Monday, June 2, 2014

Generation Iron DVD Review

Reviewed by Scott Meyers
Starz Digital Media presents Director Vlad Yudin’s critically-acclaimed documentary, Generation Iron, from the producer of the 1977 documentary Pumping Iron. Generation Iron takes an honest and in-depth look at the professional sport of bodybuilding today, giving audiences front-row access to the lives of the top seven bodybuilders as they fight to bring home the coveted Mr. Olympia title. Narrated by Academy Award-nominee Mickey Rourke (The Wrestler), Generation Iron is now available on iTunes and other digital platforms as well as DVD.
Film (3 out of 5 stars)
This Starz documentary follows 7 professional bodybuilders as they train for the ultimate title of Mr. Olympia. This films follows the athletes 24/7 and looks at their personal lives beyond the gym and the competition. We first meet the current reigning champion, the 2011 Mr. Olympia, Phil Heath. He discusses that he does not want to be this one-time champion, but looks to be something that all these athletes strive to be like. He wants to prove that him winning was not a fluke and that he can perform year after year and continue to be the best. 

After Heath we meet the competitor with best chance of taking Heath down and become the next champ, Kai Green. Green's mindset is hard work outshines talent always, and he puts in nothing but his hardest work. Kai had a very difficult childhood, abandoned by his parents he was raised by foster parents and eventually ended up in juvenile detention and had a negative attitude towards everyone, especially authority. It was one of his teachers that noticed his talent for flexing his muscles and looking intimidating and got him into competitive body building. He says this is the single best decision he ever made in his life.

After Green we learn about Branch Warren who believes and has faith that he is doing what he is meant to do, and God will help him achieve anything he wants to through hard work and dedication. This belief is evident when he injures himself and recovers in half the time that it should have taken. He puts all his speedy recovery into the Lord. Branch has won every major competition, and the only one left to win is the Mr. Olympia. Critics say his workouts are not he best when it comes to form and technique, but are just his pure energy to be the best, and he will not stop for anything until he capture the ultimate title. The competitor that uses the opposite approach to training is Ben Pakulski, he uses science to get the most out everything that he does. Scientists examine every movement he does to make sure that he does waste any movement.

One competitor that got into the sport by accident was Roelly Winklaar, he was at his gym working out when the owner of the gym entered him into a competition, he ended up winning and is now being trained by a veteran trainer known as "Grandma". The next competitor had some different motivation, Victor Martinez ended up in jail on weapons charges and lost a lot of time being able to go to his gym and workout and by the time he got out his mental loss was even worse. He has 4 children and wants to be a father to them but finds the life a struggle to have everything that he wants. The last competitor is Dennis Wolf. He follow Schwarzenegger's career for a long time; he made Dennis want to become a bodybuilder. He is from Germany and finds life there too difficult to become the best so he moved to Las Vegas and claims the atmosphere much better for building his career.

All the competitors seem to have very difficult personal lives, they must stick to strict diets and regimes that don't allow for much free time. Many of them, when they do have some personal time, are working on the next phase of their lives knowing that they can not do this forever. They all train and train, have a dream, and know that in one instance they could get injured and that would ruin their career forever so they are all try to have the next phase of their life ready for when this is over. We end the video with the 2012 Mr. Olympia competition where we get to watch all the competitors that we just got an in depth look at compete to be the next Mr. Olympia.

I found some of what they discussed interesting, but overall the flow of the film was very slow and dry. Also they looked at so many of the competitors that they were not able to go too deep into each person, what they should have done was look at less competitors so they could go more in depth. When looking at the actual Mr. Olympia competition at the end of the film the coverage was better; we got to see how they prepare, what the different rounds look like, and finally we get to see the results followed by the celebration. 
Video (2 out of 5 stars)
Shot in 1.78:1 aspect widescreen this documentary was a high budget film with all the special effects, this was an up close personal look at these competitors and their lives. It spends most of the time looking at their daily regime, from what they eat to how they workout, however we did not get to see much of who they are as a person. The film was very dry and progressed slowly and at the end of the film we get to watch the Mr. Olympia competition.
Audio (3 out of 5 stars)
Presented in 5.1 Dolby Digital audio this film was majority of interviews with the competitors. There was an option of having the film dubbed over with Vlad Yudin and Phil Heath if the viewer chooses to. The editing of the audio was very good, the dialogue of the interviews was a decent volume and when it would transition to a competition the sound was mixed nicely. The one negative to the whole film would be the narrative by Mickey Rourke, to me he took away from the film. He was difficult to understand at times and I think they wanted a named person to be the narrator but they could have found someone better.
Extras (4 out of 5 stars)
  • Behind the Scenes - Vlad Yudin discusses how he came up with the concept of the film. There is so much that people don't know about the sport so they thought that it would have been difficult to make the movie interesting and people would want to watch, but they also thought that the topic is important and wanted to inform people that these athletes were not just giant muscles with no brains. He also discusses how this is a documentary and that is much different than a film and that you need to be flexible with your scenes because something might happen and it makes you need to change your film, like in the case of this documentary.
  • Extended Interview with Lou Ferrigno - He talks about his start in body building competitions. Even though he did not do well in his first competition and ended up becoming a factory worker after the competition was over he knew this is what he wanted. He was in the original "Pumping Iron" and that is what got him his notoriety and jump started his career.
  • Deleted Scenes - Phil Heath talks after the competition and thanks everyone for their support; Victor Martinez talks with his friends about his confidence of being able to do this even with his legal problems
Summary (3 out of 5 stars)
For a documentary this film was not terrible. The information about the different competitors was interesting, seeing how each competitor comes from different background but they all end up with the same place. The audio and video content were decent quality and they were able to take a controversial topic that is not too known and bring it into the spotlight for anyone to learn more about. The bonus features were as interesting to watch as the film itself and the editing of the film was done very well, with the mixing of their interviews and the Mr. Olympia footage. The one take away was they tried to pack so much into a short film that they were not able to go very deep into the lives of the competitors, they either needed to not look at so many competitors or make it a multi-episode documentary. Overall a decent film to watch at least once to gain the knowledge of a sport that does not get much public exposure.

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