Film and drama

Screen Themes: T2 Trainspotting vs Terminator 2 Judgment Day

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Surprisingly good sequels!

It’s T2 vs T2, as entertainment editor John Turnbull checks out the long-awaited sequel to cult hit Trainspotting along with the movie many consider the best sequel of all time.

T2 Trainspotting (2017) — directed by Danny Boyle

"Choose Life" was a sentiment that was over a decade out of date when it was used to great effect in 1996’s Trainspotting, the start of a cynical anti-consumerist rant that somehow justified the consumption of heroin and the lifestyle that went along with it. The phrase makes another appearance in the long-awaited sequel, although this time it is tinged with regret for a life of missed opportunities and poor decisions.

Set in an "under redevelopment" Edinburgh that is more rubble than not, T2 picks up 20 years after the events of the original, with Renton (Ewan McGregor) returning to Edinburgh after hiding in Amsterdam for two decades. Needless to say, his former friends are less than happy to see him, with reactions ranging from Spud’s bewilderment to Sick Boy’s revenge fantasy and Begbie’s blind murderous rage.

With almost the entire original cast returning, the passage of time is palpable. While McGregor seems to have barely aged in the past 20 years, the same can’t be said of his castmates, with Ewen Bremner and Jonny Lee Miller really showing their age. Fortunately, this totally works for the characters — heavy substance abusers who don’t look after themselves. Robert Carlisle’s Begbie is another matter, a little grey around the temples, but still a being of pure malevolent hate after spending the last 20 years in gaol. Reduced to a cameo is Kelly McDonald’s feisty Diane, the only one smart enough to get away from the Edinburgh life that seems to keep dragging everyone else down.

Original director Danny Boyle returns with a bang, propelling the movie with a cracking soundtrack and hyperkinetic visual feel. While there are nods to the original, both visual and sonic, T2 surpasses its predecessor in many ways, particularly if you’re at the stage of life where you’re more likely to look back than look forward.

Though with slightly less drug use than the original, T2 is still definitely not for kids, with occasional graphic violence and adult concepts galore. Taking this into account, if you’re a fan of well written drama with a side of jet black comedy, T2 comes highly recommended.

Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) — directed by James Cameron

Released a scant 7 years after the low-budget original, Terminator 2 is one of those rare sequels that you don’t really need to watch the original to enjoy. Directed by soon-to-be-legendary filmmaker James Cameron, following Aliens and The Abyss, Terminator 2 caught Austrian Oak Arnold Schwarzenegger at what was arguably the height of his movie career, coming off the back of action classics like Total Recall, The Running Man and Predator, and before the litany of poor choices, that included Last Action Hero and Jingle All the Way.

Terminator 2 tells the story of Sarah Connor, living an isolated, survivalist lifestyle with her son John after the events of the first film. Like many parents, Sarah believes that her son is destined for greatness, but in this case she has future historical evidence in the form of a cyborg with a near-incomprehensible accent. Sent back in time to protect John Conner (who is frankly a bit of a dick), Arnold’s T-700 is one of the iconic sci-fi characters in history, from his naked appearance in a biker bar to the heroic sacrifice he makes to finally defeat the T-1000, played with cold menace by Robert Patrick.

Taking advantage of cutting-edge computer generated special effects to create the liquid-metal adversary, Cameron was savvy enough to use practical effects for many of the big set pieces — notably the jaw-dropping helicopter sequence. This decision means that the movie has aged well, holding up against modern action movies with aplomb.

With a pretty great soundtrack and career-best performances from Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton and Robert Patrick, Judgment Day is by far the best movie in the Terminator series.


Sequels are an easy choice for studios. They have name recognition, franchise goodwill and the ability to fulfill that part of humanity that longs for an ongoing story.

Historically, there have been more bad sequels than good. For every Godfather 2 there are dozens of Blues Brothers 2000s, Speed 2s and Dumb and Dumberers, but that only makes the great ones stand out. Terminator 2 has long been held up as one of the best sequels of all time and this remains true 26 years after release. Action packed, suspenseful and occasionally heart-warming, Judgment Day set a high bar hat sadly no subsequent Terminator sequels could reach.

T2 Trainspotting is both an ode to youth and a slap in the face of nostalgia, an uncompromising trip back to places that will never be the same. The themes of self-destruction and forced change are echoed by the blighted Edinburgh landscape, surrounded by beauty but focused on relentless self-improvement at the expense of character and soul. Highly recommended.

Terminator 2: Judgment Day — 9/10

T2 Trainspotting — 10/10

Enjoy what you've just read? John Turnbull's books are now available on Amazon and Kindle. For about the price of a cup of coffee you can take a journey deep into the disturbed psyche behind columns including Screen Themes, Think For Yourself, New Music Through Old Ears and JT on NXT. There’s supernatural thriller, Damnation’s Flame; action/romance, Reaper; black comedy, City Boy; and travel guidebook, Bar Trek: Europe. COMING SOON TO THE IA STORE!

You can also follow John on Twitter @blackmagicjohn.

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