Kit’s Take On T2: Trainspotting

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By Kit Ramsey.

T2: Trainspotting is a rare sequel these days in that it reintroduces you to characters you haven’t seen in a long time as if they were old friends, yet doesn’t beat you over the head with some of their most superficial qualities, like particularly memorable catchphrases or traits. But at the same time, I haven’t seen a sequel that’s so overt in its direct linkage to the first film. Unlike the modern blockbuster sequel, which are usually to IPs that are around 25-30 years old, T2 isn’t a thinly veiled remake or copy of the first instalment with the occasional visual homage or callback. Instead it wallows in and offers a more bittersweet look back to times gone by, an extension of the overall theme of nostalgia, regret, growing up and looking back.

This film almost feels like an anti-sequel because instead of the past being revered as a golden age that the characters look back to, it’s instead treated with a respectful understanding that not everything looks appealing with rose-tinted lenses. It honestly feels more like the second part of a diptych, a literal direct continuation that works best as a double bill. Perhaps other will disagree with me on this but I found this structure very exciting, and we haven’t even gotten on to the new aspects that T2 brings to the table.



Trainspotting

Trainspotting back in the day.

It’s refreshing to see that Danny Boyle continues to embrace the new forms of digital presentation and aesthetic that he first started to flirt with in Trance (2013), a welcome addition to the series that builds on the chaotic nature of the first film but brings this chaos into a the modern day. Using the relative ease of editing that digital filmmaking affords, Boyle’s able to distort the space, temporality and characters of the film world, giving it a hallucinogenic quality that verges on détournement.

The film never feels like pointed satire, but its use of new technologies and modern cultural imagery such as emojis gives an underlying sense of disdain. This disdain is then wonderfully pointed inwards towards the film itself, with a brilliant subversion of the “Choose Life” monologue. Any other film would have saved this moment until the climax, perhaps even mirroring its placement in the original work. But instead it shows up limply and without much heralding and portrayed in a less than stellar light. It takes a certain level of courage and maturity to essentially critique an iconic moment that’s since taken a life of its own in our real world, and that’s what gives T2 a sense of self-loathing that makes for a great parallel with how the characters feel in the context of the film.

Trainspotting 2

Trainspotting 2

T2 is a fantastic continuation of a film with a well-deserved cult fandom. But it doesn’t pull any punches. It’s dark and funny but almost has a meta story going on with the relationship of the actors, the director and the writers to the original piece. It weaves in possibly the most enjoyable use of “fan service” that’s happened in a long time, where it feels organic and right to the tone of the story. There’s far more going on with this film under the surface than one would initially expect and I would honestly say that it’s actually improved the first film retroactively in my mind. I would recommend watching this film with the first still fresh in your memories.


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