|'Whilst Boyle has managed to get the band back together, you can't shake the nagging feeling that you'd rather be revisiting them going hell for leather at their greatest hits from twenty-odd years ago'.|
The soundtrack of T2 Trainspotting includes a remix by The Prodigy of Iggy Pop's 'Lust For Life', the 1977 track given a whole new lease of life nearly two decades later when Danny Boyle used it during the opening sequence of Trainspotting. A musical outfit at their most popular at the same time as the original film's release, The Prodigy's more recent output, whilst still entertaining, struggles to recapture their past glories. Their remix of 'Lust For Life' is a prime example: perfectly enjoyable but nothing special - a sentiment which can equally be applied to Boyle's belated sequel to a film which transcended cinema in 1996 to become a defining cultural moment.
In fact, in many ways T2 might be more accurately regarded as a remix of Trainspotting than a straightforward sequel. All the key elements are here - the characters, the settings, the Edinburgh-accented expletives regularly turning the air Saltire blue. But whilst Boyle has managed to get the band back together, you can't shake the nagging feeling that you'd rather be revisiting them going hell for leather at their greatest hits from twenty-odd years ago.
Perhaps surprisingly, it's not the film's many nods back to the original film that create this effect. Trainspotting is referenced explicitly through sounds, settings and flashbacks incorporating footage taken from the older film. It's a bold move by Boyle, as if he's actively offering up T2 for comparison to its forebear now held in mythic reverence by many; whilst the nostalgic overtones work more often than not, they also frequently remind you that what you're watching rarely lives up to the original.
Whilst it meandered through the various figures within his life, Trainspotting was ultimately the story of Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor), the juxtaposition of his eloquent narration and deplorable actions for much of the story positioning him as the ultimate '90s antihero. It's a focal point T2 lacks to its detriment; but, whilst I couldn't tell whose story is being told here, I certainly know whose I wish it had been. Ewen Bremner's return to the role of Spud makes the character's journey through the film consistently affecting, amusing and authentic, but too often he's pushed into the background.
The spotlight is instead given to Mark's enjoyable but less interesting rekindled bromance with Sick Boy (Johnny Lee Miller) and, more frustratingly, Begbie's (Robert Carlyle) relentless pursuit of Mark following his actions at the end of the first film. For me, Trainspotting's weakest section is its final act where Begbie moves from being an occasional extreme presence in Mark's life to a key player, and his increased prominence in T2 has a similar effect. Whilst Carlyle's performance in the role is excellent once again, the film would be stronger with less of Begbie's cartoon villainy and more of Spud's subtle and satisfying character journey in its place.