The first Kingsman movie had so much going for it, not the least of it was an unbridled originality and charm that endeared it to millions. The sequel, Kingsman: The Golden Circle, decides to go in a different direction and comes off as a fun follow-up, but one that feels a little hollow.
Eggsy (Taron Egerton) is now a full fledged Kingsman and he is living with his Swedish princess girlfriend in a swanky London flat. He is called in to duty one evening and before he can get to the door of the “tailor shop,” he is abducted by someone who has nefarious intensions. A stellar, as explosive as the first film, action sequence ensues and we soon learn that the perpetrator is a failed Kingsman candidate with connections to an international drug cartel headed up by Poppy (Julianne Moore).
Then, the entire Kingsman world is literally and figuratively obliterated.
The only ones left are Eggsy and Merlin (Mark Strong). They go into the “doomsday protocol” and that sends them to the United States to enlist the help of a sibling secret agency known as The Statesmen. Together, they must put aside their differences and find a way to stop Poppy before her plan for world domination reaches its apex.
On paper, this would be a terrific next step for the series. World building is of A1 importance in any sequel that hopes to become a series. That is exactly what writer-director Matthew Vaughn was going for with his Kingsman 2. The issue here is that the avenue he has chosen to go down does not compliment the landscape established in the first film. Don’t get me wrong. I love the Statesmen and the idea of our British boys heading to America to work with a like-minded group is brilliant. It’s just the execution of it is not effective at the least and obliterates the tone of the first film at the most.
Sure, the Statesmen can be a different breed. In fact they should be. These are cowboys compared to the Kingsman’s gentlemen. They are spittoon hitting, whisky swilling good ole boys whose sales of their liquor of choice has funded their operation for a century, much like the tailoring business has fueled the Kingsman.
The problems start when Eggsy and Whisky (Pedro Pascal) head back to Merry Ole England for the Glastonbury music festival where the girlfriend of one of Poppy’s henchmen is said to be heading. The means with how they get what they want from her is rather disrespectful towards woman and also just plain out of left field for those of us who have studied the ways of the Kingsman since the first movie landed in 2014 and made our top 10 of that year. This is a shift from good spirited fun to old fashioned misogyny. Sorry, folks, it is and it is sadly disappointing for a series that seemed so envelope pushing on so many levels and ahead of its time.
The other issue with the Statesmen introduction is that two of its most valuable players, Tequila (Channing Tatum) and Champ (Jeff Bridges), are hardly used at all. These two were custom fit, like a well tailored suit (see what I did there?), to portray these cowboy’d versions of the Kingsman and instead of getting us equal time, Vaughn (and co-writer Jane Goldman) presents a storyline that minimizes their contributions and as a whole forgets what it is about the Kingsman universe that so enthralled us to begin with.
Kingsman: The Secret Service was all about the “manners maketh the man” and it permeated through and through — from Eggsy’s training to the mission at the heart of the film itself. With The Golden Circle, there isn’t much of a gentlemen or lady-like quality to the goings-on and in fact, it feels like quite the opposite.
The other clear problem is Vaughn’s management of time. The film clocks in at a too-long two hours and 21 minutes. The revival of Harry Hart is a fascinating turn of events, yet it takes forever from first discovery to having him back to form wielding umbrellas that fire bullets like Uzis. Of course his return at all was spoiled completely in terms of the surprise factor in that first Kingsman: The Golden Circle trailer. How he is currently living and breathing is complicated. We get it. But there’s a lot of leeway we give this film series in terms of suspension of disbelief. There doesn’t have to be a science to everything, as detailed in The Golden Circle.
There still is joy in Kingsman-land, don’t get us wrong. It’s just that The Secret Service was such an explosion of awesomeness. The sequel is a bit of a let down when it so easily didn’t have to be.
Much of what should be celebrated in this film revolves around our villain, Poppy. Moore has a field day as the most demented, yet grounded, villain. She’s right out of the James Bond baddie playbook and everything from her hideout to her thugs are pitch perfect. Egerton and Firth (when they finally get around to it) rejuvenate their spark from the first film and we’d watch these two battle villains with grace all day long.
See, that’s just it. We have no problem with journeying to America for a little Kingsman fun in the old colonies. It just does not work in the manner that is displayed here in The Golden Circle. It’s a missed opportunity.
Still, we sure hope that Vaughn and company regroup and try again because there is something truly special about the world he created in Kingsman: The Secret Service. A star was born with Egerton in 2014 and it would be bloody brilliant to see him, Firth and the rest of the gang head somewhere (like Asia perhaps?) in the third film to give it a fresh joi de vivre.