For those who find the sight of veins poppin’ and muscles twisting into impossibly sculpted shapes a uniquely repulsive proposition, Vlad Yudin’s body-building documentary Generation Iron generates just enough human interest to make it endurable. Positioning his film as this generation’s Pumping Iron – the 1977 doco that brought a young Austrian by the name of Arnold Schwarzenegger into the global spotlight – Yudin seeks to humanise the culture of competitive bodybuilding, employing a familiar sports arc about a group of physically disciplined individuals determined to chase their dream, which in this case, is the title of the next Mr. Olympia.
They’re a diverse, if not all equally compelling bunch: Phil “The Gift” Heath is the cocky reigning champ; Kai Greene, the philosophically minded underdog from Brooklyn; Hidetada Yamagishi hopes to challenge Asian stereotypes; Victor Martinez has a chequered past he’s trying to escape; German Dennis Wolf entertains the thought of becoming another Arnie; Ben Pakulski is dead set on using science to win; veteran Branch Warren is all about the hard yards; Roelly Winklaar trains with a tough old Dutch lady called Grandma.
There’s some insight to be gleaned from their rigorous training methods, and we can empathise with the pressures and pitfalls of their tireless pursuit for glory, but Generation Iron also suffers from a reality TV-ish veneer in its decided lack of depth. It all inevitably hinges on a showdown, but it’s less gripping than it wants to be, no matter much the intoning seriousness of Mickey Rourke’s voice-over tries to add dramatic heft.
‘Generation Iron’ Movie Times