“Manners maketh man. Do you know what that means?” After watching both films in the “Kingsman” series now, in my mind, that quote probably means you should wear a stylish suit from a tailor and become a spy in a matter of days. So, while most action sequels usually don’t end up achieving the status of being better than the original, it appeared that “Kingsman: The Golden Circle” could do just that.
With their headquarters destroyed and the world held hostage, members of Kingsman find new allies when they discover a spy organization in the United States known as Statesman. In an adventure that tests their strength and wits, the elite secret agents from both sides of the pond band together to battle a ruthless enemy and save the day, something that’s becoming a bit of a habit for Eggsy, our dashing young Kingsman hero.
I was a huge fan of “Kingsman: The Secret Service” when it was released back in 2015. It was one of those movies that was a total surprise. It took a slick and stylish approach toward spy genre with its action, humor and seeing it as a homage to the classic spy films like the James Bond movies. It was one of my favorites of that year. I was just waiting for the next film to come out, as I thought “Kingsman” could be a strong new franchise.
Matthew Vaughn returns to direct the second installment, which is great. He’s a director that isn’t known for directing sequels. With that, you would expect “Kingsman: The Golden Circle” to be bigger and better in this universe adapted from the comic book series. And in some ways, it is. But in reality, this ended up being a muddled sequel that should’ve been so much better.
Taron Egerton as Eggsy is still great. This was the role that made him a breakout performer as a street-kid-turned-gentleman joining Kingsman. He truly carries the film without any troubles whatsoever.
Colin Firth and Mark Strong, returning as Harry Hart and Merlin, respectively, were also both good. One of the things that had me worried going into this was how Vaughn was going to explain how Harry survived from the last film. But when they offered an explanation, I couldn’t buy it because, quite simply, it’s illogical. I still love that Harry’s in here, but Vaughn needed a better way to explain why he’s back.
The story itself didn’t have nearly as clear a focus as the first, due to some subplots that don’t do anything to drive the film forward and are easily forgotten with their unbalanced tone structure. The film also pulls a lazy copout when it tries to rehash the best things about the first film.
And then you have Julianne Moore as the main villain, Poppy. She runs a drug cartel deep in the middle of the jungle, where she’s surrounded by 1950’s spy thriller nostalgia with her robot dogs (yep) and a virus implanted into many of the drugs people use daily. As great an actress she is, here, her performance was over-the-top and silly. She wasn’t nearly as great a villain as Samuel L. Jackson in the last film. Even though he was portraying a goofy villain, Jackson’s acting was reasonable. Moore’s performance was fine for what is was, but could’ve been written better.
The action sequences in here are fine for what they are, but, again, they don’t compare to the first one. The film throws you into the first sequence in under two minutes, and it really kicks the film into high gear for a killer opening. However, personally, there isn’t anything in the sequel that comes close to that uniquely awesome church scene in the original.
The way the action is handled here was just a little ridiculous. It goes from zero to 60 very quickly, leaving the stakes feeling limited, and later leaving the stakes behind altogether, especially with heavy use of CGI. This makes the film’s 141-minute run time feel bloated. There are times where I got bored and just wanted something exciting to happen.
One interesting aspect of the film is the concept of other Kingsman-like organizations in different countries. I was intrigued on how they would handle Statesman, the American counterparts of Kingsman. The Statesmen are played by Channing Tatum, Halle Berry, Pedro Pascal (“Narcos”) and Jeff Bridges. Just from those actors’ names alone, it would seem like they’d steal the show, right? Well…they do, kind of, but very little. This wasted potential is flat-out frustrating; both Tatum and Bridges didn’t have a lot of screen time. This was the opportunity to introduce new characters, and it was wasted.
“The Golden Circle” also wasn’t very clever with its humor. Very few of the jokes provided just didn’t work. There were moments where I did laugh, and half of them came from Sir Elton John in a cameo everybody knew about before the film’s release anyway. Most viewers probably won’t agree with this, but I thoroughly enjoyed John’s cameo in the film.
One of my favorite aspects about the first film was Henry Jackman and Matthew Margeson’s fantastic score, and that compliment stands with the sequel. The soundtrack still brought that gravitas to some of the action. But how dare they not play a “Take That” song during the credits? A majority of Vaughn’s films have a song by the group included somewhere.
To be honest, I couldn’t help but compare this to the first film. There was something special about the original. Even though it has its moments of ridiculousness and over-the-top scenes, it still has a substantial balance in the way it’s handled, so that it’s easy to be attached to the story, making it fantastic and memorable. In this sequel, Vaughn goes out of his way to make it bigger and sometimes out of control.
The first film was compared to “Men in Black.” And this is hard to say, but this sequel, as of now, is the “Men in Black II” of the franchise. That’s what happens when one of the most anticipated movies of the year ends up falling flat. It’s not a bad sequel, but it’s the biggest letdown of the year for many reasons, especially coming from a director like Vaughn.
“Kingsman: The Golden Circle”, in retrospect, is fun and brought the action we love from the series, but it’s disappointing in the fact that it doesn’t retain that enjoyment from its greater predecessor.