Andre The Giant Review
From HBO Sports, WWE, JMH Films and Ringer Films comes Andre The Giant, a documentary examining the life and career of one of the most beloved legends in WWE history.
Andre the Giant (born Andre Roussimoff) was a popular Wrestler in the 1970's and was at the forefront of the WWF (Now WWE) era, along with Hulk Hogan, which exploded in the 1980's. Starting off as the gentle giant, he took on this persona for years in the United States as he worked from regional wrestling to the wrestling we know of today. After his turn in The Princess Bride in the 1980's he turned 'heel' and became the villain of the Wrestling world. He died just 46 in 1993 in his native France.
The majority of this much touted HBO documentary is made up of about 90 minutes of talking heads of past WWF stars, commentators, friends and family of Andre the Giant, the “Eighth Wonder of the World”, along with archive footage of the man himself, but it really never gets out of second gear. It does the typical 'rise and fall' of the man himself but it never really gets under the surface. It comes across as merely puff piece promotion - released 25 years after the man's death - and not a lot else.
For a film that is promoted to be all about Andre, it is probably about 3/4 of the way into the documentary where we learn that his distinct features were a result of acromegaly, a hormone disorder, and that because of this, his rapid deterioration, spine and ankle injuries play a major part in his decline. Up until that point, the reasons behind his size are barely mentioned.
It was fun enough to hear friends reminiscing about the amount of alcohol Andre could drink in one sitting, but it felt like this was a story repeated again and again. World Wrestling Entertainment boss Vince McMahon is interviewed, and talks about bringing Andre the Giant back to the ring, even when it was clear he could barely do it anymore, and this comes across more as exploitation than giving Andre moments to shine again. It is however at this point, probably the only time where the documentary really took off. When Hulk Hogan reminisces about the Wrestlemania III fight between Hogan and Andre, where Hogan talks us through the scripting of the piece, and how beat by beat the 'fight' was to play out - it was exciting; but even at this point, it felt the documentary was more about Hogan than it was about Andre. Maybe they just felt there wasn't enough to really say about Andre, which seems a damn shame.
Modern audiences will know Andre from playing Fezzik in The Princess Bride, a role which was written for him, which is touched upon here, but it's all gloss. Artist Shepard Fairey used Andre’s image for his Obey brand icon, but it is never mentioned, which is odd in itself, as this would have been an ‘in’ for a lot of younger audiences who would not have been alive during Andre’s reign, and may have discovered him through latter day pop culture. In fact, nothing is really mentioned of Andre's legacy, which for a documentary all about Andre is very strange indeed.
The Andre the Giant documentary comes to DVD with a wealth of bout extras from past WWF and other Wrestling events that are more interesting than the documentary itself. I did not feel I got to know any more about Andre than what I already knew. I have never been a massive wrestling fan, but if any era was MY era it was the Hulk Hogan/Andre the Giant era, so a lot of this felt like wandering down memory lane.
I just wish I came away from it actually learning something more about the man himself and the legacy that has grown from him after his death than I did. A missed opportunity.