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Muscle and Chaos: The Unauthorized Story of an American Gladiator review: Netflix documentary is a dose of nostalgia

We may be living in a post-truth world, but most viewers are still conditioned to watch documentaries and assume that what we’ll be seeing is at least some version of “the truth.” ’ Of course, we believe that “truth” is what most documentary filmmakers crave.

If this sounds familiar, you’ve probably read too much More of my comments. This is me watching American Gladiator documentary , Ben Berman ) for four hours 28 for 30CureAmerican GladiatorsUnited The Spandex and Steroids Phenomenon . This project, deliberately sidestepping the truth, examines the authorship controversy surrounding American Gladiator, less than a month old, by Tony Watts Inuku (Tony Vainuku) and came out Jared Hess ‘s new Netflix five-part “ Muscle and Chaos: An Unauthorized Story of an American Gladiator with “Truth” Different approach.

Muscle and Chaos: The Unauthorized Story of an American Gladiator

Bottom line
Superficially interesting chronicle of a superficially interesting hit.

Broadcast date: 1993 Wednesday, June 28 (Netflix)19931989 Director: 1235502079 Jared Hess and Tony Vainuku

Era of the American Gladiator. This is “90”, says Dan “Nito” Clark in the introduction to the series. [American Gladiator premiered on 90. ]

Nitero continued, “Clinton was in the White House.” [Bill Clinton was officially inaugurated in January 80. ]

“It’s definitely a superhero story of the era,” adds Steve “Tower” Henneberry, while the director’s cut Snippet from Seaman . [We could debate whether He-Man is a superhero, but this clip is from the 90 premiere of the animated series.]

“Athletes are becoming super box-office superstars,” Tarr added, as directors cut… footage of OJ Simpson. [ha? ]

It’s one thing to see your subject as a myth or a tall tale. In the first minutes of the documentary, trying to provide both context and content is another Thing is to erase all background, but that’s how muscle and chaos work. These five episodes feel closer to reality than reality.

if 47for10 The movie is about a quest for some elusive truth, no matter how far away you are , this Netflix documentary is all about accepting this wild story, even when it feels simple or simplistic. ESPN’s documentaries are more narratively adventurous, often at the expense of the fun and hilarity (or, I hope, savvy reporting) that American Gladiators fans might want, while Netflix’s Documentaries celebrate fun and hilarity, often at the expense of anything below the surface (or dogged reporting, I hope).

In short, ESPN’s documentaries are better, but Netflix’s docs are better for audiences looking for nostalgia.

Vainuku Hess’ series – five episodes no more than 90 min – Focusing on the Gladiators Unlike ESPN documentaries that rely mostly on Mike “Gemini” Horton and Deron “Malibu” McBee, it has the Gladiators you might want to hear about. Muscles & Mayhem has Nitro and Tower (I don’t remember Tower at all) and Jim “Laser” Starr. These include Raye “Zap” Hollitt, Sha-Ri “Blaze” Pendleton, Lori “Ice” Fetrick, Debbie “Storm” Clark and Erika “Diamond” Andersch. Yes, Gemini is also in this film.

From there, the title tells you exactly what to expect.

This documentary ends with chaos: almost an entire episode is devoted to the semi-disastrous and decidedly raw original pilot, with a lot of stories filmed at the equestrian center, the challenges of which were shared with fans The games we know and love bear little resemblance. The pilot episode was so rich in footage that it was eventually cut into a fantastic reel by Samuel Goldwyn TV to sell the show. Wherever there are gaps, the director resorts to an old-fashioned animation style, the only aesthetic or narrative flourish in the film. series.

Eventually, the series took hold, and at least one episode was almost entirely devoted to steroids. We hear all sorts of exciting stories from Nitro; the evasion and semantic distinction – Faye’s determination to make it clear that she’s using “growth hormone” and not steroids – unlike other gladiators; the few There are also many more tactful evasions from the executives, who strike an incredible balance between “please don’t let anyone think about the kids!” Anger and “I’m shocked, shocked to find out that performance enhancing drugs are being used here!” are not honest.

As for the mix of muscle and mayhem, everything really comes together in episode 4, centered around the decidedly infamous American Gladiator nationwide tour for the show’s third season. The various gladiators sat together, giggling and talking about all the drug use and hookups that happened on the bus. If you’re really paying attention, this episode has more people talking about how outrageous things are than people recalling the heinous things in detail, but there’s enough of each one that no one cares.

The Gladiators have all spent decades on the self-promotion/nostalgia circuit now; in five episodes, there isn’t a single answer that hasn’t been crafted, and the directors haven’t pushed at all Shake the nitro, ice or laser out of their comfort zone. As was the case with the ESPN docs, there really was a sense of not having enough follow-up questions to break out of semi-script memory. That’s especially true for someone like Goldwyn executive Dick Askin, who’s always skating on pretty serious issues, like how corporate entities exploit underpaid, overworked gladiators, and slap on Turn a blind eye to drug use, unless it threatens the economy. bottom line.

Even the dot joins that feel very obvious to me are ignored. I’m particularly annoyed that several Gladiators bemoaned their failure to come together in contract renegotiations, and no one pointed out the irony that multiple original stars started as strike-breaking NFL backups. hurry up.

ESPN documentaries have been rather lackluster at times in their coverage of various drug addictions and even deaths. Netflix’s documentaries are more joyful — better to appease fans who just want “Isn’t this great?” hagiography and turn gladiators into overstuffed human beanie babies.

These viewers won’t care that Muscle and Chaos takes a weird approach to the show’s general creative process. Co-creator Johnny Ferraro only appears in fleeting archival footage, and his contributions are mostly ridiculed. Creditable co-founder Dann Carr wasn’t even mentioned, and Berman spent nearly four hours on ESPN trying to reclaim his legacy. Instead, Muscle and Chaos attributes much of the series’ success to executive producer Aitan Keller, sleazy porno director Bob Levy, and studio high Smart management of the tube.

Vainuku and Hess are far less skeptical of their subject, but the truth may be somewhere in between. Interestingly, there is very little overlap between the two documentaries, with less than half a dozen stories repeated. Neither of the American Gladiatordocuments is definitive, but for fans of the series, being able to get this Rashomonstyle What a wonderful dream to look back on. Others just have to wait a few months. Do you have any questions about “47” and “” Taste nostalgia is bound to finally get the competing documentary treatment.



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