by Richy Craven
Last week the only way we would have thought the London 2012 opening ceremony could beat Beijing’s was if they brought out Coldplay, Piers Morgan and Simon Cowell and staged a public execution as an apology to the rest of the world.
Imagine our surprise then when Danny Boyle’s proceedings turned out not be a spectacular failure but instead an amazing, funny, and visually impressive show. The London 2012 opening warmed Man Cave’s shriveled hearts (which is actually a serious medical condition that we should get checked out) so instead of our usual mockery here’s a list of our favorite parts from the show.
1. The Set from The Lord of the Rings.
The opening ceremony for London 2012 was directed by Oscar winner Danny Boyle but from the first five minutes you would be forgiven for thinking that it was actually created by Peter Jackson. The pre-industrial era London set looked so much like Hobbiton that we half expected to see Frodo and Sam making out at the top of that weird twisty hill thing.
The transformation of this set into the darker, steampunk version was supposed to symbolize the Industrial Revolution when Britain changed from a quaint farming country to an industrial behemoth but it looked more like a fan film showing what would have happened to the Shire if Sauron had won at the end of The Lord of the Rings.
2. The Top Hats
If we can take away only one lesson from this year’s opening games (besides the peace and unity between nations thing) let it be that top hats are awesome and need to come back into fashion immediately. Someone like George Clooney or Jon Hamm needs to turn up to a premiere or an awards show in one of those bad boys soon so the rest of us have an excuse to start wearing them again.
This needs to happen quickly people! Or else the hipsters will start wearing them “ironically” and they’ll be ruined for everyone.
3. Kenneth Branagh’s Sideburns
Legendary Shakespearean actor Kenneth Branagh lent his dramatic chops (and mutton chops!) to Friday’s proceedings playing the role of Isambard Kingdom Brunell, the man who dragged England into the industrial age kicking and screaming. (By-the-by, “Isambard Kingdom” also sounds like it belongs to the LoTR universe…perhaps ruled by Sauron?)
Branagh’s performance was incredible, as usual, and his presence gave the whole production an air of class, gravitas and two seriously impressive sideburns.
Seriously, look at them! The last guy who rocked the sideburns look as convincingly as that was Wolverine…and now all we want to do is stab Kenneth Branagh to see if he has a mutant healing factor, except all those Shakespearean actors are decent swordfighters so he’d probably stab us first.
4. Over 10,000 volunteers
Yeah, we know Beijing had a larger cast in their opening ceremony but when you’re talking about China the word “volunteers” needs to be put in quotation marks large enough to be seen by the space station. We think London did pretty well considering they couldn’t just roll up to a random town with the army and inform the population that they were now part of the national “jumping up and down while drumming” team.
The second act of the ceremony even featured real-life nurses, doctors and patients from Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital. We’re assuming that they didn’t bring any of the kids that were really sick or contagious but if the Olympic Village suddenly comes down with a plague of chicken pox at least we’ll know who to blame.
Hell, Boyle even managed to coax J.K Rowling out of her money-palace in order to read a passage from Peter Pan.
5. The freaking Queen and James Bond
Danny Boyle is aware of the fact that the Queen and James Bond are probably the only two British people most Americans would recognize and so decided to stick them both in the same skit for extra awesomeness.
In the sequence the best of Her Majesty’s Secret Service and, well, Her Majesty climb into a helicopter and are shown flying over several famous landmarks before hovering over the Olympic Stadium and parachuting down to take their seats. We don’t care what you say, we choose to believe that the Queen did the stunt herself. We like to keep a little of bit of magic in our lives.
By appearing in the skit the Queen cemented herself as the coolest head of state in the world. At least until Obama snowboards over a shark to boost his election poll numbers.
6. Traumatizing Kids.
It wouldn’t be a Danny Boyle production if it wasn’t at least somewhat emotionally scarring so, rather than feature a scene where an orphan has his eyes burned by hot oil or a climber has to cut his own arm off, Boyle decided to traumatize the child of the world by featuring every single terrifying bad guy he could think of, and then making them 40 feet tall.
In the sequence celebrating Britain’s contribution to children’s literature viewers were greeted with well-known children’s nightmare-fodder like the Queen of Hearts, Cruella DeVille, Captain Hook and, just to make sure no child that night was able to sleep with the light off, a 40 foot inflatable Voldemort.
If the colossal He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named wasn’t enough to get kids seeking therapy for the rest of their days then Boyle also had everyone’s favourite flamboyantly dressed child molester, the Childcatcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, running around the stadium chasing kids, ensuring that there wasn’t a clean pair of underpants in the house.
7. David Beckham on a Speedboat.
David Beckham reminded men everywhere why his name is still on their girlfriend’s “free pass” list by delivering the Olympic torch to the stadium in the coolest way possible.
Dressed in a sharp suit, Becks piloted a speedboat up the Thames accompanied a beautiful, athletic woman. This means that he managed to out-007 the actual James Bond, who had to settle for turning up with a pensioner in a helicopter.
8. The Parade of Nations drinking game
Ah! The Parade of Nations! Where athletes from every corner on the globe walk through the stadium to the thunderous applause of the crowd. It’s a marvellous symbol of unity, competitive spirit….and also the dullest part of any opening ceremony. It goes on for about two hours and, realistically, you only really care about your own country and maybe Brazil (to check out their women’s beach volleyball team).
Here’s a little drinking game to help make the time go faster and ensure that you get lit before the torch does.
- Take one drink every time they introduce a country you’ve never heard of before (Lesotho? Bhutan? The Cook Islands? Isn’t that one of the places from Game of Thrones?)
- Take a drink every time a country has fewer than 5 athletes.
- Down your drink if a country only has one, lonely athlete.
- Take one drink for every independent athlete that there is or, alternatively, drink until the idea of “independent athletes” in a competition between nations makes any sense.
- Take two drinks every time the commentators have to talk about some unspeakable atrocity during their light banter. Example: “Oh and hear comes Genocidia, and they’re just recovering from an ethnic cleansing the north of the country by their tyrannical despot. Very good at archery and women’s weightlifting so I’m told.”
9. They pissed off a Nazi-partying member of parliament!
We don’t have to take sides politically to dislike a politican who spends his free time at parties where people in SS costumes salute Nazi leaders. We just use our standard rule of “How angry would this make John Wayne?” So when British MP Aidan Burley took time out of his busy schedule to tweet about how much he disliked the opening ceremony’s multiculturalist, “leftist” ideals, we did a little happy dance that he was cranky about something.
To be honest. The opening ceremony could have been three hours of cricket and tea and we’d still have forced ourselves to love it if that @r$%#()!% didn’t like it.
Richy Craven is basically a machine for turning whiskey into awful life choices, he also writes occasionally. You can read more of his stuff over at Cracked, A Series of Terrible Decisions or on Twitter.