As I sit here attempting to review Ronnie Coleman: the King (released June 22, 2018), I seem to get lost in the copious amount of notes I have for this movie. The note taking process seemed to be an automatic seeing that this film offered so much. But where to begin? I always felt that starting with a personal touch results in the mind going free and the writing simply flows from there.
I must admit, I did not know much about Ronnie Coleman before watching the movie – I was an Arnold man myself. I remember when I started working out I would hear people yell “Yeah Buddy!” and “Lightweight!” At first I thought I was surrounded by your average meathead who found pleasure in yelling nonsense to get some attention; little did I know that those catchphrases spilled from the mouth of greatness. When I finally decided to look into this famous “King” I was flabbergasted; this guy was HUGE and boy was he strong! A bodybuilder squatting 800lbs!? “No way” I thought. Well people, I’m here to say “Yes way”…”Hell Yes Way.”
Generation Iron did this man justice! The image I had of Ronnie Coleman was pleasantly distorted after my first watch through of Ronnie Coleman. We often see bodybuilders as these tight muscled beings who live for the lift and the “ripness”. Now, Pumping Iron offered the first account of the intricacies of bodybuilding, but Arnold Schwarzenegger remained a cold entity; a safe that could not be cracked. His emotions ranged from sex appeal to manipulator to bicep curling machine. Then came Generation Iron who, in its attempt to reimagine Pumping Iron left out the emphasis on the personality of the bodybuilders by following very specific stars and building a flagrant dichotomy in the pairings. Generation Iron II also featured stars such as Rich Piana and Calum Von Moger, but their personality is barely scratched, instead focusing on the growing outlet of social media and its impact on the sport of bodybuilding.
In Ronnie Coleman, we are offered a breath of fresh air while we are plunged into the life of the man himself. In a nutshell, Generation Iron humanized the legend. I feel that the director came into this with the idea that this is Ronnie Coleman’s story so he should be the one telling it, resulting in a fantastic and entertaining documentary. The majority of the scenes consists of Coleman simply talking about whatever comes to mind. Prompted by leading questions by director Vlad Yudin, watch Coleman provide an image that will leave you in emotional shambles. The, what seems to be immortal King discusses his pain, his injuries, his insecurities, his struggles as an aspiring bodybuilder, and his lessons. But also, viewers will surely witness Coleman’s undying perseverance, work ethic, humility, patience, sense of camaraderie, dedication, prowess, and genuine love for his sport.
In between this we discover Ronnie Coleman the working man (remaining in the force despite being throned Mr. Olympia), the family man, the friend, and the entrepreneur (running the Ronnie Coleman supplement series.)
The inclusion of fellow competitors adds a layer to the sport of bodybuilding thought of as a never-ending battle between athletes. Through the narratives of the selected stars, one will truly notice the respect and admiration that Ronnie Coleman acquired (and deserved) in the realm of professional bodybuilding.
A side note, and this is quite minimal. It would have added yet another layer if the elephant in the room would have been addressed. By that I mean steroid use. With Jay Cutler discussing his use, the topic being present in Generation Iron, and with Rich Piana’s complete transparency towards the subject, having Coleman’s view on the matter would have added a much sought after notch in the literature of substance use in the sport of bodybuilding.
As for the film in general, Yudin does a great job displaying Coleman’s life leading to his recent surgery. The scene contrast between bodybuilder Coleman and present (at times, struggling) Coleman adds to the layering; add to this a nice contrast in music (rock for the older scenes and three note piano for the present scenes) and you will find yourself desiring a much needed blink. The opening scene leading to the closing scene really gives the illusion that Coleman remains the man he was, regardless of his present mobility struggle. Finally, Yudin includes a nice piece of Ronnie Coleman reminiscing his life followed shortly after by Jay Cutler quoting “he did what he did to be the greatest bodybuilder of all time and he will go down in history.” Well, I for one, will not forget this movie, or Ronnie Coleman. From only knowing him threw the meatheads yelping out “lightweight” I have found great respect and admiration in the King. Thank you Generation Iron, thank you Vlad Yudin, and Thank you Ronnie Coleman.
So here are three main points of interest to remember from this review:
- The documentary does its job right! People who know Ronnie Coleman will learn more while others who never heard of him are presented with, what is close to a full package of his life, showing clips from his past and delving into his present state.
- -The addition of a handful of professional bodybuilders adds legitimacy to the King. Not only is Coleman presented by Yudin, but also by some of the top stars who competed against Ronnie Coleman or who have crossed paths with him at a given time in their career. This brings light to the respect Coleman had in the realm of professional bodybuilding.
- Finally, and personally, most importantly, Ronnie Coleman humanizes not only the King himself, but the professional bodybuilder in general. Through Ronnie Coleman, the audience can appreciate the dedication and sacrifice needed to be the best in the sport of bodybuilding.
Now we don’t use grades here at EII, so here’s what I have for you: Out of 10; Watch this movie…seriously…like now.
For those of you who saw it, do you agree with the review? What would you like to add?