Yes, some spoilers.
(but you may be happy that I did)
Sometime in late 2016, I became aware of an impending Trainspotting sequel. Immediately a sense of NEED and satisfaction overwhelmed me when I fantasized about the sequel I’ve unknowingly wanted for 20 years. Trainspotting was an iconic 90’s movie for me, right up there with Pulp Fiction, both of which fueled my desire to go to film school. I was in love with the style, the characters, the music, the nods to A Clockwork Orange, the romanticized and simultaneously horrific view of drug culture … every frame of Trainspotting was perfection.
I may or may not have spent a night in my friend Aaron’s dorm room in an altered state, contemplating the universe to the tune of “Born Slippy.” My memory’s a bit hazy on that one. Hell, I used pictures of Diane as some of my early internet chat room avatars. The point I am trying to make here is, I was nearly OBSESSED with this movie throughout the late 90’s.
The trailer for T2 dropped and I watched it greedily, like a child unwrapping a monstrous pile of gifts. By the end, I realized I actually had TEARS of happiness coming out of my eyeballs. Do you all realize how rare this is for me? I’ll tell you, it’s FUCKING RARE. I didn’t realize until then just how much I craved this movie.
The trailer promised so much. All of the old characters were back (except Tommy, of course) and seemed to pick up beautifully from where they left off. Begbie is as psychopathic and partially intelligible as ever. There are glimpses of the lovable Spud’s darker side. Renton and Sickboy (née Simon) resume their bromance… eventually. With all the other comebacks slated for release this year, T2 was perhaps the most anticipated for me, neck-and-neck with the new Gorillaz album.
T2 Trainspotting was released on March 17, 2017…somewhere. Not where I lived, though. I had to wait almost a full month before it was showing in any theater within 20 miles. I’m not sure what kind of strategy went into the slow-drip release schedule, but it didn’t really help build hype for it. It only aggravated me more.
After a bit of “Where have they been?” catch-up, the movie begins with a simple premise that works perfectly in bringing Renton home – his mother has passed. There’s a quite striking scene of Mark and his father at the table, his mother’s shadow looming beside them.
The cast comes back together in pieces as Renton visits one friend to the next to catch up on life. Little is seen of vastly under-appreciated actress Kelly MacDonald as Diane, the Lolita of the first film, who’s undoubtedly the most successful in the present day. But perhaps, maybe that’s why we don’t see her much? She doesn’t have time to go backward.
Scenes of the first film are interspersed in flashes and projections as the current story line mirrors the past. Danny Boyle certainly did this to drive home the point that history repeats itself, that people never change. However, I couldn’t help feeling like this was a bit lazy after a certain point as it began feeling like an overused ham-handed approach… and to save on filming costs. Then I ate a handful of the memberberries that were handed out free with every ticket and shrugged it off.
Slightly offtopic: I had a very distracting moment when I realized that the character Gail was played by Shirley Henderson, the same actress as Moaning Myrtle in the Harry Potter movies. A quick estimation of the math puts her in her LATE THIRTIES when she portrayed the ghost of a 13-year-old girl. I always knew it was bad casting – nothing against Ms. Henderson who is fantastic – but the actual numbers made the already apparent age difference even more creepy.
It was amazing to watch Spud’s transformation from comic relief junkie to an actual fully-formed character, which became the true highlight of this movie. Renton’s last act of friendship toward Spud turned out to be not such a good deed after all. “What did you think I was going to do with £4000? I’m a JUNKIE!”
A few scenes depict Begbie with a sexual dysfunction, which I’m told was supposed to hint that he’s a closet homosexual. If this is the case, the film missed the mark and seemed to suggest that he has a violence fetish, which is entirely believable from this character.
There were several really magnificent scenes that kept my hopes up along the way, but in general it just relied on the heavy hits of nostalgia to keep us strung along.
In the end the movie just felt lacking somehow. It’s just “There,” as my friend Bryan said afterward. “I almost expected them to all kill each other, Reservoir Dogs style,” he added. I agreed, as it seemed like the movie was building to some epic showdown – this happens, but the pieces don’t fall together the way we expected. Not that I wanted all the characters to die, but I expected more. The actual dénouement was anticlimactic as all fuck, with too much emphasis on a character that didn’t really have enough development for us to truly care about.
Last year was also my 20th high school reunion, an event that I went to with high hopes of seeing some old friends and catching up on the past. Hardly anyone I knew was there and I felt like I’d just wasted money and time on a venture that could have been spent much, much better. So I got wasted and tried to stay upright long enough to close the place out. I was just There.
After both the movie and the reunion, I thought, “That didn’t live up to my expectations AT ALL.”
“That’s the whole fooking POINT of the movie, you cunt,” I can practically hear you saying right now. And yeah, I get it, but I also think that message could have been packaged a LOT better than it was. Veronica’s character didn’t seem to belong in the film, and her ultimate role in the plot was unsatisfying considering that she was little more than eye-candy throughout the rest of the film.
Like my reunion, I suppose T2 wasn’t an utter waste of time. It’s beautifully shot with interesting visual effects and more scenes of Edinburgh & Leith which makes it feel a bit less claustrophobic than the original. There are some fantastic moments that cannot be missed. If all you want is to a peek at the lives of the main characters 20 years later, you’re set. To any other gung-ho fans like myself I say: Go see it, but manage your expectations. I will likely go see it again on a matinee just to see if its better the second time around once I know what to expect.
Also, I’m now inspired to read the book “Porno” upon which this was loosely based. Skimming a brief description of the book’s plot, it seems that version of the sequel got the plot right.
Unless the disappointing plot is itself the point? Did the director intentionally make a sub-par film that makes us wish we’d left well enough alone? If that’s the case, I award Danny Boyle 10/10 points expert level trolling WHILE making a stack of cash on the project… But really dude, I learned that lesson from the Star Wars prequels. Meanwhile, the Force Awakens taught us that yes, you CAN make a movie that heavily relies on nostalgia, without making it SUCH an obvious wank at the past. You could have been more clever with that, Boyle. I expect more.
Final judgement: Two fingers up.