A Tired and Unnecessary Sequel to a Great Film
21 Years ago, Danny Boyle broke through with his groundbreaking heroin black comedy Trainspotting; based on the Irvine Welsh novel of the same name. Nine years after Welsh wrote Trainspotting, he followed it up with the lesser acclaimed sequel ‘Porno’. New over two decades after releasing the original, director Danny Boyle and screenwriter John Hodge reunited with the original cast for a second dive into that same community of Scottish heroin junkies.
Everyone involved in the original film understood the importance of not trampling on the legacy of the original, as many actors involved publicly commented about the burden of adding to the legacy of the original; not subtracting. While T2 Trainspotting doesn’t degrade the impact of the 1996 original, it never lives up to its predecessor either. Everyone involved does their best to channel the energy from the original, but this sequel feels like ‘Trainspotting Lite’.
Trainspotting introduced the world to a time and place alien to most viewers; 90s heroin junkies in Scotland and the boarded up ratholes and dive bars they frequent. T2 Trainspotting takes a meandering 2 hours to deliver its message about those junkies. Robert Carlyle’s ‘Begbie’ sums it up as he dejectedly says ‘World changes…even if we don’t.’ These band of dope fiend losers might have replaced drugs with other additions, but they are still addicts all the same, and not much has changed since we last saw them.
This leads to the primary culprit for T2 Trainspotting; the superfluousness of this project. While its entertaining to ponder reuniting ‘Rent Boy’, ‘Spud’, ‘Sick Boy’, and Franco; the team behind this production should have asked themselves about what they wanted to say with a sequel, and whether that message was worth the endeavor.
Screenwriter John Hodge’s T2 Trainspotting screenplay concerns Ewan McGregor’s Mark Renton coming back home to Edinburgh twenty years after the events of the original, and reconnecting with a past he hasn’t visited since. With a mish-mash of tones oscillating between positivity about leaving behind past mistakes and resignation for the impermanence of constructive growth; Hodge hows he doesn’t know what film he is intending to author. He tries a balancing act between the original’s appetite for feeding into one’s primal ‘id’; and the reflectiveness that 20s years of aging brings. He fails to find middle ground with contrived plot devices, and his script tries and fails to provide resolution for the characters involved; whereas he had no issue with a level of ambiguity in the 1996 original. He wants to wrap T2 Trainspotting up in a tidy bow, but either can’t or doesn’t know how to.
The cast, led my McGregor, do their best to recapture the spirit of the characters they previously inhabited; and for the most part, do well. Everyone is a bit more somber and ragged after 20 years of unfulfilled lives. The actors fill the roles how Hodge writes them, but the dour tone stands in contrast to the original’s flippant attitude towards a bleak future.
Whereas writer John Hodge can’t rise to the height of the original’s story, Danny Boyle is on form and up to his usual flashy direction and cinematography. Boyle employs a few of those camera tricks and ‘Danny Boyle’ moments that have become his career signature. He makes smart use of technology he didn’t have 20 years ago, memorably using snapchat filters and instagrammable selfies to bridge the gap between film and viewer so viewers can experience the manic fervor Mark and ‘Sick Boy’ fall into after a night of hard partying.
Even with one of the most talented directors in the business, and a committed cast, there is no making up for the poor script and lack of reason in this film. T2 Trainspotting isn’t ever able to capture what the original had. Someone coming across both too broad and too limiting, the best scenes in T2 Trainspotting are the flashbacks to the original, giving brief reminders to filmgoers of the captivating energy of the original.
- Screenwriting: 4/10 – Interesting at times but an unworthy successor to the original.
- Acting: 6/10 – No poor performances, but just a retread without anything novel.
- Directing: 7/10 – Not given enough to work with; Boyle uses his trademark directing style to force some needed energy into the script.
5/10 – Without a story worth telling, T2 Trainspotting is a revisit with familiar characters without purpose. Never able to channel the frenzied energy that made the original a cultural touchstone, the best T2 Trainspotting does is remind viewers of that iconic film that they should go rewatch instead.