Once upon a time, sequels were something you would look forward to. A film ending on a cliffhanger could mean only one thing: a follow-up movie! Perhaps you’d even count down the days until its release. Nowadays, however, sequels are often something to worry about. There are a whole host of sequels that should have been obliterated during brainstorming. These sorts of sequels are usually unnecessary and nothing more than soulless cash-grabs. Every once in a while we get a sequel that while being completely unnecessary, still entertains audiences. It gets bonus points if it does so without destroying the memory of the original, as is the case with T2: Trainspotting!
Before we can explore why T2: Trainspotting was an above average (all be it unnecessary) sequel, we have to explore the first movie. If you haven’t seen Trainspotting then I suggest you stop reading and start watching. Trainspotting is an interesting idea because there isn’t a great deal of storyline within the movie. You essentially follow a group of characters: Renton (Ewan McGregor), Sick Boy (Jonny Lee Miller), Spud (Ewan Bremmer), Tommy (Kevin McKidd) and of course, Begbie (Robert Carlyle). Four of the five are heroin addicts while the other is a violent sociopath. It almost feels closer to a documentary-style movie.
While there are undoubtedly hilarious moments within Trainspotting, it’s not a comedy. At least not in the traditional sense. In fact, many of the comical moments are dimmed down by a dark shadow of gritty realism. The movie portrays an entertaining yet entirely plausible set of events. This is perhaps what makes it such a great movie. After all it is ranked #156 on the IMDB “Top 250”. The movie ends on a rather bittersweet note with Renton abandoning his friends, stealing their money and leaving every part of his life behind. A sequel was neither needed nor desired.
In 2017, 21 years after the original film was released, fans were given T2: Trainspotting. Let me just say straight away that T2 is nothing like the original. It’s not the same sort of film at all. It has very little meaning and it’s nowhere near as gritty. The purpose of this analysis isn’t to suggest that T2 is a good sequel…but rather that it’s made the best of a sequel that shouldn’t exist.
T2 re-branded the famous “Choose Life!” phrase from the original movie to incorporate more modern examples such as “choose an iPhone made in China by a woman who jumped out of a window and stick it in the pocket of your jacket fresh from a South Asian firetrap” and “choose Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram and a thousand other ways to spew your bile across people you’ve never met!” The film could never have existed in the first and fans would never have had any reason to complain…but actually, T2 managed to demonstrate how to make an unnecessary sequel work…to an extent.
You can take any number of films that didn’t need sequels and you’ll find that both films are pretty much exactly the same. Whether you’re talking about Horrible Bosses 2, The Hangover 2, Ted 2, Anchorman 2, Sinister 2, Bad Neighbors 2, Grown Ups 2…the sequel follows the first film almost exactly as far as any story-line is concerned. They essentially copy and paste the jokes and characters and add in something to up the ante. As I already mentioned, Trainspotting didn’t really have a story-line beyond following a heroin addict as he lives his life. T2 takes a completely different approach and has a very straightforward story-line: What happens when an ex-addict returns home 20 years after stealing £16,000 from his friends? What happens when the very sociopath he stole that money from escapes prison? And what happens when you realize that addiction is all you have in life?
Where Trainspotting was mostly a serious film, T2 scraps that in favor of a more lighthearted approach (in a manner of speaking). From Viagra pills to hilarious bathroom scenes, the movie doesn’t hesitate to make the switch from drama to comedy. It may not be funny in the same way that Wedding Crashers or Despicable Me are funny but it’s certainly not as hard-hitting as the first movie. That’s not to say there aren’t serious moments though.
Break the Sequel Rule
Many criticized the movie for straying so far from the original but personally, I couldn’t disagree more. There was no way that they could have possibly topped the first movie without making it seem like they were grasping at straws. T2 may very well be ridiculous but it’s entertaining none the less. I mean look at it like this: The Force Awakens was never going to top the original Star Wars, The Last Jedi similarly wouldn’t top Empire Strikes Back. Jurassic World wouldn’t top Jurassic Park, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle wouldn’t top Jumanji…when you’re taking a movie from decades ago and bringing it back in some form, it’s never ever going to be better in the eyes of anyone who enjoyed the original.
As far as I’m concerned, the fact that I was able to walk out the cinema after seeing T2 having enjoyed myself is a league above movies like The Last Jedi. There will always be a divide between fans: those who believe the movie strayed too far from the original and those who believe it was too similar. To mention The Last Jedi again, one of the reasons people praise Rian Johnson is because he “did something different”. I didn’t find that to be the case but I do admire the attempt to change a franchise. I think this copy and paste technique that filmmakers use when creating a sequel has grown old really, really quickly.
