By Ryan Keating-Lambert
Choose life. Choose a book. Choose a film. Choose a sequel. Choose a franchise. Choose a universe. Choose merchandise. Trainspotting 2 thankfully doesn’t tick all of the cliche sequel boxes, but does rely on nostalgia perhaps a little too much at times.
Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor) returns to Edinburgh to repay the money he took off with 20 years earlier, but doesn’t receive the warmest of welcomes. Sickboy (Jonny Lee Miller) is running a pub, Spud (Ewan Bremner) is barely scraping by on his still present heroin addiction, and Begbie (Robert Carlyle) is in prison… for now.
There was a lot to live up to here, and the trailer was spectacular which raised expectations even higher. Trainspotting, after all, became a cult classic and shot majority of its cast and crew to international fame. It was the beginning of a Ewan McGregor renaissance, who went on to play in almost everything, including Star Wars. It was also the start of Danny Boyle’s incredible career which eventually led to an Oscar for Best Picture with Slumdog Millionaire. Trainspotting was punk, and rife with grit and honesty. It made you want to get f-cked up, do drugs and listen to Iggy Pop.
The film influenced a generation, a generation that craves the freedom and lack of responsibilities of yesterday. We’re chewing up cult classics of the 80s and 90s in an attempt to bring back these feelings. It’s all about nostalgia these days, and director Boyle has played off that quite well with this sequel.
The cast is there, in all their former glory, but Boyle knows that like the original film, they’re old. The director plays off the tricks of the original by replaying certain scenes and constantly referencing past characters and tragedies through inventive and unconventional cinematography and framing. Everything’s always a little bit slanted and off. It’s typical Danny Boyle, and is so cool… as is the soundtrack. A delicious rehash of the first film’s signature tracks that really tug at the heartstrings. You’ll know them when you hear them…
Boyle plays off this theme of nostalgia and uses the entire film as a sort of parable of modern times. We all miss that freedom mentioned before. But, the plot and characters do seem somewhat unusual at times, and perhaps that’s because of the constant rewrites the script went through. Irvine Welsh’s sequel novel to ‘Porno’ was never as well-received as the first, and though the film was originally moulded in its form, it eventually took on a shape of its own through multiple changes.
There are characters that seem oddly placed, and sudden shifts in narrative that are anything but subtle. That naked walk through the Scottish countryside? Bit random even if McGregor and Miller are both pretty easy on the eyes. And then there’s Veronica, the Bulgarian girlfriend of Sickboy which is an obvious conduit between our beloved characters and the viewer. She’s there to tie it all together and bring Trainspotting virgins up to speed, but rarely do we see any such glimpse of her personality or character development. She was almost like a ghost.
Fans of Scotland will enjoy the amount of Edinburgh on display, as they will the accents and dark humour which is still somewhat there. It’s not as good as the first one, but as far as sequels go, it’s not bad.