When Matthew Vaughn left the X-Men franchise after the roaring success of X-men: First Class, you could say I was puzzled. He single-handedly brought back a dying franchise to life. Why would he abandon a good thing? It didn’t make sense. Things got even more strange when it was announced later he’d adapt, write and direct an obscure comic book into a movie called Kingsman: The Secret Service.
At the time, I figured no one would care and the movie would end up a flop. Of course, I was incredibly wrong. Vaughn figured out how to pull a rabbit out of his hat again and turn an obscure comic into a breakaway movie hit. The beauty of the first movie was its reckless abandon and willingness to go all out despite the consequences. Ironically, this was also its Achilles Heel. It went a little too far sometimes to the point of absurdity.
In light of that, it feels like Kingsman: The Golden Circle pulls back on the reins and plays it safe. That’s not to say it isn’t over the top. It certainly tries to do some ridiculous things but they all pale in comparison to the tone and style of the first. Unfortunately, that’s not even the main problem. The Golden Circle does what no sequel should do – It shouldn’t copy its predecessor’s beats and plot. Not even the characters got a good arc to make the story compelling or necessary. While Vaughn can direct a movie well, and piece it together into a fun and exciting ride, the sum total is a big step backward.
Written by Jane Goldman and Matthew Vaughn, and directed by Vaughn, Kingsman: The Golden Circle starts off shortly after the first. Eggy (Taron Edgerton) is a full-fledged Kingsman taking on the name Galahad from his former protege. However, when a mysterious group destroys the Kingman headquarters, he and Merlin (Mark Strong) must travel to Kentucky to seek the help of the Statesman to fight back.
If there’s one thing Vaughn does well, it’s keeping an audience engaged. Whether through an action scene, humor, or compelling dialogue, it’s rare to sit through one of his movies and feel bored. He knows how to entertain and it’s a gift that shouldn’t be ignored. We’re all looking for an escape when we enter the theater, and if that’s what you’re looking for, Vaughn provides.
With that said, Kingsman: The Golden Circle is a fun, sometimes funny, and entertaining spectacle. The special effects, action scenes, and wild antics are enough to please a casual moviegoer who just wants to see a spy film and not much else.
Unfortunately, that’s all this movie really offers.
Instead of doubling down and diving in deep to discover more about the Kingsman organization, Kingsman: The Golden Circle literally bombs the whole thing and decides to move on to a new face and a fresh start in the Statesman. Except, the Statesmen are essentially just the Kingsman but with cowboy hats, belt buckles, and lassos. Pulling a big narrative punch and destroying an entire spy organization felt like it should hurt more. But it just didn’t. Because of that, it became a forced and unnecessary plot device to make Eggys feel on his own.
Once they meet up with the Statesman, the plot is almost identical to the first movie. The biggest offender being a villainous evil organization run by a murderous drug dealer named Poppy (Julianne Moore). Like the first movie, she holds the world hostage and the Kingsman (and Statesman) must stop her before she kills everyone off. It’s all horribly predictable and frustrating.
For having such an unoriginal story, you’d think they’d find a way to whittle the time down to not make it feel long. However, the opposite happened. With the Statesman being thrown into the mix, a lame subplot involving the original Galahad (Colin Firth), and one too many action scenes, Kingsman: The Golden Circle is longer than the first in both perceived and actual time. The last thing you want is for the climax to feel boring but I couldn’t help but almost yawn and get restless.
Out of all this, the most frustrating piece is the lack of an arc for the main character Eggy. In the first movie, he had a near perfect arc, going from street hooligan to secret agent but also learning about how to be a man, have manners, and conduct himself correctly. In this, he doesn’t have an arc at all which only adds to the feeling that the movie doesn’t measure up.
When you make a sequel, the hope is the new addition will be a necessary, relevant, and worthy continuation of a good story. In this case, Kingsman: The Golden Circle is none of those things. While it holds your attention and keeps things entertaining, it doesn’t make a compelling case for its existence. Because of that, it makes you wish they’d just left things with the first movie and called it a day.
Photos courtesy of: 20th Century Fox.