Published on April 10th, 2017 | by Craig Silliphant0
T2 Trainspotting 2
Renton, Spud, Begbie, and Sickboy are back in T2 Trainspotting 2, which has minor issues, but is as strong of a sequel as you’ll find.
I had seen Trainspotting a lot when I was in my 20s, but after watching it too many times (and reading the book a few times), I left it alone for least a decade. About six months ago, I picked it up on blu-ray and gave it a watch. It was still as electric a cinematic experience as ever, though it was a lot goofier than I remembered it being. The dark, druggy, cultural manifesto had some pretty madcap moments.
Of course, there already was a sequel to Trainspotting, the Irvine Welsh book, called Porno, which featured the return of Mark Renton and his pals. There are more differences than similarities between T2 and Porno, though screenwriter John Hodge and director Danny Boyle have used some pieces of the book to good effect.
T2 takes place 20 years after the events of Trainspotting. Mark ‘Rentboy’ Renton, having betrayed his friends at the end of the first film and disappearing with their heroin deal money, has come back to Scotland, the prodigal son. Spud still struggles with addiction, losing his family and his job. Simon ‘Sickboy’ Williamson is now involved in a variety of illegal scams and has also taken over ownership of his aunt’s pub. Simon renews his friendship with Renton, though plans to take his revenge for the earlier betrayal. Begbie escapes prison, and tries to reconnect with his family, while still being the violent wild card. Once he finds out Renton is in the picture, Begbie wants to kill him.
How easy it would have been to screw this up, trying to trade on past glory and remake the first movie. Boyle manages to not only avoid that, but to actually craft the rare sequel that has reason enough to exist. The biggest way they make it work is by having one of the themes of the movie be about the dangers of looking backwards. Most of these characters have never lived high enough on the hog to look forward to things in life — they can only look backwards to laugh at the good times or to lament their sickening defeats. There’s not much heroin left in this movie — but ruminating on the past can prove addictive as well.
These themes become so meta they almost break the fourth wall. It’s not lost on an audience of the right age that you’re watching the sequel to a movie that was a cultural bullet in your youth, featuring actors that, like yourself, are all 20 years older. The act of watching T2, hearing those musical queues to the Underworld’s ‘Born Slippy’ or Iggy Pop’s ‘Lust for Life,’ is a way of revisiting your own past.
“It’s just nostalgia,” Simon says to Renton, who has chastised him for pissing on a memorial for Tommy, who died of AIDS in the first film. “You’re a tourist in your own youth.” He might as well be talking to us directly.
The film probably tries to squeeze in a few too many visual nods to the original through flashback. It works better in the scenes where they don’t draw a lot of on the nose attention these references. They were also smart to cut in new footage of the friends as young boys, as we’ve never seen them, so it doesn’t always seem like you’re just watching clips of the first movie. We get a sense of their whole lives, not just the events of the two films.
These characters are still fun to watch, even now that they’re at each other’s throats. It rambles a little bit, though it crosses the finish line with gusto. T2 is hilarious in some moments, but also as sad as the march of time in others. It may not recapture the subversive punch to the throat of pop culture that the original did, but how could it? It’s 20 years later and we’re all older, balder, and fatter. The movie does a better job of acknowledging this reality, instead of trying to recapture what it used to be.