T2 certainly plays on the nostalgia element the same as any other of these films spanning across several decades. At points it does seem a little much. Despite being a nostalgic film, there are certainly call-backs that could be removed entirely. One thing that the movie does well is show character growth. Each of the main characters is pretty much exactly where you expected them to be after the first movie ends. Yet they aren’t remotely the same people (perhaps with the exception of Begbie). Not to milk the ‘The Last Jedi’ example dry but Luke isn’t at all where we expected him to be after the end of The Return of the Jedi.
My only real criticism of T2 is the heroin. Where the first movie was heroin-oriented, T2 mostly avoids the drug. This idea is botched by one scene where Renton and Simon (Sick Boy) decide somewhat randomly to take heroin again. All while Spud is trying his hardest to get clean for his kid. The overall premise of the movie is that we all have our own addictions. So it’s perhaps unnecessary to make two characters that had moved on from heroin semi-successfully revisit the drug. I understand that to an addict, it may make sense but it ruined the tone and premise of T2 slightly, in my opinion. There is also something a little too familiar about T2. It appears to have adopted many of the typical sequel clichés. This in a sense made the film different as the first movie managed to be completely original in nature.
So whether you view T2 as a great sequel or a disgrace to the original, there’s surely no denying that it was entertaining. Sure, T2 was drastically more clichéd than the original and relied far too heavily on call-backs to the first movie in order to source entertainment. Yet it managed to mix things up and provide fans with a sequel that they definitely were not expecting. I view it as almost a mockery of sequels in the same manner as 22 Jump Street. I think there should be a general rule when someone is making an unnecessary sequel. They should just go crazy and make it as ridiculous as possible. Mixing things up may not appeal to everyone but provided you don’t change the characters, there’s no real reason to stick to the same formula.
Thank you for reading! What are your thoughts on T2: Trainspotting? Do you think that sequels are becoming a bit much within the film industry? Comment down below!
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I loved it. As a big fan of the first one, I was horrified when they announced a sequel, but it was job very well done in my book. The end trailed off a bit, but everything leading up to it was riveting.
Agreed! A great surprise and excellent monologue on social media. So timely.
I was really worried/excited when this was announced but so so pleased with the final result, honestly I loved it!
Funny and dark and a cracking soundtrack
I quite enjoyed T2 and found it very well done. In fact, I didn’t find it light at all but rather continuing along the lines of the first one…just 21 years later and seeing how little these guys had done with their lives. I found that it left me with that same “there’s no hope” feeling as the first one did and quite saddened that Renton hadn’t really done much more with his life. But in reality, I didn’t expect the guys to have changed too much (at their core) and that’s what made this film fit so well with the “original” for me. It really seemed to move nice and seamlessly from one to the other. But…you had to have seen the first one to make sense of this one. And…I also think that having “grown” with the first to the second made it more meaningful. Made it hit home more especially with the “real” duration between them.
I completely agree. The consistency with the characters was actually quite remarkable. It really made you feel like these characters had actually just been living their lives for the past 21 years and this is where they ended up.
Couldn’t agree more, Cammy! Not only are today’s sequels soulless cash-grabs, but the “original” movies they follow are soulless cash-grabs, unnecessary remakes of old, often classic movies that were just fine in their original form. Rhetorical question, but if you have an answer, I’d love to hear it: What was the last movie made that wasn’t a remake of a successful original, or adapted from a successful book? Off the top of my head I’d say 2010’s Inception, but that’s debatable due to the existence of 1968’s Project X. Non-cash grabs are few and far between these days, and it’s refreshing to see someone pointing out a movie that maybe isn’t. Keep up the good work!
That’s a very good and also fair question. I have to say that I’d struggle to point to one. Interstellar maybe? It’s hard to tell these days. It’s like Hollywood has just lost all imagination and instead hires people to re-write already existing films which is a real shame. Not to mention that everything is becoming a universe now: MCU, DCEU, Disney has like 20 Star Wars films lined up.
We get so few films that simply provide entertainment for a few hours without the idea to milk the concept dry.
A Quiet Place seems to be doing incredibly well at the box office!
Ah, apparently one slipped by me, but in a way, its success makes my point. People are starved for entertainment that isn’t the latest rehash of the Same Old Thing. You’d think that this sort of success would cause someone to realize that “original” isn’t the studio-breaking risk they think it is.
Absolutely! I still totally agree with your overall point. People keep waiting for the next Star Wars, but they’re never going to get it with the way that film is headed
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