They say you can never really go home. Landmarks changed. The people changed. You’ve changed. The same could be said when casts and filmmakers reunite decades after a hit film. People matured. Voices changed. Visions evolved. Director Danny Boyle and company return for another dose with T2 TRAINSPOTTING. While this doesn’t even compare to the cynical, darkly comedic original, the sequel quenches fans’ need to inject nostalgia their veins all whilst subtly condemning it.
Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor) has returned home to Edinburgh twenty years after he double-crossed his friends, taking off with a sack of cash. He’s returned a semi-penitent man, humbled by the loss of his mom, the dissolution of his marriage and loss of his job. He’s also sorta wistful for the friends he once knew – sh*t-stirrer Sick Boy (Johnny Lee Miller), who goes by Simon now, soft-hearted Spud (Ewen Bremner), who’s still experiencing addiction’s ups and downs, and short-fuse Begbie (Robert Carlyle), who’s been locked away in jail with no parole, stewing in anger since Mark’s double-cross. Suffice to say, our beloved gang isn’t doing well as forty-something adults. So what’s left to do but regress a little into the wankers they once were?
Plot-wise, John Hodge’s adaptation of Irvine Welsh’s novel takes very predictable turns. It’s bolstered by the nods to the original – of which there are many. From music cues (Underworld’s “Born Slippy” constantly lurks in the background), to the cameos (specifically Kelly Macdonald’s), to the twists on imagery (like the dirty toilet, use of color punctuation and Mark in front of a car laughing), all these things stoke our nostalgic fires, which also parallel the characters’.
That said, because of the ways in which the filmmakers interweave the nostalgia drops, we can sense what this is building towards: hitting the same moments as the original. We again get Begbie’s violent meltdown, a modernized polish on Mark’s fiery “Choose Life” monologue (a rare moment the material soars) and, yes, another double-cross (an egregious fumble). In fact, the moment Mark and Simon try to get a small business started – a brothel/ spa run by Simon’s trick/ enterprising girlfriend Veronika (Anjela Nedyalkova) – you know exactly where this will wind up. And the film doesn’t do anything clever or innovative with it. There’s nothing here equal or superior to the exhilarating “worst toilet in Scotland” sequence, nor as hallucinatory as Mark’s heroin-fueled sink into the carpet. We get a mumbling about gentrification not reaching their town and the symbolism of a nearby junkyard. That’s about it.
Though it’s admirable we’re shown the consequences of these people’s actions (like Mark’s guilt over getting Tommy addicted and Simon’s guilt over the death of his baby girl), it leads to a few very dry sequences. The most fun is when comedy is allowed to peek through every now and then – like when Mark and Simon scrap in front of a bar patron and later sing for a group of separatists.
This is Welsh’s obtuse commentary on the fans’ desire for nostalgia porn (Simon barks, “You’re a tourist in your own youth,” at one point). However, now that Boyle embraces sentimentality more often in his work, the inherent acerbic cynicism and wit in Welsh’s writing isn’t brought to the forefront – it’s shoved to the back. The original is so audacious and unique, both of the moment and ahead of its time, it’s slightly disheartening the sequel couldn’t be in its own right. Instead, this winds up being similar to the Prodigy remix of Iggy Pop’s “Lust for Life” – something that’s ultimately pointless, but okay only because the original exists as the superior.
3 out of 5
T2 TRAINSPOTTING opens in limited release on March 17. It opens wide on March 31.