T2: Tourists in our Youth

Warning: Spoiler Alerts

Twenty years you cunt!

And so Danny Boyle’s T2: Trainspotting bursts onto our cinema screens. The first film still a vivid memory to those who have seen it. I can’t remember where or how old I was when I saw Trainspotting I just remember the feeling, the drive of the camera, the glorious music, the bursting at the seams of the whole enterprise. Truly, life-enhancing. It’s still like nothing else you’ve ever seen and it still makes everything else look shite by comparison.

People are calling T2: Trainspotting a sequel. This is understandable since the definition of sequel is something that takes place after or as a result of an earlier event and continues or develops its story. So if you want to be literal, yes this film is a sequel. But really what it actually feels like is a remix — a piece of media which has been altered from its original state by adding, removing or changing pieces of the item. And Danny Boyle’s decision to make a remix of his crowning masterpiece rather than a sequel is what makes T2: Trainspotting flourish rather than fade.

Image from here.

There’s a scene in the middle of the film where Simon aka. Sick Boy sneers at Mark aka. Renton and Daniel aka. Spud’s attempts to memorialise their deceased friend, Tommy. He disdainfully accuses Renton of being a ‘tourist in your own youth.’ It’s a moment of startling clarity from director Boyle and original screenwriter John Hodges which marries the content and form of the film in perfect harmony. Because while the plot is paper-thin and its dramatic digressions into Renton’s failed marriage, Begbie’s failed fatherhood, Spud’s failed sobriety and Sick Boy’s failed career are only glanced upon before the action shoots off again, what really matters is that the characters are drowning in nostalgia and so are you.

You know the feeling when you’re at a party or a club and you hear a song you haven’t heard for years? Everybody has tracks that cart them down memory lane shouting at the top of their lungs. For me, I’ll always freak out whenever I hear System of a Down’s Chop Suey. The part where Serj Tankian belts out ‘Trust in my self-righteous suicide’ never fails to move me to a messianic mode of worship. Well, this whole film is like that. And hey, wouldn’t you know it but nostalgia has always been big business so this gives both the audience and the producers something to jump and hug about.

Image from here.

It was a shrewd move from the filmmakers to continually drop images and patterns from the first film into the second. It renders it into a kind of palimpsest – traces of one of the greatest films ever made are evident throughout this new and, at times, rather ingenious venture. I know they say that everything that goes up must come down but perhaps everything that goes down must come back up too. The comeback is one of the great narratives in pop culture today and T2 is no different but crucially it knows this and deftly deploys that to its advantage.

T2’s highs are probably more ephemeral than Trainspotting’s. The truth is that it isn’t the equal of the first film but it is something much more interesting than your standard cash-guzzling, ego-stroking sequel. As I mentioned, the film just doesn’t have the space to find the true nasty depths of its four conflicted characters and that does leave you feeling somewhat shortchanged. However, there are some simply stunning moments. The crouched shadow of Spud haunting his withdrawn body as he attempts to resist heroin (again, again) or the final shot of Renton dancing to The Prodigy’s remix of Iggy Pop’s Lust for Life and the image of him leaning back in ecstasy merges with one of him falling from the first film and suddenly Boyle whizzes you back as if on a high-speed train away from that childhood bedroom you know so well. And just on the soundtrack, how lovely that the filmmakers were able to find room for Edinburgh’s brilliantly offbeat hip-hop group Young Fathers as well as Irish provocateurs The Rubberbandits.

Some remakes make more impact than the original: Soft Cell’s Tainted Love or MC Hammer’s U Can’t Touch This. And while you’re better off with the original in this case I’d still say: Choose T2.

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