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Arnold review: Arnold Schwarzenegger gets a three-hour long vanity project, but to what end?

An overzealous attempt at painting a rosy picture of the man who conquered all obstacles to find success in every field he set foot in

Arnold review: Arnold Schwarzenegger gets a three-hour long vanity project, but to what end?
The three-part documentary on Arnold Schwarzenegger's life will drop on Netflix on June 7

Last Updated: 08.50 PM, Jun 07, 2023


Story: A three-part documentary about Arnold Schwarzenegger’s early days of bodybuilding, winning multiple Mr Universe and Mr Olympia titles, the shift to showbiz, and his stint as governor of California – Arnold is about ‘AAA’, the Athlete, Actor and American, straight from the horse’s mouth.

Review: At 75 years of age, Arnold Schwarzenegger is embracing a new phase of his showbiz career with perhaps the same vigour that he had back as a teenager hell-bent on being the best bodybuilder and gracing magazine covers. He’s just done a lead role in his first web series for Netflix – Fubar – and has taken on the position of Chief Action Officer at the streamer, which will include introducing and promoting the platform’s slate of action films.


As part of this sweet new deal, Arnold also gets a documentary about his life, told, well, from his perspective only, with the occasional quip from his long-term friends like James Cameron, Danny DeVito, etc. Arnold does a lot of talking in all three episodes, each of which is just over an hour long and explores three different stages in his career – bodybuilding, acting and politics.

As a kid growing up in Austria after World War II, Arnold says that his dream was always to get away from that life. He knew he was destined for greater things and found his inspiration in Reg Park, the bodybuilder-actor, after which he dedicated hours on making his body his getaway vehicle. From winning local bodybuilding championships to being Mr Universe and Mr Olympia, while also chasing his great American dream, to then getting into showbiz and headlining some of the biggest blockbusters Hollywood’s ever made and eventually taking the plunge into politics – Arnold gives audiences a detailed tour of his life and how making money has been a big driving factor along the way.


The series stops short of giving Arnold a Mr Perfect clean-chit, with courtesy mentions of his ‘controlled’ use of steroids during his bodybuilding days, the claims that he groped women on film sets over decades, which he tried brushing off as playful behaviour that he now regrets, and, of course, the fact that he was unfaithful to his wife of 25 years, Maria Shriver and fathered a son with a housekeeper. Put together, these get barely five minutes as part of the narrative.

The question that remains at the end of the documentary is its purpose – what is the end game here? The whole series is so self-serving, it feels like brand building. But does Arnold really need a whitewashing exercise at this juncture? His Netflix show Fubar is among the top streamed shows currently, but that’s not a measure of quality. The show’s quite bad, honestly.

Verdict: Arnold is a pretty one-sided account of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s life because he is the one narrating the story. The few extra voices are from close friends and associates and there’s absolutely no effort to present a balanced picture. This is an expensive commercial for brand Arnold.


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