It’s a preconceived notion of sequels that you need to capitalise on the success of the predecessor by giving the audience more of what they want. Hell, look at Aliens. What could be scarier than Alien than a plural? Of course, not every film can be Aliens, and often those that try to appease their target audience end up over-egging the pudding. A metaphor which brings me neatly to Kingsman: The Golden Circle.
After the events of the first film, we find our hero Eggsy (Taron Egerton) having settled into his life as a gentleman spy. When he’s not in high speed chases around Trafalgar Square, he’s living a relatively normal, suburban life with Princess Tilde of Sweden (Hanna Alström), who you may remember from that ‘hilarious’ final joke from the first film. And that’s not all. Further afield, Poppy Adams (Julianne Moore), a drug dealing sociopath with an Americana fetish, sets the wheels in motion to bring about the end of the Kingsman. And that’s not all. Her mission is successful and Eggsy, along with tech wizard Merlin (Mark Strong), must join forces with the Statesman, a whiskey quaffing US based alternative to their own agency, to defeat her. And that’s not all. In doing so, the men discover that Eggsy’s pedagogue and father figure, Harry (Colin Firth), did not die in the first film and is in fact suffering a strong dose of amnesia. And that’s not all…
To put it bluntly, there is way too much going on in The Golden Circle. Putting aside the main mission (get revenge), we also have to deal with another crack at Eggsy’s origins from the first film as he struggles to find his place in Tilde’s life. Oh look, Eggsy is rough and ready, but he’s no match for a royal family. Additionally, having only scratched the surface when it came to the world of the Kingsman, director Matthew Vaughn and co-writer Jane Goldman literally blow that all up so they can world build again with The Statesman. The actual idea of a country specific agency is fine – Channing Tatum, Halle Berry and Jeff Bridges are all lovely – but it all amounts to two stereotypes being used to help sell the film to two audiences: ‘OOH, WEE! Ain’t the British posh!’ vs ‘I say, the Americans are frightfully uncouth!’ Also, the introduction of the Stateman begs the question: what the hell were they doing when Samuel L Jackson was threatening to turn everyone into psychos in the first film? The Stateman is an idea for a second sequel, when you’ve had Eggsy and his original team go on a mission to save Scotland from a celebrity chef who wants to turn everyone into Haggis if they don’t become vegan. I don’t know, I’m just spit balling. However, I argue my idea would allow you to invest in its characters more than this film did.
There is something interesting to mined out of the resurrection of Harry. In the previous film, he had been a champion of bringing fresh blood into the Kingsman, but now he finds himself perhaps too old and rusty to be a part of their new world. That is interesting to me, and the film does nothing with it. Speaking of having nothing to do with it, with Moore’s Poppy isolated to a tropical island for reasons not fully fleshed out, she never interacts with any of the other characters until extremely late in the day. The result being that she never feels like a true threat or actually part of the story.
Yes, The Golden Circle still has that great taxi scene and punch up that you saw in the trailer, but there’s a reason you saw them so much in the marketing. For an action film, there is very little action. That in of itself is a criminal offence. I wanted less talking and more fighting. The Kingsman franchise is so much more fun when people are throwing pint glasses and chairs at each other.
So, what can we take away from Kingsman: The Golden Circle? What makes the whole thing worthwhile? Two words: Elton John. Trading in on his reputation as being one of the angriest men on the yellow brick road, the crooner steals literally every scene he’s in. Come for solid performances from Egerton and Firth and a fairly standard take over the world plot, but stay for the Bitch. Honestly, the film’s running time is just about worth it.