Kingsman: The Golden Circle is a perfectly fine action/spy film, that will live or die for you based on how much you enjoyed the first, and are engaged with the characters from it. I massively enjoyed the opening action sequence, and appreciated that things got started right away, but can’t help but feel newer viewers would simply find it underwhelming, given the film’s assumption of your familiarity with its characters, which isn’t a big deal for a sequel, but it is symptomatic of the issues with the film as a sequel.
While there’s spectacle galore to behold in the film, it can’t help but feel a bit less new than it did in the first entry. This certainly isn’t for lack of trying, however, and myriad gadgets, grenades, bombs, lasers and smart devices can’t adequately cover up the fact that despite the revelry, things feel a bit off throughout the entire movie. It’s a subtle distinction and one that not all fans may notice, although I believe the fate of Colin Firth’s character is indicative of the nature of the film in this way. Whatever it was that was bottled so perfectly in the original Kingsman, is semi-successfully reproduced here, but it is most certainly just that: A reproduction. It’s not like the movie is a J.J. Abrams or Quentin Tarantino level of re-hashing here however, it’s just Matthew Vaughn has somehow managed to simultaneously expand the world and scope of Kingsman, while still keeping it relatively small in terms of storytelling scale, or more accurately keeps it the same as the original. Colin Firth’s character being “resurrected” as seen in the trailers, is an excellent symbolic figure for the heart and charm of the original film, and his character remains so in this, albeit changed significantly from his original self.
One of the more pressing things in this entry is a feeling of one-upmanship from the original, which is to be expected from any action movie sequel. As far as it goes for being an action movie, this is probably one of the better “turn your brain off and enjoy” movies I’ve seen in quite a while. There’s a lot of fun touches and details that give the film a vivacity and charisma that helps maintain and build upon its unique identity. It’d be very easy to simply let this franchise turn into an elaborate James Bond knockoff, which this version will assuredly get compared to far more than its predecessor. The introduction of the Statesman as an external independent intelligence agency that works alongside The Kingsman is an inspired turn, and the implication of multiple independent intelligence agencies bodes well for the future of the franchise, since they’ll eventually need a plot that’s not somehow the entire world becoming vulnerable all at once, yet again.
Kingsman: The Golden Circle doesn’t exactly re-hash its previous entry’s plot, but it does repeat its basic stakes and consequences. This is all forgiven, however, by the film’s excellent set pieces, some of which feature some of the most conceptually clever fighting sequences I’ve seen in years! Sadly, while they’re all amazing, you can’t do the same trick twice and expect the same reaction. The first movie had an incredible, innovative, mind-blowing fight scene in a church, and while Golden Circle has many fight scenes that technically improve on the church fight from the original, they’re not new again, and it does suffer from this a bit. There’s no gigantic, awe-inspiring scene that I can’t wait to tell people about like I did after seeing the church scene from the original, and that is a shame, but an understandable one. Instead, we’re given a bunch of great character moments, and the promise of a new world of narratives to build upon.
Now that being said, It could just be the cynic in me, but parts of this movie felt unnecessary and were there only to establish future things to be visited in future installments. At 141 minutes, things do tend to feel a bit dragging in between the action scenes. Channing Tatum’s entire character, for instance, seems relegated to an ostensible leading role in a Statesman spinoff, and it’s puzzling as to why he was even really featured in this movie at all, especially when Pedro Pascal is the Statesman who’ll leave the strongest impression on nearly every viewer. Julianne Moore as the villainous Poppy, is frankly miscast, and I’m not trying to be harsh on this movie, but despite being a lot of fun, a lot of it was forgettable. The unique spectacle of that first church fight from the original is lost when you see a similar shot scene in nearly every major fight in the film, and Moore’s Poppy is no villain like Jackson’s Valentine.
There’s a lot to enjoy in Kingsman: The Golden Circle and I’ve no doubt it’ll be something I’ll rewatch and enjoy in the future, but I was blown away by the first installment, and fully expected to be overwhelmed with amazing things to rave about in this review, and instead I’m really left with only one thing to rave about: Elton John doing a flying sidekick. It’s a surreal and amazing moment in cinema. Elton John sidekicking a henchman was as close to that feeling I got from watching the original Kingsman film— A gift of that intoxicating mixture of seeing something you’ve never seen before and getting something you didn’t even know you wanted but needed. Golden Circle, on the other hand, tries hard to give you everything you want and only ends up giving you what you need. Don’t get me wrong, the movie is intensely entertaining, but I wish it had just been a bit more focused on plotting, rather than characterization and world building. Regardless, we’re probably gonna get a Statesman movie soon, and I’m certainly not complaining about that one bit.
P.S Can we please stop using that John Denver song in movies this year? Please? It was bad enough in Alien: Covenant.
GEEK Rating: B +
Images: 20th Century Fox