When Danny Boyle first teased us with information about his new Olympic Opening Ceremony (entitled Isles of Wonder, after The Tempest), he said it would contain fields and sheep and rain clouds.
Eh? Would a vision of soggy, pastoral Britain hold up on the world stage, especially in the wake of the spectacular Beijing ceremony in 2008?
It turns out we needn’t have worried. Why? Because it’s Danny Boyle of course, one of the UK’s most visually inventive and energetic directors. And true to form, he marshalled an opening ceremony that was truly incredible.
Boyle’s characteristics were all over the show, which moved from arboreal, lush, green fields to the towering, monstrous chimneys of the Industrial Revolution and then -shocker -onto a contemporary interpretation of Britain with an eclectic sphere of musical influences that’s down with the kids. This almost seemed to act as a reminder that we do indeed have a youthful population and isn’t simply a land of historical relics and cream teas.
The energy; the colour (vivid oranges and reds); the multi-faceted soundtrack (everyone from The Sex Pistols to Dizzee Rascal) – all the constituent elements are familiar from Boyle’s movies like Trainspotting and Slumdog Millionaire. A vibrant pop sensibility coursed throughout the veins of the show, and then there was the quintessentially British humour.
Few other countries would have the nerve to send their monarch parachuting into the midst of a global sporting ceremony alongside James Bond – but then what’s normal about British humour? To my mind, it’s the best and most idiosyncratic humour in the world – without it, the show would have lost much of its soul.
Another thing to note about Boyle is that he’s a director who thrives on difficult challenges and complex environments. From the heroin-riddled tenements of Glasgow to the deserted streets of London in 28 Days Later and the one man-stuck-in-a-canyon masterclass of 127 Hours, Boyle relishes a challenge.
And that’s why he was such a brilliant choice as artistic director for the games. Think of the inherently uncinematic story of 127 Hours: if he could make the tale of a man in a canyon so visually arresting and dynamic, there’s no way he wasn’t going to be able to marshal the complexities of the Opening Ceremony. Let’s not forget also, he has theatre background: his Frankenstein project made its debut to much acclaim in 2011.
Put simply, Boyle thrives when taken outside of his comfort zone, and the sheer magnitude of his latest project inspired his creative juices once more. Isles of Wonder? Man of Wonder more like.
Give the man a Bond film to direct. Right now.