Matthew Vaughn returns with a second installment of the (somewhat) surprise hit, Kingsman. This installment sacrifices some of the franchise’s penchant for surprise in exchange for trying to extend the story of the first movie. It also adds some big name actors to draw audiences in.
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Eggsy (Taron Egerton) is now a full fledged Kingsman, having taken over the role of Galahad after Harry Hart’s (Colin Firth) death in the first movie. Also surviving from Kingsman: The Secret Service are Eggsy’s trainer and weapon-guy, Merlin (Mark Strong), and his close friend and new Lancelot, Roxy (Sophie Cookson), as well as some other higher ups in the Kingsman. Eggsy is also now in a full on relationship with the blonde, Swedish princess from the first movie. We now know her name is Princess Tilde (Hanna Alstrom).
Things quickly get interesting for Eggsy when Charlie (Edward Holcroft), the snobby Kingsman recruit who ended up throwing in with Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson in the first movie, appears outside of the tailor shop. Charlie is now working for Poppy (Julianne Moore), the world’s biggest drug kingpin. Poppy has a plan to hold the world hostage by lacing her drugs with an agent that will cause a slow and painful death unless the U.S. agrees to stop their war on drugs and legalize the drug trade, making her empire legitimate. In order to allow her plan to run smoothly she launches a coordinated missile strike on every member of the Kingsman, missing only Eggsy and Merlin. The two remaining Kingsmen access their doomsday contingency and find out that it’s a bottle of bourbon that is meant to lead them to their American counterparts, the Statesmen.
Where Kingsman went into the tailoring business and use Arthurian code names, Statesman went into the liquor business and use beverages as their code names. They are led by Champagne (Jeff Bridges), who goes by Champ. Their resident loose cannon is Tequila (Channing Tatum). Ginger Ale (Halle Berry) is their version of Merlin, working support and tech. Then there’s their top agent, Whiskey (Pedro Pascal). They also reveal one other surprising piece of information: they have Harry Hart alive and in their custody. Harry’s life was saved by a Statesman technology called “Alpha Gel”, which they use to treat their agent’s head shot wounds. The problem is that he’s amnesiac after the process but, with Merlin and Eggsy’s help, they are able to restore his memories.
Harry, Eggsy and Whiskey head out with Whiskey to try to get the antidote to Poppy’s poison, but their mission goes sideways and Whiskey is shot in the head. With time running out to save the people affected by the poison, including Princess Tilde, Eggsy rushes out to try to take down Poppy. Not believing that they can fully trust Statesman, Eggsy, Merlin and Harry head out on their own. When they get to Poppy’s nostalgia laden hideout, they find landmines, robotic dogs, plenty of heavily armed henchmen and…Elton John. In a blur of stylized motion, familiar to anyone who’s seen the first movie, they make their way through Poppy’s henchman, including a double agent, before somewhat casually saving the world’s drug users from a horrible death.
- Some audience members may be disappointed to learn that Channing Tatum isn’t in the movie as much as the previews may suggest. Most of his scenes are in the previews, and a couple of moments from the previews aren’t in the movie. However, if there is a 3rd installment of the franchise, he seems to be poised to return.
- Speaking of Tatum, he also starts in another summer movie: Logan Lucky. In both movies Tatum sports a distinctive southern accent. Both movies also prominently feature characters singing the song “Take Me Home, Country Roads” by John Denver.
- It’s funny to me that after being told that Harry requires a jolt from a traumatic experience in his past, Merlin and Eggsy’s biggest problem is trying to find which traumatic event it is. Since all the events seem to be related to his Kingsman training, maybe that’s a sign that they should rethink their training methodology.
- Elton John actually plays a significant role in this movie. Of course, there’s a couple of scenes backed by his songs. Most notably, “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting”.
What did I think?
Overall, this is an enjoyable movie and it definitely retains that almost animated style that the first Kingsman movie had. However, it doesn’t feel like it’s quite as shocking or subversive as the first movie. Several elements of this movie seemed to be different versions of something we saw in the first movie.
- The villain is a weird juxtaposition of characteristics, but this time, instead of being a psychotic nerd the villain is a cannibalistic 1970’s homemaker.
- The weird fighting style of Valentine’s female henchman, was substituted for Whiskey’s eclectic fighting with whips and ropes.
- The scenes of Valentine’s followers having their heads blown off were replaced with the depiction of thousands of drug addicts going through mania and having their eyes explode.
- In the first movie, Harry was sacrificed to impart a sense of loss. In this movie, it was Merlin. Of course, Harry got to go out in one of the most amazing fight scenes in recent memory. Merlin, went out singing a John Denver song. While awesome in it’s own right, I wouldn’t say the two scenes are equivalent.
- Harry and Eggsy’s relationship was a big “feel good” part of the first movie and they clearly wanted to recapture that. This time, it was Eggsy brining Harry along instead of the other way around.
These aren’t bad parts of the movie, they just don’t hit with the same “wow factor” that the other elements did in the first movie.
I think the biggest change that this movie made was trying to readjust what many saw as the first movie’s biggest misstep: the “anal sex” princess. They actually made her a character instead of a misplaced punchline. She even comes and hangs out with Eggsy and his mates back in the ‘hood where he grew up. The princess also adds an element that the first movie seemed to want to omit: a love story. Having a true romantic interest did allow for there to be a little bit more in the way of traditional emotional attachment but, I think, it betrayed the “Kingsman sensibility” of taking familiar tropes and turning them on their head. Outside of the scene where Eggsy is surprising Tilde’s parents with the information that’s being fed through his glasses, the interactions involving Tilde are pretty rote for a romantic interest / hostage in an action movie.
Of course, the big addition was the introduction of the Statesman organization. Obviously, they add a big insertion of star power into the movie. However, most of the characters don’t really add much to the movie. Jeff Bridges is really only in a couple of scenes and doesn’t do much more than drink, spit and sit at a table. Channing Tatum has one cool, but short fight scene. Halle Berry and Pedro Pascal do the most with their screen time, not only affecting the story but also getting to interact with their British counterparts. Even if the individual characters were hit or miss, I did like the idea of the Statesman. