With the release of the Trainspotting sequel T2 Trainspotting this week, the feverish pursuit of nostalgia can now finally be compared to that of a certain Class A drug. For the past few years, audiences and film-makers alike have rifled around with wild eyes and frothing mouths, desperately trying to find whatever remnants of the past they can inject into their eyeballs next for a sweet, momentary escape to whatever they consider "the good old days".
Returning 20 years since Renton, Spud, Sick Boy and Begbie tore Edinburgh to shreds in Danny Boyle's seminal film that defined "heroin chic", the terribly-named T2 Trainspotting gets the gang back together for one last hurrah. That is, assuming we don't see a gold card-toting T3 circa 2027. With Renton (Ewan McGregor) taking the advice of his own iconic monologue and "choosing life", he's spent the last two decades in Amsterdam, going straight. The same can't be said for imprisoned Begbie (Robert Carlyle), still-bitter Simon (Johnny Lee Miller) and Spud (Ewen Bremner), still trembling off a heroin addiction. Director Boyle does all he can to delay the ensemble gang reuniting, juggling subplot after subplot from sexy sting operations to attempted suicides.
As good as it is to see everyone together again, some characters land more convincingly than others. Carlyle's Begbie has transformed into an impossibly demonic psychopath and Renton, perhaps on purpose or because of McGregor's stardom, seems much too polished for the Trainspotting world. Laid over the performances is as much stylistic flair allowed without a seizure warning. Perhaps his most peak "Danny Boyle" film yet, prepare be treated to a visual buffet of all the steadicams, split-screens and SnapChat filters you can stomach.
Speaking of Snapchat and feeling sick, T2 could have most definitely done without the terrible revised "choose" monologue. Choose Twitter. Choose reality TV. Choose slut-shaming. The desperate desire to remain relevant and hip only brought about a deep shame akin to watching a dad do Gangnam Style, or Hillary Clinton do a dab. Beyond throwing around 2017 buzzwords, T2 is alarming devoid of context. This is the Trump era! Brexit! The internet! Aside from a Slovenian woman welcoming Renton to Scotland in a $2 shop kilt, the spiky social commentary of 1996 is almost nowhere to be seen.
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This is one of the key failings of T2: misplacing what resonates the most from the first movie in 2017. Yes, the scuzzy soundtrack and viciously flamboyant style of Trainspotting remain. Yes, the core cast return in full force for the most part - let's not worry too much about why the original women characters speak about seven words between them. And yes, there are drugs. But where are the barbs at the Conservative political system or the harrowing insights into addiction? Perhaps it's symptomatic of the fact that the sequel has been kicking around since 2009 that it feels more aimless and less subversive than you might expect in an era that still desperately needs it.
T2 is enjoyable enough as a film, and I am sure that those who Trainspotting resonated most with will slip back into the world gleefully, as into an old pair of slippers. But as a sequel to an era-defining pop culture touchstone, it falls a little flat. Taking a chill pill and growing up a bit since 1996, T2 is older but not necessarily wiser, losing much of its jagged edge and fearlessness. Not unlike the dizzying highs of heroin shown in Trainspotting, the sheen wears off and what comes up must come down.