"Mega Mega Magnolia Thing" Review: Trainspotting 2
Updated: Dec 29, 2019
“Choose something else instead”
Trainspotting was a film that spoke for a generation, not that we were all taking heroin, it wasn't the story that really mattered. It was the stylized cinematography, the obnoxious, determined voice of early adult hood, it was bright orange and it was a kick ass soundtrack. It was the polemic that told us everything we needed to avoid then smash and ignore as we enjoyed our hedonism and congratulated ourselves on avoiding the sad choices our parents had made.
Then, we grew up.
Now, a sequel has arrived, an event so hotly anticipated by the older, gravity worn versions of our younger selves, it makes Disney Star Wars releases look like, well sparkly nonsense. Whereas the first film was a statement of intent, what would this second venture hold?
I remember my 18 year old self being powerfully moved by the “Choose life” monologue, it pumped me full of youthful desire to change things. My father was curiously unmoved by the sentiment, pointing out it was a not only a rejection of his generational choices, it was a rather vindictive disregard of them. These almost hurt feelings were rite large across the screen for my older self as I sat in the cinema and a slightly saggier, less luminescent Renton rehashed that speech for us once more. There seemed a very different taste in the mouth now I was the target.
In fact the film had a very different taste altogether. Self reverential to its predecessor and a meandering plot line that laid no traps, sprung no surprises and felt, terrifyingly middle aged. But not a a self content middle aged, no, an uncomfortable, desperate grab at faded glory with no prospect of any respectable future middle aged, exactly the sort of middle aged you would expect from the anti heroes of the story. It is not bad enough that the characters have not grown up, merely grown older, neither had the film. It's heart was all flash, whizz bang and no soul. A quick hit, no thoughtful consequential morality to be found here.
My instant reaction was to say it came across as a very long session of jump cut MTV. Slogans, clever and inventive camera work, delightful eye candy, lots of loud music and very little nourishment. All held together with constant flashback and distant refrain of the first film. A hap hazard miss mash (sic) of Scottish tropes and nostalgia tourism. A character even talks of another being a nostalgia tourist in his own youth as they revisit a location from the first film. Either the frothy sentiment of the film needs pushing in our faces or there is nothing but head on this flat lager.
Don't get me wrong there are laughs, a well placed use of Dame Vera Lynn in the soundtrack, a couple of very enjoyable scenes and some of the indulgent nostalgia is what we have all paid for, but whether it is true adult hood, middle age or parenthood or the fact I never became addicted to heroine, this film left me rather bored and somewhat disinterested. Why spend so much time revisiting greatest hits scenes from the previous film when we can all just watch it for ourselves, and the artificial placement of childhood nostalgia to provide a hint of back-back story was unwarranted and ham-fisted.
This film was not needed, unnecessary and rather disappointing. This might make me a traitor to the cultural heritage of my generation, but if I am to go all in I will also admit to not even liking Underworld Born Slippy as much as everyone else when I was young. All that shouting about Lager and mega mega white things, thankfully we just get hints of piano from the tune this time round, far more palatable, although those incessant drums manage to ruin Iggy Pop in some fruitless remix. Never mind trainspotting, this is the cinematic equivalent of nostalgia spotting, if that is what you want spread on your sandwich fill your boots, if you are over it, you won't go to see this film anyway.
Thankfully I did not pay for a babysitter, having the grateful assistance of my in laws to enable the wife and I to get out the house and hit the cinema together for the first time in almost two years. Upon return home I glanced wistfully at the “Choose life” monologue from the first film that still adorns my wall, by our front door. It will serve as a reminder to my older self how woefully unaware my younger self was of what constituted happiness. I hate to say it, but once again damn you Dad, with your years and your wisdom....Gaaaahhh! You were right.
A disjointed but undeniably attractive patchwork of rehashed nostalgia and extending waist lines 2/5