Look, I love the movie Warrior. I throw it on all the time and have it playing in the background while doing other things. It’s the last hour that gets me. The fights. I mean, I’m not even that huge into MMA. I can’t tell you the last time I watched an MMA fight…2010? But how Warrior builds up Hardy and Edgerton makes the fights special to me. We have the God-like figure (Hardy) and the embodiment of the Underdog (Edgerton). It’s like an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object. What decides the final fight between the two of them isn’t skill but emotion. The anger of Hardy is doused by the cool determination of his brother, Edgerton. It’s one of my favorite moments in cinema. Especially the musical build up at the end. There’s such energy in those final seconds and the riot of sound seems like the crackling of that energy and its as if the world is being charged and changed. So cool.
Glena is the real-life equivalent of Warrior. Which is amazing to me. Glena is Edgerton’s character. She trains like a maniac, makes a miraculous run through amateur matches, and survives in major fights she should be crushed in until she turns the table and wins. Not only that, both Glena and Edgerton had problems with foreclosure. The final match in Glena is nearly identical to Edgerton’s match against Koba. I was legitimately on the edge of my seat, rubbing my hands, whispering under my breath, “Come on. Come on!” It was a bit ridiculous how caught up I was in this movie. But that’s what happens with good films, right?
Granted, I haven’t watched many documentaries. Maybe 15 in the last five years? Glena is certainly in the top three. Right there with Hoop Dreams and Life Itself.
What I love is the rhythm created by the film’s structure. We have fight-life-fight-life-fight-life-fight-life-resolution. A poetic rhythm is created, lending the movie a sonnet-like quality. If the movie only had a fight in the beginning and a fight in the end, I doubt the film would be anywhere as good. We’d wallow in a middle that’s elongated by domestic issues.
This is why the first Thor movie isn’t as good as the second one. The first Thor starts with Thor as Thor, then robs him of his powers until the climax. Why do we want to watch a movie where Thor doesn’t get to be Thor? Avengers succeeded because it had a structure of SuperHeroFight-development-SuperHeroFight-development-SuperHeroFight-development-SuperHeroFight-development-HOLYSHITLARGESCALESUPERHEROFIGHT-conclusion. This is also why I think The Incredible Hulk is underrated: it has a solid structure of: development-HulkOut-development-HulkOut-development-KillHulk-development-GloriousReturnOfHulk-conclusion. Poetic structuring is under-utilized outside of sports films and action movies.
What I’m trying to say is that I think Luebke chose the best possible way to structure the narrative. If there were less fights the domestic issues would overwhelm the story and change the film’s tone to melodrama. The fights allow us to escape from the home, escape from whatever domestic issues there are. It’s like, for the 5-10 minutes the fights are going on, we forget the domestic world even exists. Which is probably how Glena feels, and I think is something everyone can relate to. We all have our escapes, our outlets, the activities where we vent and exorcise stress. By watching Glena give over to her outlet and find success and salvation in it, she becomes a figure we want to live vicariously through. We want to root for her because we want to solve our own frustrations.
Okay, yeah, I get it, watching the film won’t solve your frustrations. But it does remind us of the importance of time and effort, that input equals output. People who knew of Glena’s story might have thought she was a natural talent that came out of nowhere. When you see this documentary you understand her results are the byproduct of her commitment to training. This isn’t just true of Glena. It’s true of every single successful person who has ever lived and will live. From Alexander to Mozart to Meryl Streep to Ken Griffey Jr. to Glena.
So not only do I think this movie is entertaining, but it’s also inspirational and educational. I hope many, many, many people get to see it.