“Kingsman: The Golden Circle” (2017)
Written by: Jane Goldman and Matthew Vaughn
Directed by: Matthew Vaughn
Featuring: Colin Firth, Taron Egerton, Mark Strong, Edward Holcroft, Sophie Cookson, Julianne Moore, Halle Berry, Pedro Pascal, Elton John, Channing Tatum and Jeff Bridges
Whiskey: “Manners… maketh… man. Want me to translate that for ya?”
Unsurprisingly after the hit that was “Kingsman: The Secret Service” (2015) comes a sequel with many of the original players back, both in front of and behind the camera, as well as the addition of a heavy dose of Americans to round out the huge cast. It also has a bulbous running time – sitting at almost two and a half hours. I eventually found the movie to be a marathon of excess, instead of the mid distance run I would have preferred, with a pared down sense of its own self importance that the filmmakers would like you to ignore.
Based on a graphic novel by (the now) legendary Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons, the original movie was the launch pad for Taron Egerton and the first action movie that Oscar winner Colin Firth had been asked to make. Needless to say the fish out of water as well as origin story of sorts were a couple of the keys to its success, as well as what has become the ever reliable partnership of writer/director Matthew Vaughn and his writer/producer wife Jane Goldman. There is no doubt that the first modestly budgeted first film punched well above its weight and so the sequel was put into production with another modest budget, but with the onscreen stakes raised to entice a larger audience to witness a film on a larger canvas. Has this been successful? Judging by early box office results there has been a bigger return, but for my mind this is a scattershot affair with many needless cameos, set pieces and callbacks.
A year has passed since Eggsy Unwin and Kingsman saved the world from Richmond Valentine’s neurological wave broadcast, and he has since taken his late mentor Harry Hart’s title of “Galahad” and is living with Crown Princess Tilde of Sweden. One day, on his way home, Charlie Hesketh, a former Kingsman trainee, ambushes him. Eggsy loses Charlie and his henchmen in a car chase across London. While Eggsy dines with Princess Tilde and her parents in Sweden, a volley of missiles destroy the Kingsman headquarters.
Eggsy and Merlin follow the Doomsday protocol, which leads them to “Statesman”, a secret American organisation posing as a Bourbon whiskey distillery in Kentucky. Eggsy and Merlin are briefed by Statesman head, Champagne, about a secret terrorist organisation called “The Golden Circle” and start their mission.
One of the truly unfortunate things about this sequel is that major plot points were given away in all of the marketing, which is a real shame because some of the revelations (not in my review) are well done, but the effect has all been obliterated by ham fisted marketing from the studio, 20th Century Fox. There is no doubt that this movie is going to be some kind of success, but there should be some surprises left for people that actually pay to go and see this at cinemas.
Matthew Vaughn is back for his first attempt at a sequel, which he has shied away from even though he was supposed to originally direct the sequel to his own somewhat reboot “X-Men: First Class“ (2011). Vaughn has followed the old adage that you must ‘pump up the volume’ when making a follow up, but unfortunately this movie lacks any nuance that may have been present in his original ‘Kingsman’. He has created a plot that makes little sense, has gone to America and imported a bunch of actors that are more interesting than the original cast, then not used them in any kind of interesting way. Going so far as to bring a character back to life without using him in any kind of real meaningful way, then given his main character terrible lines in a try hard working class accent.
What may have been some kind of comment on mass consumerism has been swallowed whole in product placement and name dropping that would make the ‘Transformers’ franchise blush. This entire movie is a walking, talking breathing advert – I get it, I really do, even the villain (played with joy by the Oscar winning Julianne Moore), Poppy, has a lair that has been created with nostalgic product placement in mind. Vaughn who is really from the Guy Ritchie school of film making has fallen into the overblown movie making that has recently dogged Ritchie’s own work – which is a real comedown from the filmmaker that brought “Layer Cake” (2004), “Stardust” (2007) and “Kick-Ass” (2010) to the screen with such originality as well as success. This has to Vaughn’s first real miss-step as well as let down which does not bode well for yet another sequel to this franchise.
Now the news is not all bad as the action sequences are all very good, if not a little overdone as well as a touch too much CGI for my taste. There also seems to be a few sequences that have been lifted from “Baby Driver” (2017), except done better in that movie as well as a maybe too much reliance on old James Bond action gags, which were not present in the original. As well as that there is a nod to John Denver, but again this has already been done in “Logan Lucky” (2017), again done better in that movie as well as being more nuanced. Even though there is a huge cast, one cannot argue with the pedigree of the people that want to work with Vaughn, so that fact does help the future of this franchise. I still think that Taron Egerton was a great choice in the lead of both movies; he has so much charm as well as the ability to deliver humor that it is obvious he is going to be a big star moving forward.
Something that was a gamble was to take the ending of the original movie with Tilde the Princess who offered a certain part of her anatomy to Eggsy, making her an actual character in this new film. Not only that there is an entire subplot that is handled pretty well involving their relationship, something that you would have thought may have been cut after an initial viewing, but to Vaughn and co-screenwriter/producer Jane Goldman’s credit was left in which was a wise move. In my mind and this may be a bit controversial, but the entire ‘Statesman’ storyline could have been excised which would have made the entire movie run faster, slicker and would have not wasted all of those actors involved. They add nothing to the plot except adding exposition as well as plot mechanics that could have been solved a lot easier in other ways.
Ultimately though there is enough to recommend this movie as something to see in cinemas, but there are better movies on release at the moment. One example is a remake that advertises its possible sequel without having to rely on it, that is the fantastic horror “IT” (2017) – this is a far superior film that offers originality, humor, horror and action coupled with great performances from everyone involved. If you want some action that is far less than its sequel I would not blame you for going to and liking “Kingsman: The Golden Circle”, but for me it did not meet my expectations which is a shame, but it is not a bad movie which is saying something after the glut of dreck that has been produced this year.
‘Kingsman: The Golden Circle” is out now in cinemas.