Grade A

A look into the lives of 8 bodybuilders who are competing for Mr. Olympia, the top bodybuilding contest in the world.   With a running time of about 1 hour 46 minutes — less when you take into account the opening and ending credits — there’s not much time to really get into lives of the aforementioned 8; but this documentary wisely focuses on the top two contenders for the title: Kai Greene and Phil Heath (reigning Mr. Olympia at the time this movie was being shot).

Heath seems to have it all: a big house in a nice neighborhood, nice cars, a beautiful wife, the favorite of the crowd, good looks, and a seemingly endless supply of confidence.   Virtually the opposite is true for Kai Greene: he lives in Brooklyn, NY (in what seems to be the projects), takes the bus and train to get to where he wants to go, lives alone, and has a quiet confidence that is surprising for a man his size.  Both men will endure countless hours of pain in the gym and make many more sacrifices to win the highly coveted title of Mr. Olympia.

“Generation Iron” is a great companion piece to “Pumping Iron,” giving people a glimpse into the lives of top bodybuilders 40 years after “Pumping Iron.”  We see the same sacrifices, grueling workouts, strict diets, rivalry, bravado, doubts, the single goal of being the biggest and the best…only the prizes and the competitors are much, much bigger.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Generation Iron” is the scene when bodybuilder Branch Warren was on a horse and was asked if he was worried about being injured in the gym.  After replying that all his major injuries have been outside of the gym, Warren takes off on his horse; and soon after his horse bucks him off and he falls hard on the ground, giving him an injury that could threaten his attempt at the Mr. Olympia title.

An honorable mention goes to the very end of the movie, when ex-bodybuilder and “Pumping Iron” alumni Mike Katz jokes about still looking for his shirt that Arnold Schwarzenegger supposedly stole in “Pumping Iron.”

Obviously, “Generation Iron” will be mostly enjoyed by bodybuilders and anyone who has ever lifted weights or pushed their bodies to their limits.   But I believe this documentary can be enjoyed by all, as the theme of this movie is the extremes that people will go through to get what they want, to be the best in their field; and that is something that we all can relate to.

— M