The first Kingsman film taglined, The Secret Service, was released in 2014 with director Matthew Vaughn, known for 2010’s Kick-Ass and 2011’s X-Men: First Class, truly came out of nowhere. Despite being based on a beloved Graphic Novel, you would be hard pressed to find someone would knew of its existence before the film’s release. However, this lack of brand recognition actually helped Kingsman more than hurt it. With expectations relatively low, many audience members were not expecting one of the best spy-comedies in decades.
If you haven’t seen the first film I highly recommend catching it before you see The Golden Circle, not only is it just a great film, but the sequel makes plenty of call backs to the original that will most definitely go over your head. With this sequel, expectations for its quality have been raised considerably compared to Kingsman’s first outing. Will it live up to the hype, or is it doomed to pale in comparison to the original?
I have to admit that I had a bad taste in my mouth walking into the theater. The trailers and even posters spoiled the return of a beloved character from the original that was presumed dead, which was incredibly infuriating. After seeing the film, while I still feel like this was a reveal that should have been saved for the film, there are plenty of twists and turns with his character arc that almost made up for this short-sighted marketing decision. I will do my best to not spoil any of the main plot as the trailers don’t go into much detail besides showing that every Kingsman headquarters is destroyed by the main antagonist and the previously mentioned character revival. Much of the fun of this film is not the shock of the resolutions, but in how the characters reach them. This is an incredibly predictable movie from beginning to end, which I know will annoy some viewers, but it still finds a way to make building up to these obvious plot points enjoyable, which kept me from growing bored despite its runtime of two hours and eighteen minutes, which I know will turn some people away.
The cast is just as on point as in the first movie and almost everyone pulls their weight. Taron Egerton is once again incredibly enjoyable as Eggsy and is given much more time to play off of Mark Strong’s, guy in the chair, character Merlin. Their relationship is one aspect of this film that is handled better in The Golden Circle than in the original, you feel like they’re not only partners but good friends, which just makes you care all the more for them. Julianne Moore plays the sociopathic villain, Poppy, who will make you terrified and incredibly uncomfortable at the same time. Every scene taking place on her uniquely designed secret lair was a blast, partly thanks to Moore and partly thanks to an amazing cameo that I dare not spoil. The only scene with her that I hated was the first few minutes of her introduction which delivered a heaping helping of heavy handed exposition that was unnecessary and annoying, Her master plan is as diabolical as much as it is ludicrous, while also giving the film the opportunity to have a political slant, which unfortunately fell flat.
Without given to much away the film features a generic evil President who is so one dimensional I could swear I had seen him in a Saturday morning cartoon about saving the environment. Some have labeled this cartoony President as a satire of modern politics, but when a story has only one completely flat character it sticks out like a sore thumb and nearly made me feel like I was watching a different movie. Colin Firth’s, Obi-Wan Kenobi esque character Harry, is once again a highlight and has much more of a character arc this time around. Firth’s plot line is handled pretty well until it was completely forgotten about during the final action sequence which made me question why they introduced that aspect of his character in the first place. Again, without giving too much away, Firth has completely lost one eye, as seen in the promotional material, and has poor coordination as a result, which makes sense. However, by the time the finale rolls around he is back to his sharp shooting ways, I guess the writers realized a spy with no depth perception wouldn’t last long and just hoped the audience wouldn’t notice. In a film that features robot arms, brain repairing goo, and a lightsaber lasso, it makes you question why all they give Firth is a pair of glasses with one lense blacked out.
Pedro Pascal plays the lasso wielding agent, Whisky whose weapon of choice adds some much needed variety to the action sequences, but his motivation is filled an incredibly obvious hole that took me out of what should have been a great moment. Unfortunately Halle Berry and Channing Tatum truly receive the short end of the stick. The scenes they do have are very solid, but they are so few and far between, especially for Tatum who is pretty much written out of the movie after the first act. He might as have been taken out of the movie altogether so Berry can have more screen time. At least then the film would have one more developed character instead of two under developed ones.
Unfortunately, the action sequences for the most part are not as solid as the first. The problem is not the action itself, that is just as fun to watch as in always was, but because of they have poor set up. The most iconic moment from the first Kingsman by far is the church battle, but the action isn’t what made it work as well, it was certainly part of it, but the real reason it has staying power was the build up. The action just felt empty and lacked substance this time around. However every sequence is amazing to watch and is incredibly creative, with the exception of the reenactment of the pub brawl from the first Kingsman.
Now there is one glaring criticism that I failed to mention, this film gives you no room to breathe. The entire time it feels as though the film is afraid of losing the audience’s attention so it overfills itself with action, plot details and new character introductions. This poor pacing plagues the whole movie and made it difficult for me to feel invested as they kept throwing more and more at the screen hoping it would stick. The original Kingsman had a great balance of action, plot, exposition and character building, The Golden Circle seems to have way too much of everything except character building unfortunately. The film became so bloated that I forgot an incredibly important character even existed until he was thrust back into the spotlight during the finale. Despite the fact that the whole movie felt crowded, that didn’t have a massive effect on my enjoyment, but it was all the more apparent when I rewatched the original.
Overall this movie is fun in the moment, but I don’t see any of it sticking with me for years to come like with the first, something I’ve come to expect from most sequels. However, if you have already see the latest adaptation of Stephen King’s It, and are looking for something to see in the theater, and enjoyed the original, I would definitely recommend checking this out.