Director: Matthew Vaughn
Runtime: 141 minutes
I’ll just be honest here—Kingsman holds a special place in my heart because it was the first film I ever reviewed for a proper film website. I went excitedly to the screening, sat with fellow critics, feeling as if I was almost sat right next to Roger Ebert himself, and watched this film that I absolutely adored. I wrote about the disappearance of the true spy movie, the nostalgia I felt for James Bond films of the past, and the absolute joy I felt while watching the visceral action sequences of this unique film. When I was offered a critic’s pass to a screening of the second film, I was overjoyed. I could relive the feeling of absolute pride that I did a few years ago. So, did the sequel live up to my high expectations?
Well, yes and no. In the same way that I was expecting to relive my past when I took the screening, the second Kingsman outing feels as if it is also trying to relive its glory days. Unlike Skyfall, which was part of a series that had existed for decades with films of varying ‘grittiness’, Kingsman only had one film. Rather than feeling like the second outing was capturing the joys of past experiences, I felt like it was instead trying to hit us over the head with the old routine of, “Do you remember this bit?” “How about THIS bit… you know when he locks the doors and says this awesome quote? It’s awesome, isn’t it?!?!” This took a slice of joy out of the sequel for me. I realised that I, myself, had taken this screening to relive the past—and the film had shown me that, perhaps, that isn’t the best idea.
Now, let’s get the ‘bad’ aspects of the film out of the way. Director Matthew Vaughn seemed to be unaware of how much was too much in such a film. We had some awesome action sequences and the film was packed full of new characters, but—as trailers and posters have shown—old characters also return. Colin Firth’s Gallahad gets the most screen-time out of all of the multitude of subplots; however, I don’t feel as if it is deserved. Characters I was excited to see more of in the last film, namely female Kingsman agent Lancelot and Channing Tatum’s all-American spy character (who’s name I forget, because he was the definition of underused), were sorely overlooked. Instead, we had to deal Vaughn’s attempts at making the impossible possible: bringing back Gallahad despite the natural progression of the series. Firth’s character was the main issue for me in this film—while enjoyable to watch in parts, the choices for his character seemed to slow the film down.
Was it all bad? Actually, no. Everything new in the film was extremely high quality. Julianne Moore’s Martha-Stewart-esque villain? Incredible. Whenever see came on screen, I would say to myself, “Well this just got better”. Also, the Statesmen as an organisation, their aesthetic, their philosophy, their gadgets—all inventive and rewarding. There are some fantastic cameos in the film that are worth the ticket price alone, the action sequences are high-fuelled, but the main takeaway from this film was its lead, Eggsy (Taron Egerton). Egerton was the focus of the film, and despite an onslaught of increasingly bland main characters in film, I was with him the whole way. He plays his character with such subtlety, yet personality, that he was always a good watch. Even when the film got close to slipping away from me—with it’s insane subplots, rehashes of past events, etc.—he would draw me back in.
Overall, Kingsman: The Golden Circle was a good popcorn movie. I’ll be honest, I was expecting more from this film—more inventive, creative ideas, and just more unadulterated fun. I would call it an enjoyable flick, with a few cases of annoying Deja-vu. However, Kingsman: The Golden Circle does deliver a good time. Despite its flaws, I enjoyed it enough to want to see a third instalment. Respectfully, Vaughn has packed everything he possibly could in the film’s two hour runtime, and I must commend him for that. The more he throws at you, the more you might like, or might dislike—its the sheer volume of ideas that both makes and breaks this film. Next time (as box-office figures seem to suggest there will be a next time), I think Vaughn should set his sights forward, not backward.