In 2015, cinema-goers were treated to an absolute surprise when Kingsman: The Secret Service – a mostly unknown property that looked to be another run-of-the-mill spy parody – turned into one of the most profitable and popular films of the year, and one of my personal favourites. Featuring a lovingly crafted parody of the early Bond films, complete with over the top villains and gawky gadgets, Kingsman became a success on all cylinders.
Now, here’s the sequel and… it’s not actually the worst thing ever. But it certainly pales in comparison. If we were to compare this franchise to, say, the Bond films – if the first one was Goldfinger, then this one is probably a Live and Let Die.
Could have been worse…
Kingsman: The Golden Circle picks up a year after the events of the first film. The Kingsman organization becomes a target of drug lord Poppy Adams, who destroys the organization – leaving Eggsy and the tech support, Merlin, as the only survivors. Enacting a Doomsday protocol, the two stumble upon the Statesman “Brewery” Company, an American cousin of their own agency. Together, the Kingsman and the Statesman fight to take down Poppy, who is holding the world hostage in a bid to have recreational drugs legalized.
Everything about this film just feels slightly less impressive, less fresh and less creative than the previous film. It was inevitable, of course, with any sequel bound to lose originality, but this one is a particularly large drop. Certain aspects of the film worked, for sure – there were a few nice set pieces and some fun moments, but it was much sparser than in The Secret Service.
The cast, of course, were top-notch – and the main reason this film is watchable. Taron Egerton, who has really branched out as an actor in the 2 years since he debuted in the first Kingsman film, is a wonderful lead and returning actors such as Colin Firth and Mark Strong aid him beautifully. There’s newcomers too, mostly Americans, including Julianne Moore branching out as the villainous Poppy Adams, and the over-the-top Statesmen played by Jeff Bridges, Channing Tatum, Pedro Pascal and Halle Berry. They’re all well suited to their roles, but there was one performance that I found surprising and perhaps the best part of this movie – and that was the role of Elton John.
Why yes, I do mean THAT Elton John.
The role of Elton John was played convincingly in this film by Elton John, and it was surprisingly funny. The bulk of the belly laughs came from his scene, and his contributions to the climax of the film – set to the tune of “Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting” – was a highlight and worth the price of admission.
But there was too much filler in this movie. I often joke that you can tell the below average Bond films because they are the ones that feature a chase in a snowfield, and this film even fits that stereotype in a setpiece that felt entirely foreign to anything that we’d seen in the other movies. So much of the ironic subversion from the first film took itself seriously this time around, leading to a film that is much less fun. And when it tried to make a statement, it made the same statement as its predecessor with lessened impact. To top it off a lot of the funniest jokes were throwbacks to the first film.
Sometimes Hollywood really needs to learn to only do sequels when there’s a worthwhile idea, and this probably wasn’t it.
3/5 – a fun piece of escapism that doesn’t live up to the Kingsman brand.
P.S. Shout out to the owners of the rights to “Take Me Home, Country Roads” by John Denver. This is the third film this year, following Alien: Covenant and Logan Lucky, to prominently feature the tune. They’d be making a small fortune.