nostalgia and little more
Can the sequel of this classic meet our expectations?
By Luc Archambault
When Trainspotting, an adaptation of Irvine Welsh’s novel, was released in 1997, the film surprised moviegoers by its audacity, its energy, and because it had ‘balls’. The story was unheard of in that it described the culture of heroin addicts in the Edinburgh shallows. Ewan McGregor, in the role of Mark Renton, Ewen Bremmer in that of Spud, Johnny Lee Miller playing Simon nicknamed “Sick Boy”, and Robert Carlyle playing Begbie.
Twenty years after Mark spoiled his companions and rebuilt his life in Amsterdam, he becomes nostalgic and returns back to Scotland to pay his debts to his former accomplices.
Would the same premises be found in T2 Trainspotting, the sequel shot twenty years later? Would director Danny Boyle once again bring a rabbit out of his hat and claim victory using the same actors, many of whom have since become major movie stars? Unfortunately, in spite of all the talent brought together and all the nostalgia pent up since all these years, T2 Trainspotting does not deliver on the development side of the story.
Twenty years after Mark spoiled his companions and rebuilt his life in Amsterdam, he becomes nostalgic and returns back to Scotland to pay his debts to his former accomplices. There he discovers that Simon is involved in video blackmail, that Spud is still addicted, and that Begbie is in prison. The ensuing misunderstandings and flashbacks referring to the first movie (for those too young or too old to remember it) will charm you or leave you completely cold, depending on your level of nostalgia. But the question remains: coming twenty years after the original classic, does this suite bring anything that can distinguish it?
‘The various characters don’t seem to have evolved during these past twenty years.’
The rest of the story does not seem to bring any innovative idea, or anything new at all. The various characters don’t seem to have evolved during these past twenty years. Of course, Mark made good back in Amsterdam, but we learn very little of his life there. Spud wants to get rid of his addiction? Very interesting and promising, but the idea raised will remain only an accessory detail at the level of the script. Begbie is still violent, crazy even, as we knew it in the original film, and Simon, who now rejects the nickname of Sick Boy, seeks to enter legality by moving away from the otherwise lucrative blackmail, to invest in a brothel!
‘The rest of the story does not seem to bring any innovative idea, or anything new at all.’
In spite of the talent and the scenic presence of these actors – managing conflicting schedules between stars to bring them together on the stage must have been quite nightmarish – and the apparent pleasure they had in reviving these characters, the main weakness of T2 Trainspotting lies in Irvine Welsh’s novel T2 and in its film adaptation.
Screenwriter John Hodge and director Danny Boyle have given birth to timeless visual candy, a nod to the teenagers who fell under the spell of the original film, and who, twenty years later, will not miss this sequel. They will find a work that will not question their memories of Trainspotting, but without much added originality, especially since the soundtrack seems like a cut-and-paste of the original. It is as if the world had stopped evolving these past twenty years. Or as if the world had been frozen, a bit like Begbie, constantly reliving his own reality behind bars. A twenty-year grudge is certainly impressive and strong, but is it a good source of cinematic inspiration? Not really, at least not in the hands of Danny Boyle.
‘It is as if the world had stopped evolving these past twenty years.’
This film is for those nostalgic who do not object to watching paint dry on a wall, because that is exactly the feeling you will experience. You will be disappointed if you want to see even a little character development for these four protagonists; they are prisoners of a capsule out of time and will not escape. And it is a bit sad, in my opinion, that rooting the story in the past, one is then entangled in known ways and cannot offer a fresh look one would have hoped for.A renewed vision and a new breath of history would have been more than welcome. But this new instalment is a mere flash in the pan, trying to reheat or resurrect its former significance, but failing miserably in the end. And it’s a shame, because the expectations were high.
Images: © Sony Pictures
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Writer and journalist, globe-trotter at heart, passionate about movies, music, literature and contemporary dance, came back to Montreal to pursue his unrelenting quest for artistic meaning.