We’ve arrived, perhaps inevitably, at what I certainly hope is the bottom of the Greenspan barrel. Given that most of the remaining films are also Greenspan productions, it remains to be seen. What is clear, is that this is a formula of diminishing returns and the returns have, by this point, faded almost to nothing. This is a failure along basically all of the axis that a good Olympics documentary should be judged.
For one thing, it fails to capture the majesty of the scene. This was made for television, and boy does it look it. It once again almost completely avoids any presentation of anything that happened at the games other than the sports. There is also no entry point to really understand what happened at the Nagano games in the sports. Several new sports made their introduction at these games, and none are even mentioned.
The larger point though, is that this is a formula that lives and dies with the stories available to tell. What has become overwhelmingly apparent, is that it doesn’t do a good job of manufacturing interest. When truly dramatic and wonderful things happened at whatever particular instance of the Olympics we are following, this formula can present that drama in a useful or interesting way.
As far as I can tell, the Nagano games didn’t really have any of that. Some people won some medals, some records were set. But the film fails to find the kind of compelling personal interest stories that are required if this is going to be how you present the games. And upon not finding any, the film doesn’t look outside itself to what else might be useful to show.
This edition of the Olympics also comes with a much shorter film, made exclusively for IMAX. It’s a bit slight for sure, but it is so much better looking than Greenspan’s crappy television film, that on that basis alone it’s essential.
I love the Olympics, but I also love sports, and I currently am living in a world sans basically all the sports I love. The fact that these films couldn’t replace that in almost any way is the most damning criticism I can think to level.