“Trainspotting” was not only a cinematic bomb that went off in your face, it was an encapsulation of 1996, a perfect snapshot of the reigning pessimism and disregard of the norm. We wanted to get more out of life than buying a widescreen television and patiently awaiting our death in front of it while stuffing our face. I often felt that if you didn’t get “Trainspotting” you didn’t my generation. When Ewan MacGregor goes on his “choose life”-monologue, it resonated with us in a way that Tarantino never could capture. Renton. Spud. Sick Boy. Begbie. They were just characters in a movie, junkies, thieves, fuck-ups, losers but they could have been anyone of your mates.
Fast forward to “T2”, its sequel. Over 20 years have passed since its predecessor came out. In those 20 years people have changed, music has changed, drugs has changed. Society has changed. People have chosen apathy and constant titillation. Colouring books for adults. A network that broadcasts nothing but cooking shows while a large part of the world doesn’t even have access to clean water. Softcore porn on Facebook and Instagram while more and more people are staying single. Fake news and clickbait in a world where everybody is connected to the greatest library the world has ever seen, dwarving Alexandria, Baghdad, Paris and New York.
We meet the same characters but they have grown old and have completely lost any connection to the modern world. The tone of the movie is however completely different, maybe not so much pessimistic as cynical but definitely very tongue-in-cheeck. It’s fully aware of the nostalgia that its title brings out but it doesn’t just laugh it off in a cutesy manner. It rips it apart as if director Danny Boyle wanted to shout out “get on with your lifes, you sad bastards!”. It often refers to the first flick but it serves a purpose other than “cheaply playing the strings of your heart”. If “Trainspotting” was punkrock, “T2” is the blues. Older, slower but still with a sharp edge.
Does it leave a bitter taste in your mouth? Of course it does but that just might have been the purpose. Danny Boyle and writer Irvine Welsh didn’t want you to get too comfortable twenty years ago so why would they go all out to please you? Maybe “T2” lacks that raw feeling of yore but it is more confronting. Maybe I’m looking too much into it but I think this might be the first movie I’ve seen in a while that actually has a message to the audience, a purpose, a mission to “kill your darlings”. And y’know what, it is much needed in popular cinema. Do we really need another “Highlander”, “An American Werewolf in London”, “Jumanji”? No, we fuckin’ don’t but the audience is making it happen.
It is obviously a great movie. Danny Boyle is a more than capable artist, the editing is brilliant and the cast is doing a bang-up job. By any standards this is a great movie. If you are going to see this movie to relive 1996 and to “be a tourist in your own youth”, think again. The crew of “T2” is fully aware that it is very difficult to top the now classic masterpiece and impossible to remake or reboot it in 2017. “T2” has chosen to walk on a different path.
Choose the future.