Throughout his career as a writer, producer and director Matthew Vaughn seemingly had the Midas touch: his filmography included Layer Cake, Kick-Ass and X-Men: First Class and he now returns to the Kingsman series.
A year after the events of Kingsman: The Secret Service Eggsy (Taron Egerton) is one of the top agents in the Kingsman service. However, a figure from Eggsy’s past comes back for revenge, leading to the destruction of the Kingsman. With only two members of the Kingsman left, Eggsy and Merlin (Mark Strong), head off to America to enact their doomsday protocol as a mad villain, Poppy (Julianne Moore) launches a plan that could kill millions around the world.
Kingsman: The Secret Service was a big hit back in 2015, a wonderful homage and satire of the Bond series and the spy genre as a whole and it had great potential to be a series which Vaughn and 20th Century Fox obviously saw. Kingsman: The Golden Circle marks the first Vaughn directing a sequel, having turned down the opportunity to direct Kick-Ass 2 and X-Men: Days of Future Past.
Kingsman: The Golden Circle considers to reference and homage the Bond series and the wider spy action genre. There is a larger than life villain who has a secret jungle hideout and her plot is similar to SPECTRE’s in Thunderball and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service – holding the world to ransom threatening millions of lives. There is a lot of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service in the villain’s plot, spreading a virus around the world, with one of the big set-pieces of the film taking place in the Alps.
The plot of Kingsman: The Golden Circle also echoes Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol where the Impossible Mission Force was obliterated and only four members were left. The same thing happens to the Kingsman. It could have been an interesting to see how Eggsy would have handled this situation because despite his training he is still new to the spying world and it would have been a challenge for him to avenge the Kingsman.
However, there are problems with the approach Vaughn and his writing partner Jane Goldman took. The first, which is a SPOILER, was it killed off characters fans got to know in the first film, including Roxy (Sophie Cookson) who should have had a more prominent role, or at least been more active in the field.
The other issue is the film is showing the reminding Kingsman going to their American cousins, The Statesman: an organisation they were unaware existed. Vaughn is a director who has given many of his films a very British favour. By taking the Kingsman to America and introducing a host of American characters Kingsman: The Golden Circle felt like Americanizing a British property. Vaughn has even suggested he could direct a spin-off based on The Statesman.
Vaughn does dampen this Americanizing with some political and social commentary. Like the relationship between real British and American institutions – i.e. the Americans have a lot more money and resources. Vaughn also uses the drug storyline to examine attitudes about drug use and how to deal with it in the US.
Vaughn is one of the best action directors around but with Kingsman: The Golden Circle he goes overboard with his stylish tricks. Throughout many of the action sequences the camera whizzes around so much that it is hard to tell what’s happening during the fight scenes.
The best action sequence comes towards the end – when the character Whisky (Pedro Pascal) fights off a group of soldiers in the Italian Alps – and when Harry (Colin Firth) and Eggsy launch an assault against Poppy’s fortress. One of the most impressive moments is when Harry and Eggsy are arguing and Whisky fights in the background.
Kingsman: The Golden Circle brings a lot of new additions in series – some of the biggest being Halle Berry, Pedro Pascal, Julianne Moore and surprisingly Elton John as himself – it was a one scene joke stretched out way too long. Moore was relishing her chance to play the villain – who cheerily murders people, had a logic-free plan and acts a bit like a female Donald Trump: a narcissist who craves frame and turns some hidden ruin to a monument to 1950s Americana.
The same can’t be said about Channing Tatum and Jeff Bridges. They were okay in their roles, but it seems like they were being paid by the minute – especially Tatum who only has about five to ten minutes of screentime despite his prominent billing. The American actors who had the most screentime were previously mentioned Pedro Pascal and Halle Berry, playing the Q-like figure of the film.
A criticism that was leveled against the previous Kingsman film was its ending which was seen as sexist. To counter-act in the sequel Eggsy and Princess Tilde (Hanna Alström) are in a long-term relationship which helps differentiates the series from other spy series. Despite this Kingsman: The Golden Circle has to do its own twist on the Bond seduction scene.
Despite Kingsman: The Golden Circle addressing many story threads from the previous film – one it ignores is the impact of “The Secret Service’s” finale. At the end of “The Secret Service” people around the world trying to kill each other; there were surely a large number of civilian deaths and most of the world’s leaders, including the American government, Prime Minister of Sweden and the British Royal Family had their heads explode.
Kingsman: The Golden Circle suffers a problem that many sequels have – believing that bigger is better. It is still an enjoyable action but pales in comparison to the previous Kingsman film, Vaughn’s previous films and other films in the spy-action genre.