: A Promise

Handsomely filmed but wan period romance. More »

Final Member
Film Review: The Final Member

Breezy documentary about the aging owner of a small Icelandic museum dedicated to penises and his quest for one last, coveted exhibit is a charmer, thanks to the warmth and sly sense of humor the protagonist brings to his unusual hobby. More »

ADVERTISEMENT



REVIEWS

Transcendence
Film Review: Transcendence

Johnny Depp is an idealistic researcher whose consciousness is uploaded into an artificial intelligence in this slick techno-thriller with delusions of seriousness from Christopher Nolan’s cinematographer. More »

Draft Day
Film Review: Draft Day

Pro football manager faces crises on the most important day of his career in a well-tooled vehicle for Kevin Costner. More »

Player for the Film Journal International website.


ADVERTISEMENT



INDUSTRY GUIDES

» Blue Sheets
FJI's guide to upcoming movie releases, including films in production and development. Check back weekly for the latest additions.

» Distribution Guide
» Equipment Guide
» Exhibition Guide

ORDER A PRINT SUBSCRIPTION

Film Journal International

Subscribe to the monthly print edition of Film Journal International and get the full visual impact of this valuable resource for the cinema business.

» Click Here

SPONSORSHIP OPPORTUNITIES

Learn how to promote your company at the Film Expo Group events: ShowEast, CineEurope, and CineAsia.

» Click Here