With the exception of a certain three-digit secret agent, the spy genre has not been well received in recent years. Feeling out of touch or stuck in previous generations, it needed something to shake it up. This came in 2014 with the release of Kingsman: The Secret Service. Instead of going the dark, gritty espionage route, the film went back to colourful megalomaniac villains and code names, injecting some much needed fun back into the genre.
The popularity of the film meant a sequel was always on the cards. With the return of the stellar cast, led by breakout star Taron Egerton, the sequel had all the potential. Add a few American newbies such as Channing Tatum, Jeff Bridges and Halle Berry, things were looking good. The final seal of approval came with director Matthew Vaughn’s announcement that Colin Firth’s Harry Hart would return, despite his bloody demise in the original.
Audiences will be hoping for the same wit, charm, action and style that made Kingsman such a pleasant romp. Sadly, despite its cast and the same behind the scene talent, Kingsman: The Golden Circle is an overdone, un-engaging mess that fails to recapture what made the first such a runaway success.
Picking up a year after The Kingsman once again saved the world Eggsy, (Egerton) is a fully-fledged agent. When a familiar face attacks him and hacks the Kingsman’s security, the agency finds itself at the mercy of a drug cartel villain, who wants them out of the way. With nowhere else to turn Merlin, (Mark Strong) and Eggsy seek out Statesman, the agency’s American counterpart. But do their new allies have the same agenda and what exactly does villain Poppy, (Julianne Moore) have planned?
Here Director Vaughn and screenwriter Jane Goldman have teamed up once again. The duo previously worked together on Kingsman: The Secret Service as well as Kick-Ass and Stardust. The pair have been cautious of directing sequels to their work, usually handing over writing/directing duties to others when they have been produced, which may be why the film misses the mark.
The opening to this sequel starts well and as you would expect from a spy film. Hero Eggsy is attacked and the two fight inside a speeding London cab. The action is fast-paced with suits and gadgets all present. Soon after the film begins to establish what has happened in the year since Harry’s death and how this has effected the characters. Next, we are introduced to the films crazed villain Poppy and despite Moore’s efforts, the plot begins to spiral into too many sections to remain engaging. The story becomes messy and tries to juggle the half arcs of multiple characters. Running time is a major issue here. The narrative is stretched over a two-and-a-half-hour period and loses steam well before this. The introduction of The Statesman makes the problem even worse and the films insistence to inject action at every possible interval, fails it completely.
There is no doubt that with the original and indeed any Matthew Vaughn film, the action is always a massive draw. His ability to slick together flawless, fast-paced action into an engaging story is one of Vaughn’s signatures but here, the action has been promoted over narrative. The standard set by the Church ‘Free Bird’ scene in Kingsman was what audiences will be craving to see. The mixtures of fast paced and slowed down frame work here has been replaced with accelerate paced action, which never really lets the audience see what is happening. The sequences involving Pedro Pascal’s lasso and whip are the films best but even then, it is a step down. The amount of CGI used, particularly on locations, is also jarring on the look of the film.
Whereas the only major criticism of the first was is crass treatment of certain female characters, (yes, the Princess and her arse scene) the second film has not learned its lesson. Not only is Princess Tilde back but a sequence with Poppy Delevingne at a festival will offend or just annoy a lot of cinema goers.
The first film made relative newcomer Egerton a huge star; able to hold his own opposite renowned actors and feel both emotional and humorous in the role. Despite his continued humour and screen presence, the role offers no development and nothing new for Egerton to present as an actor. The seg-wayed emotional moments feel out of place in the action heavy narrative. What was such a great opening for the talented newcomer loses steam with this stale story.
Although Firth’s return is welcomed by all that loved the film, his opening arc is drawn out in the films long running time. Once he gets back on track he is a joy to watch but also has nothing new to offer the role.
The American cast here are frankly not necessary, despite their collective charm. They are underused and feel picked for the sake of their names, rather than relevance to the plot. Pascal, as lasso swinging Whisky, has the most relevant role but he enters the story too late to save proceedings.
An inferior sequel to the slick original. An overblown plot, running time and CGI use means Kingsman: The Golden Circle pales in comparison. The action and overall charm of the cast will please the masses but with so much talent, how did they get this so wrong?
Kingsman: The Golden Circle is out 20th September!