Through Generation Iron, Vlad Yudin explores the life and times of some of the most revered stars of the world body building as they set about to take part in the Mr. Olympia Body Building contest. The documentary chronicles their journey from the day they set about their task right up till the day they stand face to face on the big stage at the Olympia. The builders in question here are Phil Heath(“The Gift”), Kai Greene(“The Predator”), Branch Warren, Dennis Wolf, Ben Pakulski, Roelly Winklaar, Hidetada Yamagishi and Victor Martinez. The film tries to bring out what the struggle, the victory, the sacrifices and above all the triumph of the spirit of these men as they lay waste to the most coveted titles in world body building.
The film starts off by introducing us to Kai Greene who speaks of his ever standing wish to stand winner on the podium which was so dramatically taken away from him by “The Gift”. We are introduced to his art and also his humble beginnings. Following Greene we are introduced to Heath who is trying to prove for once that his victory the year before was not a fluke. Kai is breathing down his neck, he has some compatriots calling him a lousy role model and then there are those who say that he is just gifted and that his metabolism and muscle growth is strangely more than that of the other which makes his life easier. Heath is out to prove that he may be gifted but that will not stop him from putting in his everything and in his own words “when gift meets hardwork, it becomes unconquerable”.
Branch Warren is as much a family man as he is a dedicated Body builder. He starts his regime at the same gym which housed the legend, Ronnie Coleman. He follows a very Blood and Guts sort of a regime which involves the old and tough ways of “eat, sleep train”. Ben Pakulski is a pumped up challenger who finds resort in scientific methods to generate the maximum muscle mass and reduce the body fats. His scientific method holds him good as he prepares for the gala event. Hidetada Yamagishi is 5’5 ‘’ and the very first from his country to have reached thus far. Estranged from his family and frequently separated from his wife, he prepares in seclusion for the event of his life. Roelly Winklaar the European sensation has a coach who he calls grandma. She is though one of the toughest coaches in the campus would not stop at anything to see her prodigy win. Egged on by his family, the German Dennis Wolf not only has the contest on his mind but Hollywood too. Hollywood also seems to have taken a liking to him. Together these men take the stage as the event unfolds and we are left with none but 10 contenders.
The film chronicles their journey in great details and asks some of the key questions on rivalry, friendship, media attention and even drug abuse. The film is brave enough to show us syringes inside refrigerators of builders and also speak out loud and clear that many of the builders are tight lipped about the issue of drug abuse. There is a great deal of drama generated from some of the key situations that unfold during the course of the event. One involves Martinez when he is given the thumbs down after checking his body by a judged and asked to come back next year when he has built properly. Another sequence involves Kia Greene as he speaks about his lack of family and any support. There are sequences showing the builders as the men they are which really make an impact.
The narration by Mickey Rourke is astounding. His voice alone holds on to your attention at many junctures which is the best thing that this film could have asked for. The music even though minimal hits the right nodes. Even though the director tries to conjure up some drama from the sequences that are unleashed during the course of the event, the happenings remain faithful to the reality for most of the time adding to the charm of the film. The event and its impact on the builders are brought out wonderfully through this film. Some sequences which show the builders in their seclusion after winning or losing speaks volumes for itself. I loved one sequence which showed Kai Greene posing in front of the subway commuters wearing a mask. That sequence has an uncanny feeling about it and can be interpreted in different ways.
Generation Iron is a wonderful documentary which at the end of the day is able to communicate the point that it set about trying to communicate. I fell in love with it the first time I watched it and it has grown on me ever since. Highly recommended.