Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Watch: James Bond Is Back In First Trailer For 'Spectre' Starring Daniel Craig, Lea Seydoux, Dave Bautista, & More Watch: James Bond Is Back In First Trailer For 'Spectre' Starring Daniel Craig, Lea Seydoux, Dave Bautista, & More Terrence Malick's Next Film With Ryan Gosling, Rooney Mara & Michael Fassbender Reportedly Gets Titled Terrence Malick's Next Film With Ryan Gosling, Rooney Mara & Michael Fassbender Reportedly Gets Titled Watch: Jake Gyllenhaal Gets Bloody And Bruised In First Trailer For Boxing Drama 'Southpaw' Watch: Jake Gyllenhaal Gets Bloody And Bruised In First Trailer For Boxing Drama 'Southpaw' New Infographic Lays Out Canonical 'Star Wars' Timeline With Films, TV And Books New Infographic Lays Out Canonical 'Star Wars' Timeline With Films, TV And Books First Official Image: Jesse Eisenberg As Lex Luthor In 'Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice' First Official Image: Jesse Eisenberg As Lex Luthor In 'Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice' Watch: First Trailer For Arnold Schwarzenegger's Zombie Pic 'Maggie' With Abigail Breslin Watch: First Trailer For Arnold Schwarzenegger's Zombie Pic 'Maggie' With Abigail Breslin Idris Elba Replaces Jamie Foxx In Harmony Korine's 'The Trap,' Al Pacino, Robert Pattinson, James Franco Also Join Idris Elba Replaces Jamie Foxx In Harmony Korine's 'The Trap,' Al Pacino, Robert Pattinson, James Franco Also Join Watch: Explore The Loneliness Of Sofia Coppola's Films With This Supercut Watch: Explore The Loneliness Of Sofia Coppola's Films With This Supercut 10 Terrible Films Starring Great Actors 10 Terrible Films Starring Great Actors Watch: Tom Hanks Acts Out His Filmography In 7-Minutes On 'The Late Late Show' Watch: Tom Hanks Acts Out His Filmography In 7-Minutes On 'The Late Late Show' New Directors/New Films Review: Jia Zhang-ke Produced 'K' Is A New Take On Franz Kafka's 'The Castle' New Directors/New Films Review: Jia Zhang-ke Produced 'K' Is A New Take On Franz Kafka's 'The Castle' Viggo Mortensen Reveals He Turned Down Quentin Tarantino's 'The Hateful Eight,' Auditioned For 'Reservoir Dogs' Viggo Mortensen Reveals He Turned Down Quentin Tarantino's 'The Hateful Eight,' Auditioned For 'Reservoir Dogs' Jonathan Nolan Says His Original Ending To 'Interstellar' Was “Much More Straightforward” Jonathan Nolan Says His Original Ending To 'Interstellar' Was “Much More Straightforward” The 25 Best Animated Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Animated Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Films Of 2015 We've Already Seen The 25 Best Films Of 2015 We've Already Seen Best Of 2014: The 15 Best Movie Soundtracks Of 2014 Best Of 2014: The 15 Best Movie Soundtracks Of 2014 The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season From Worst To Best: Ranking The Films Of Hayao Miyazaki From Worst To Best: Ranking The Films Of Hayao Miyazaki All The Songs In 'Pitch Perfect' Including La Roux, David Guetta, Azealia Banks, Nicki Minaj & More All The Songs In 'Pitch Perfect' Including La Roux, David Guetta, Azealia Banks, Nicki Minaj & More

Review: Danny Boyle's Witty, Subversive & Spectacular Opening Ceremony For London 2012 Olympics Was A Triumph

Photo of Oliver Lyttelton By Oliver Lyttelton | The Playlist July 28, 2012 at 10:57AM

We're not known for our love of sporting events here at The Playlist, but ever since it was announced that Danny Boyle would be the man in charge of the opening ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics (following in the footsteps of "Hero" director Zhang Yimou, who shepherded the Beijing events), we've been intrigued. After all, Boyle, as a recent Oscar winner for "Slumdog Millionaire," is a serious A-lister now, and could get any film he wanted made. And while he's kept his oar in, shooting thriller "Trance," with James McAvoy, last year (he'll finish post-production on it once the Olympics are done), it did mean giving over a year or so of his life to the event at a time when he's never had more cachet.
39


