Messing with a classic
With the release of the sequel to Trainspotting, a modern British Classic, Danny Boyle has tampered with the legacy of the original. Just because you can, does it mean you should?
Lauded as one of the greatest British films of all time, the way the film delved into what it was to be Scottish, to be young, to be an addict, but ultimately to be a lost youth in pre-Blarite Britain seemed like a mark in the sand. Danny Boyle struck oil, taking Irvine Welsh's source material and running with it (helped in no small measure by terrific performances from the cast).
Fast forward to 2017, nearly 20 years on, and T2 has hit our screens. My problem is this, even if the film turns out to be good (and early reviews are favourable), it is inevitable that T2 tarnishes the legacy of Trainspotting. New viewers of the first film will forever be judging the film as part of a 2 story arc, aware that events at the end of the original film are bookended. Lost is that wonderful feeling of an open ending, when as the viewer you are able to let your imagination run wild. You were able to come to your own conclusions as to what would happen in Renton's future.
Today those conclusions have been made for you.
By no means am I suggesting that a classic should never have a sequel – the Godfather II, Aliens, Indiana Jones, Terminator 2, Lethal Weapon 2, The Dark Knight.. these are all sequels which are arguably superior to their predecessors. Some of them were part of a larger arc which needed splitting over several films, and others were released while the iron was still hot. But not with T2.
Danny Boyle has spoken about how Trainspotting doesn't "belong" to him, but due to it's phenomenal success, belongs to the audience. Mark Kermode talks about how T2 deals with memory, and what it is to look back on one's regrets. I think that reflects my feeling on this sequel; I have a personal memory of the original which I hold gently. But now my relationship to that lovely memory has been changed, and I didn't need it to.
P.S. As an aside, I will watch the sequel with an open heart and judge it on it's own merits.