This is another example where I really don’t have to go into my thoughts on what I thought of a previous film in a series, well, I have reviewed it already, you can already go through the archives the Axia Film Society to get my entire thoughts on Kingsman the Secret Service, but it also turned up at number three in my best films of 2015. Considering that all the hype of the films for that year, for that film to come out of anywhere and put many, if not all of them to shame, was a massive deal. Granted, with a success like that, a sequel is almost certainly inevitable, but even before it was announced I was speculating on the possibility that Matthew Vaughn would not return to direct it seeing as how he did not return to do the sequel to his previously directed, Mark Miller graphic novel adaptation, Kick Ass 2, resigning himself to producer role, with his co-writer Jane Goldman not returning at all. Thankfully this time, both Goldman and Vaughn have returned, so that gives some hope to the final project, plus the entire cast from the previous film have returned, with the exception of Samuel L Jackson, for obvious reasons.
Now I loved the original Kingsman, and I won’t reiterate exactly why, I want it to be known I am going into this film with an open mind and I won’t lest nostalgia blind me to any points where it might fail. As usual, this will be a non-spoiler review, however, Ren and I will be releasing a Vlog review of it soon, so if you want to catch my entire thoughts on the film, my thoughts on various plot points in detail, we will be discussing spoilers in that one. In short, what did we think? We didn’t really agree on this film!!
Kingsman The Golden Circle takes place, I would say about a year or so after the events of the first film, maybe two, they don’t make it that clear! After Eggsy, (played by Taron Egerton) gets into a fight with Kingsman reject Charlie, (played by Edward Holcroft), it becomes clear that someone is after the Kingsman, not helped at the time when drug lord Poppy, (played by Julianne Moore) uses a series of missile strikes to destroy their base and the homes of all Kingsman employees, leaving only Eggsy and Merlin, (played by Mark Strong), alive. Following a Doomsday protocol, they discover a bottle of Statesman Whisky, which leads them to a brewery in Kentucky which is the cover for the Kingsman’s American counterpart, The Statesman, led by agent Champ, (played by Jess Bridges) along with his counterparts Whiskey, (played by Pedro Pascal), Tequila, (played by Channing Tatum) and Ginger, (played by Halle Berry). Now it is up to the Kingsman and the Statesman to work together to avoid a national crisis as a deadly new virus seems to be surfacing under Poppy’s control, plus it turns out that Statesman have Harry, (played by Colin Firth) there, still alive, but suffering from amnesia.
Yes, in case you are wondering, they really pulled out a half-arsed explanation as to why Harris is still alive in this sequel, but fortunately they don’t go with the amnesia sub plot too long.
Now Ren thought this film was really bad, however, I’m not going so far as that, I actually think it has some merit to it. For one thing, I was glad to see the majority of the original cast back, even Colin Firth, who despite the fact I don’t think his character was necessary to come back, his presence did lend the film some extra merit. The biggest change is the majority of the film having an American cast and there is a large American setting to it, which does feel on some levels to be a concession to an American audience where the film was a surprise success. That being said, however, I feel the American characters are for the most part, pretty good. For one, thing, I think they all have interesting personalities and play off each other and they are not just complete clones of the British characters with an American edge. One of my biggest problems though, is the destruction of the Kingsman, which means Roxie is not in the film, which is a shame because Sophie Cookson was one of my favourite parts of the first film and it kind of loses a bit of that British charm that the first film had. Fortunately, however, it is not entirely absent. The film still has the same look and feel the first one did, however, it’s not entirely there! The plot itself is, well, it’s kind of all over the place, it feels like a lot of ideas have been thrown at the wall and not all of them stick entirely. This is especially evident in the villain plot, which seems to feel like it has literally put down every single thing they can think of in the hope that they get one thing right. It has a technology theme to a plan but it doesn’t really go anywhere except for a few fight scenes towards the end of the film. But it’s mainly centred around the virus she is controlling. There is also a secondary villain who is actually the President of the United States who is trying to use the virus as a means of political gain, who is such an obvious Donald Trump allegory that I am amazed that they actually kept him in the film like that. If Trump hadn’t actually got elected and started doing some despicable things, I actually would have said that there is no way half of these events would have happened or even that anyone would be that despicable about human life, but again, we have already seen what Donald Trump has done in several months, so I wouldn’t say that’s entirely unlikely. Though this film has clearly been written and shot before he got elected, so I can’t help but think that this plot point might have actually been even more absurd had the Americans done the right thing and elected Hilary Clinton. Charlie is a returning character, but he is just not as interesting as last time, as he is an obvious clone of the Blade Runner Gazelle from the last movie, except this time, he has got a robotic arm. Also, Poppy is such a weird character, she is obsessed with the fifties for some reason, but then she goes about kidnapping Elton John, apparently trying to steal him in the mix up with what Valentine was doing in the last film, and yes, Elton John actually appears in the movie, I will get to that later.
