We are living in the age of the reboot, and there's no way to escape it. With each new announcement of a much-loved classic being given a fresh revamp comes a distinct sense of dread. The idea of your favorite, decades-old film finally getting another installment used to be exciting. Now, the default reaction is simply to wonder: "How bad is this going to be?"
Suffice to say, this is how a lot of people reacted to the news of a Trainspotting sequel to be released 20 years after the original. The original 1996 film maintains a 90% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and has become a veritable cult classic. Considering the frequency at which modern movie revamps are bombing, how could T2 possibly meet the mark?
And then, somehow, the unthinkable happened: it didn't suck. In fact, the Trainspotting sequel actually did remarkably well— its fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes is currently at 78%. Now that's not bad at all.
T2 managed to strike a delicate balance between carrying on from the original and taking the story in a new direction, which is something that can't always be said about the plethora of movie revamps we're seeing today. In a way, it really introduced the building blocks to creating a sequel or reboot without messing it up. And considering Hollywood's current obsession with reboots, that's definitely a good thing.
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- 'T2 Trainspotting': '90s Angst Reborn
- It's Time To Reboot! Here Are 43 Remakes Currently In The Works In Hollywood
'T2' Gives Hope For Future Films
A cursory glance at the upcoming movie release schedule for the next couple of years boasts a number of reboots and sequels, from Jumanji to Blade Runner 2049 and even, god forbid, The Matrix. Fans' expectations are undoubtedly running high, and the chance of these films doing an injustice to their predecessors is even higher.
T2 may not have been quite as successful as its prequel, or even lived up to hype in the eyes of diehard Trainspotting fans. But it did provide something with a little more longevity: the ultimate template on how to get it right. This same formula can be applied to any number of upcoming revamps.
So what exactly did T2 do to ensure its success, and how can this be used for future films? Let's break it down:
1. Staying True To The Characters
- Can be applied to: Blade Runner 2049
A lot can happen in 20 years, and T2 is definitely a testament to that. Everyone changes and matures; and yet no matter how much time passes, you're still the same person.
Take Trainspotting's Mark Renton, for example. The last time we saw him, he'd had a minor relapse after being clean for months, screwed over his best friends for a large sum of cash and fled to Amsterdam. Fast forward to two decades later, and he's a changed man: married with two kids. Sounds like he's really made it, right?
Wrong. Renton's story was nothing more than a fabricated fantasy. In reality, he's childless and in the midst of a harrowing divorce. He's torn between two places: his newfound divorcee lifestyle in the Netherlands, and a relatively unchanged Scotland with his waster friends. He didn't know it yet, but what he needed was to reconnect with his identity.
Renton's situation is mirrored by his ex-junkie compatriots, who are far from changed men. Rather, they're a reflection of their environment; a natural but minor progression from where we last saw them all those years ago.
It's this kind of realistic time jump that ensures their rightful place in the minds of original fans. With the impending release of Blade Runner 2049, the sequel to the original 1982 #BladeRunner, there's high expectations for Harrison Ford's reprisal as Rick Deckard. His character's brooding persona and complicated dedication to his duties are a cornerstone of the film's neo-noir vibe, and fans definitely won't settle for less when he returns for Blade Runner 2049. By taking heed of T2's careful use of character progression, Blade Runner 2049 can ensure fans will be throwing praise rather than criticism.
2. Keeping It Consistent
- Can be applied to: The Matrix
Reintroducing a franchise using the same well-known characters is fundamental to creating a fan-approved revamp, but that's still just one piece of the puzzle. To truly do justice to a classic film, what's even more important is maintaining a consistent tone with the original.
Considering the circumstances that surrounded Renton's return to Scotland and his prolonged stay, it was integral that T2 portrayed the same setting fans had become so familiar with from the original. What both Trainspotting as a film and its original novel did so well was paint a vivid picture of life as a down-and-out junkie surviving in Edinburgh. Its trademark 1990s aesthetic became synonymous with both the story and the lives of its characters, forever cemented in our minds thanks to the film's signature visual style: a fantastical blur of sex, drugs, partying and freedom, but always weighed down by the dark cloud of addiction.
The original Trainspotting gang may be 20 years older, but the mid-1990s was their heyday, and thus one of the most important elements to the story. T2 managed to pay heed to this over and over again by replicating those iconic shots that have become synonymous with the original:
These clever odes to Renton's beginnings help T2 to flow from the original as naturally as possible, allowing it to feel more like a smooth continuation than a jolting fan service.
This is precisely what needs to be integrated into the upcoming reboot of The Matrix: just enough references to tie in with the original, but not so many that it ends up looking like nothing more than a nostalgia fest that's trying way too hard to appease the fanbase. Just as it's important to establish something new and innovative, so too is it integral to keep a firm grasp on the franchise's roots.
3. The Modern Makeover
- Can be applied to: Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle
The characters of Trainspotting have changed in the past 20 years, and so has the film's intended audience. The original Trainspotting certainly carries some themes that transcend generations, but it's still very much a reflection of the time.
In order to carry T2 into the 21st Century, it was important to add just enough contemporary elements to make it relevant to 2017. It may have been a little jarring seeing Renton playing around with Snapchat filters on his phone, but it helped to lift him out of 1997 and into the modern era.
One of the most noticeable ways T2 did this was by utilizing some innovative editing techniques. For example, the projected overlay during Renton and Sick Boy's heroin bender, or the pouring rain in Sick Boy's flat as they reenact one of the greatest football moments in history. Not to mention Spud's daring drop off the roof of his apartment building.
However, the best example of T2's new setting is the following excerpt from Renton's updated "Choose Life" speech:
"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. Choose Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram and a thousand others ways to spew your bile across people you've never met. Choose updating your profile, tell the world what you had for breakfast and hope that someone, somewhere cares. Choose looking up old flames, desperate to believe that you don't look as bad as they do. Choose live-blogging, from your first wank 'til your last breath; human interaction reduced to nothing more than data. Choose ten things you never knew about celebrities who've had surgery. Choose screaming about abortion. Choose rape jokes, slut-shaming, revenge porn and an endless tide of depressing misogyny. Choose 9/11 never happened, and if it did, it was the Jews."
These signifiers of 2017 littered throughout T2 remind the viewer of one thing: times have changed, but this story is still relevant.
At the other end of the spectrum, the family-friendly Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle actually shows some promise thanks to this very same technique. Rather than a dusty old board game, the upcoming reboot will revolve around a cursed video game that traps the four young protagonists in a fantastical virtual reality situation. Think Black Mirrror, but far less sinister and much more adventurous. Jumanji is a beloved fan favorite of nineties kids and Robin Williams fans alike, but it still needs a little something to reintroduce it to a new generation.
Hollywood isn't about to stop revisiting older movies anytime soon, and there's certainly no denying that no beloved film of yesteryear is safe from the revamp treatment, wether that be a reboot or an unexpected sequel. But while fans don't have to blindly jump aboard the nostalgia wagon, there's also no need to furiously boycott every fresh take on those classic favorites. And if T2 was any indication, there's still hope yet.
Did the Trainspotting sequel meet your expectations?