It would be difficult to compare any Opening Ceremony production to that of Beijing’s four years ago, but the opening for the London Olympics seemed more akin to a community theater production with great financial backing.
The ceremony began in a scene reminiscent of the Shire from “The Lord of the Rings” with women throwing apples, men laughing and children playing around a Maypole. This would be fine if it had lasted a few moments rather than a good 15 minutes.
Children’s choirs from across the UK sang a variety of songs, which were beautiful, but problematic. Rather than having the choir’s present inside of the Olympic Stadium, Danny Boyle, acclaimed director of “Slumdog Millionaire” and the creative director of the ceremony, chose to film the children’s choirs from Ireland, Scotland and Wales. He projected them onto a screen and filtered the sound through speakers, the only choir present being the English.
Scene swap to the Industrial Revolution in England.
The music is loud and thumping like many of Boyle’s films; the director going so far as to having the “smoke stacks” produce a sulfur smell. The audience not only hearing the performance, but smelling it as well.
Dancing nurses and doctors as well as energetic children in hospital beds fill the stadium immediately following the close of the Industrial Revolution.
The choreography of the scene was too difficult for these many of the actual doctors and nurses who had volunteered for the spectacle. Many of them were out of time, on the wrong foot or completely out of sync from the rest of the group.
Finally the audience entered the “Nightmare” segment of the ceremony. The hospital children are put to sleep only to dream of famous villains of British literature.
Captain Hook, Cruella de Vil and, of course, Lord Voldemort, plague the children until 12 performers portraying Mary Poppins descend from the sky to chase away the nightmares.
Throughout the ceremony, Boyle used different video clips and “short” films to “enhance” the ceremony; even having the Queen jump out of a helicopter with Daniel Craig (James Bond) thus declaring the opening of the thirtieth Olympiad.
Even Rowan Atkinson, aka Mr. Bean, played a part by re-enacting “Chariots of Fire” with the London Symphony Orchestra before the start of yet another short film.
I’m sure had spectators known how cinematic the ceremony would be, they wouldn’t have paid thousands of dollars for their tickets and instead, watched from home where the ceremony could have been seen in its entirety.
After the performance, the Parade of Nations began, moving at a faster clip than any other Olympics of recent memory. Even the commentators had to edit many of the their notes and improvise.
The London Opening Ceremony did not hold a candle to that of Beijing, but also failed to stand on its own.
And to Danny Boyle, please sir, stick to film.Contact Katie Hatfield.