*. What a difference twenty years makes. Danny Boyle had wanted to make a sequel to Trainspotting ten years after, with the idea of waiting until the lads had gotten older and so would “look ravaged by the passing of time.” But that’s not what happened even with the passing of twenty years. These are movie stars, after all. They don’t get old like normal people. Which is not to say they hadn’t changed.
*. Because at least one cast member certainly had changed. What happened to Ewan McGregor? And by that I don’t mean he looks ravaged by the passing of time. He looks better than he did in 1996, and I doubt I would have recognized him as the same guy. When they have the flashbacks here to the earlier movie you can pick up the resemblance, but that’s all it is. I wonder if he had some work done. I mean, he just does not look the same. I didn’t recognize him in Birds of Prey either but he was already different here.
*. I digress. Maybe he’s just been eating better and working out. In any event, the action here picks up with the gang picking up pretty much where they left off. Franco (Begbie) has been on ice in jail the whole time. Spud is still hopeless (and looks the same). Sick Boy is still grifting, and looking the same (though this, and all his added ink, can be attributed to the character’s vanity). Mark Renton (McGregor) has gone out and done something for himself in Amsterdam. But apparently not much, or even enough to keep him away from Edinburgh.
*. Diane (Kelly Macdonald) has done very well for herself, becoming a high-priced lawyer, which I guess is a comment on the advantages of coming from a better family. Sadly, there’s even less of her than in the first film. Perhaps Macdonald was doing better than some of the other guys too and couldn’t fit more than a cameo into her schedule.
*. Diane’s place has been taken by a new character named Veronika played by Anjela Nedyalkova. I think Veronika gets more play here than Diane did in the original movie and I didn’t care for her at all. She’s not an interesting character, and as Diane notes at one point she’s too young for these guys anyway. In brief, she doesn’t belong in this movie. That she’s given such an important role to play is hard to figure. I don’t remember her being a character in Porno, the Irvine Welsh novel that the story here borrows a little bit from. Though she would if this were a movie about porn. Instead she’s just part of a side hustle Sick Boy is running.
*. I don’t think Danny Boyle changed much either. The movie is made in a similar style, only a little flashier. Still lots of those freeze frames, which he thought were more purposive here but which I just found tired.
*. I’m not sure what screenwriter John Hodge was trying to do. There’s no “twenty years later” humour. There’s a lot of sentimental stuff about the boys growing up as mates, but I don’t know what the point of it is. The plot echoes the score and betrayal arc of Trainspotting, but such a rewind feels tired. Renton has a big speech in the middle on the meaning of “choose life” that feels totally shoehorned in, without reference to much of anything. He’s just trying to explain it to Veronika, who also doesn’t understand, either because she’s too young or because she’s from Bulgaria.
*. It’s an episodic plot, but pointless. I didn’t like the whole Orange Lodge bit, as it’s neither funny nor essential. And, as Doyle and Hodge note on the commentary track, it’s probably baffling to American audiences. I knew what was going on, but didn’t think the Orange Order was such a big thing in Scotland. Apparently they have some 50,000 members though and they’re pretty noisy.
*. Then again, I’m probably out of the loop on a lot of things. I didn’t know that today’s dance clubs have mass sing-a-longs to Queen’s Radio Ga Ga either, but here it is.
*. Is hearing Radio Ga Ga odd? I mean, I get that the gang are middle-aged now, but are the club kids all into this retro thing too? Do young women dress up to go out now looking like Cyndi Lauper and the girls from Bananarama back in the day? Not that I’m angry about this. I know what today’s music sounds like so I think giving the younger generation borrowing privileges is a mercy. But is this nostalgia something that T2 is looking to tap into and indulge, or just reflecting?
*. This is a decent film as far as it goes, with one great scene, but the first movie was lightning in a bottle in 1996 and it’s no surprise it doesn’t flash again here. T2 cost a lot more money to make, and looks it, but has none of the same energy and nothing new to say, even about not having anything new to say. It’s not even ironic, which may be what dates it the most. But on that score I’m not complaining.