Olympics 2012 Rings

We're not known for our love of sporting events here at The Playlist, but ever since it was announced that Danny Boyle would be the man in charge of the opening ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics (following in the footsteps of "Hero" director Zhang Yimou, who shepherded the Beijing events), we've been intrigued. After all, Boyle, as a recent Oscar winner for "Slumdog Millionaire," is a serious A-lister now, and could get any film he wanted made. And while he's kept his oar in, shooting thriller "Trance," with James McAvoy, last year (he'll finish post-production on it once the Olympics are done), it did mean giving over a year or so of his life to the event at a time when he's never had more cachet.

And Boyle had a particularly tough act to follow, given that the Beijing opening ceremony in 2008 was generally deemed to be the most spectacular ever, with 15,000 participants, and a budget of over $100 million. Could Boyle even hope to compete, with a quarter of the budget and a tenth of the volunteers, and make not only a home country that's not easily impressed happy, but also entertain a billion viewers around the world as well?

Yes, as it turns out. The director knocked it out of the park with a gloriously indiosyncratic spectacular that didn't try to beat Beijing at the same game, but instead emphasized a very British group of values that also felt like something from Boyle through and through.

Olympics Branagh

We have to confess that we were going in expecting disaster. Boyle had unveiled his set a few weeks back, a pastoral mound that, as Jon Stewart described, looked like the Teletubbies inhabited it. And the warm up, featuring real livestock (12 horses, three cows, two goats, 10 chickens, 10 ducks, nine geese, 70 sheep and three sheepdog), a ferris wheel and a period-dressed villagers, didn't inspire a huge amount of confidence; it looked, to be frank, like Hobbiton.

But if you were listening carefully to musician Frank Turner, who played his song "I Still Believe," you might have picked up a couple of hints of what Boyle was really intending. Two lines stand out. First, "come ye, come ye, to soulless corporate circus tops," the first suggestion of a subversive quality that would run throughout. And then the song's chorus, "Who'd have though that after all, something as simple as rock & roll would save us all."

We didn't have to wait long for the rock'n'roll; a video tour of Britain contained snippets of "London Calling" and the Sex Pistols' "God Save The Queen," boldly, and plenty more was to come. After Tour-De-France cyclist Bradley Wiggins rang the bell, Kenneth Branagh (a last minute replacement for stage star Mark Rylance, who pulled out after a family tragedy), as pioneering engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel, complete with top hat and a non-PC cigar, emerged to read Caliban's speech from Shakespeare's "The Tempest," beginning "Be not afeard. The isle is full of noises."

Olympics NHS

And suddenly, the huge tree atop the mount lifted up, and that pastoral landscape, which Boyle had cheekily suggested would be the setting for the whole show, was ripped up, as the industrial revolution got underway. Huge chimneys were erected and an enormous forge was revealed, just as suffragettes took to the field too, all to a thumping score by Boyle's "Trainspotting" colleagues Underworld. After a moment's pause for the dead of the two World Wars, symbolized by a single poppy, the drummers started up again, and a group in Sgt. Pepper jackets took to the field, along with a boat symbolizing the first West Indian immigrants to British shores, Chelsea pensioners and Cockney pearly kings and queens.

On the surface, it again felt Tolkien-inspired (the scouring of the Shire and all), but if anything, there was less ambivalence than you might expect; this was the glory of progress that came with technology, rather than a lamenting for an England that never was. Looking forward, rather than back, as it were -- if anything else, the biggest theme of the show. At the same time, there was something a little sinister about the whole thing, not least the marked, scarred appearance of the ground.

As one giant golden ring was forged and elevated, four others were flown in from across the stadium, and formed the Olympic symbol, which then poured sparks and fire over those watching. As one saw the close-up of the fire reflected in the goggles of a masked forger, one can only imagine that Boyle had a hand in the direction of the broadcast as well as its content; it was a highly filmic shot, and the cinematic quality carried across the show as a whole.

This article is related to: Danny Boyle, Kenneth Branagh, Daniel Craig, Review


The Playlist

The obsessives' guide to contemporary cinema via film discussion, news, reviews, features, nostalgia, movie music, soundtracks, DVDs and more.


Check out Indiewire on LockerDome on LockerDome

E-Mail Updates