I was the key demographic for the first film when it was released. I somehow snuck into the theater a few years shy of being 18 (and legal) to see it, and it had the same effect on me that it did on so many. The slick production, now-iconic soundtrack, grimy aesthetic, grim humor - it hit me hard (pun intended). Of course at that age, as gen-x cynical and world-weary as I thought myself, I was naive. Drugs were still novel, I was yet to see how dark and sad an actual addiction would look like. On some unconscious level I felt like I would live forever. A misplaced sense of my own intrinsic genius would allow me to balance an appreciation of the seedier, self destructive elements of the world with the actuality of my own inevitable personal success. As such, I walked out of Trainspotting 1 with a spring in my step. It was fun, fast, clever and a quick and temporary tour through some really ugly things. It was 'cool'.
Sequels to iconic movies are dangerous, and there are many that I've avoided simply due to the knowledge that I'd rather not sully a great film's memory by adding to it a mediocre sequel. T2 was the same - I'd toyed with seeing it in the theater, but when that never eventuated, I was fairly unfazed. Tonight, feeling a little sleepless and lonely in my single room apartment, I stumbled upon a copy and thought 'why not?'. I knew that the reviews has oscillated between 'quite bad' to 'surprisingly good' but in a fit of downbeat nostalgia, I thought it might fit the bill. And it did.
It wont be remembered with the reverence of the first film. I don't believe that Boyle made it under that assumption. It contains some great sequences, some similar (if familiar) visual effects, and a heap of well-integrated allusions to the earlier film. It doesn't have anything with the cut-through of the baby scene, the toilet scene, the (original) 'choose life' monologue. It is a more subdued, 'adult' and downbeat film. So - if you are a teenager who has recently seen the first film and are chasing the gut-punch intensity by watching the sequel, I can almost guarantee you'll fell let down. Conversely, if you've aged with the film, I suspect you'll find a good degree of resonance with the film. The genius of the film is how it manages to be a deeper, more emotional, more (god forbid) 'mature' take on life.
At nearly-forty you probably don't party like you did in your 20's. Drugs are out, or few and far between. Meeting nubile 20 year olds is also out, or if not, feels seedy. You no longer find revolutionary new music weekly. IN fact, half of the songs on radio just alienate you. Despite the mixed blessings of this unforeseen middle -aged-ness you've found yourself shouldering, you are still a little haunted by what was, and what could have been. The wonderful moments of being young, the mistakes, the missed opportunities, the near-misses, the opportunities and betrayal. They don't leave you.
If you can appreciate any of what I just wrote, you may (like I do) find T2 to be a very close second to T1. It's a real downer, but in a bittersweet way. Check it out.
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