Now Ren has mentioned that he found a few scenes uncomfortable, but I think that is kind of the point. Most of the film fits Mark Miller’s brand of writing, but I am not the biggest Mark Miller fan. Granted he does lay the ground work for these really good films now between both Kick Ass and Kingsman, but the thing is, those films were successful because they toned down aspects of the source material and didn’t take it to the often gruesome degrees that those graphic novels did and the difference is, this time is that Matthew Vaughn and Jane Goldman don’t have a graphic novel to work off, there was no sequel comic to The Secret Service, despite the fact that the graphic novel did leave room open to have a sequel. Now it’s not entirely out of place that it could have done so, but in the same sense, they did not have a platform in which to improve a source material, so they were working blind. So, as a result, they want to stick close to Mark Miller’s original idea, but as a result, they don’t have anything they know needs to be toned down to deal with a general audience, so they are left with a weird middle ground that doesn’t quite work. I also don’t think that Whiskey is as interesting a character that the film makes him out to be. He is certainly quite good at first and gets some very good fight scenes, but he is definitely no replacement for Colin Firth’s character in the first film. Speaking of which, I don’t think Colin Firth’s character is as good this time as he was in the first film because a lot of this does have a lot of the elements that I think we were afraid we were going to get with Colin Firth in an action film. That being said, he does get better as the film goes on so I am not going to complain.
I’m probably making it sound like I absolutely hated this film but I actually have a lot of positive things to say because well, it’s still recognisably a Kingsman story and I really enjoyed the first film. I think the thing that saves is for me is that it still retains enough of the elements that made the first film great to be entertaining overall. All the characters are back and most of them are in character, there is a ton of interesting ideas, it does quite work. It still a rather tongue in cheek take on the Bond films of old, though it does now seem to be going into other territories, which I can’t quite put my finger on. Also, give it credit, this is a spy film with a female main villain, something that the Bond films haven’t done by this point, which I am rather surprised by. We are getting a female Doctor, why can’t we have a female Bond villain.
The plot may be a bit confused, but it is ultimately quite entertaining. So we can always say this film is a “slight downgrade” in its plot.
The acting, well Taron Egerton is once again fantastic in the role and he is becoming one of the actors that I think is someone to look out for. Edward Holcroft seems to be doing a good job again which is rather surprising since I wasn’t expecting him to show up in this film altogether. Mark Strong is doing his best for his expanded role for this film and I was a fan of Halle Berry as his American counterpart, even if she isn’t given much to do. Hannah Alstrom is alright, although again, she doesn’t get much to do and Colin Firth is really good when he is back in the role. Jeff Bridges is once again wonderfully charming, though he seems to be embodying a more happier version of his character from True Grit. Julianne Moore is giving a very hammy performance as the film’s passive aggressive villain. There are also a few cameo’s in there, like Michael Gambon as the new leader of Kingsman and Keith Allen gets a short one as well as the Henchman and of course there is the ridiculous extended cameo of Elton John, who I would be very surprised at if he kept a straight face if he read ahead what he had to do in the script!! You may notice one cast member I haven’t mentioned at this point and that’s Channing Tatum, well really, he is a cameo, he is so insignificant to the plot that I was wondering why he was banded around the advertisements so much. Honestly, this guy seems to turn up in a lot of films where he doesn’t seem to do much in them, I know he is a good actor but I don’t think he can keep getting away with this, has to do more heftier roles. That being said, his is one of the funniest parts of the movie when he is on screen.
Now the fight scenes, once again are fantastic. This joins Mad Max Fury Road, as one of the recent action films with some of the best choreography in recent memory. This film does have a lot of that in place. There are some very, very good action scenes that have been lovingly choreographed, though a couple are obvious homages to the previous film, including an almost note for note version of the famous “bar fight”. The effects also, really vary, some are decently done, though some are really ones you have to wonder if they ever expected us the believe that they were real. If there is one thing I will say negatively about the action scenes, although I think they are once again, fantastic, it’s that I don’t think any of them rise to the heights of the bar fight or the church fight from the last film.
Kingsman The Golden Circle, is in my opinion, a slight downgrade from the previous one, but it’s not a wholly unwatchable film. This film felt like it was an interesting take and progression of the franchise and I frankly enjoyed it overall. However, it’s not going to be for everyone and I think a lot of Kingsman fans may come out disappointed and the good actors and brilliant action scenes can’t help what seems to be a rather confused script, the obvious product of having to get a sequel out fast to a film that was a surprise success. My hope is that they are given more time to work with it with the already announced Kingsman 3 because I think there are a lot more places to go with the franchise.
No mini reviews this week as I have just come back from my holiday.
Thanks a lot for reading my review. I hope you have enjoyed reading it as much as I have enjoyed writing it and I still say the Bond franchise needs to do better before they catch up to the first Kingsman film.
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