*Photo Credit: © 20th Century Fox
Finally, a movie that doesn’t take itself too damn seriously.
One of my biggest issues with Hollywood is the fact that studios seem to believe that a film needs to sacrifice fun for realism. Take a look at any of the countless “gritty” adaptations of old movies, comics, and books, and you’ll see many cases where an over-commitment to realism takes away from what could be an entertaining, if far-fetched, adventure. This is most depressingly apparent in sci-fi and comic book movies (case in point: Man of Steel (2013), which is ridiculous given the necessity of outlandishness to the subject matter. But the spy genre isn’t exempt from this trend, either. Matt Damon’s Bourne films and Daniel Craig’s recent contributions to the Bond franchise have both been caught up in the race to make a film as gritty as possible.
Thankfully, Matthew Vaughn’s Kingsman films swing directly counter to the prevailing trend; rather than overloading on grit, Vaughn has turned his franchise into fantastical thrill ride of over-the-top action, ridiculous gadgetry, and eye-popping aesthetic. By boldly going against the grain, Kingsman: The Golden Circle (2017) shows that cheesy can be cool.
Fans of the original film, Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014), should be pleased to know that the new installment of the series retains many of the same characteristics that made the original such a surprise hit. In fact, much of this film is essentially fan service, recalling moments from the first film to elicit more powerful emotional responses from the audience. While these tributes do add a lot to the experience of someone who has seen the original, viewers who have not will likely feel lost and alienated, like being on the outside of an inside joke. Therefore, I recommend to all my readers to see the first Kingsman film before seeing this new one, so that you may have just as much fun as I did.
Despite its overdependence on the original film, the new Kingsman still has more than enough to offer any viewer. The action sequences, of which there are many, are astounding. With brilliant cinematography, the hectic action scenes are easy to follow and thrilling to watch. The use of outlandish weapons and spy gadgets (like an electric lasso) serve to compound the breakneck pace of these scenes, overloading the viewer with energy and excitement.
And it’s not just the action scenes that look great. Every visual element of the movie is gorgeous, from the classy costuming to the exotic scenery. The film is edited so that it is very bright and colorful, which is the opposite of the dark and dreary lighting of many gritty films (here’s looking at you, DC Extended Universe). I find Kingsman to be very similar to the Marvel Cinematic Universe stylistically, though with more pizzazz in order to firmly establish the whimsical world in which the movie occurs.
Kingsman does appear to emulate Marvel in dialogue as well, but not as successfully. While Kingsman does contain plenty of witty banter that is reminiscent of Marvel’s trademark humor, some of the jokes feel contrived. There is a much more unnatural flow to the film’s dialogue, even though part of it may be that Kingsman is a very British film. With a British director and a predominantly British main cast, the film feels very different than most American action/comic book films, despite being produced in America. After all, Americans aren’t usually the ones being caricatured in such movies, but the hilariously Southern “Statesman” agency, to whom the Kingsman agents turn to in distress, offers us American viewers a ridiculous parody of ourselves to enjoy (I hope that the Brits don’t actually think of us this way, though).
While “Statesman” is a clever and entertaining addition to the franchise, their role in the plot is underwhelming. Only Agent Whiskey (Pedro Pascal) seems essential to the story, leaving the talents of Halle Berry, Jeff Bridges, and Channing Tatum underutilized.
Another aspect of the film that gives me trouble is the main villain, Poppy (Julianne Moore). As leader of the world’s most prolific drug trafficking ring, the Golden Circle, Poppy has acquired a massive hidden headquarters in the jungle, modeled in the style of 50s Americana. As with Samuel L. Jackson’s villainous character from the first movie, Poppy has lots of style but a lack of substance. Her plan is just bad enough to require a world-saving effort, but she is really only used to further a generic plot arc. However, as with everything in this film, the Golden Circle is so entertainingly extravagant that I didn’t really care while I watched the film.
Many of my gripes with this film only came to mind after watching it. At the end of the day, Kingsman: The Golden Circle is a film designed to be fun. It’s all about good-looking heroes fighting kooky villains with really cool toys. It’s cheesy, yes, but that’s the point: Kingsman is the perfect opportunity to sit down and just have a fun time, which is something we often forget to do when we’re at the movies.
Wagner’s Watch-worthiness: 7/10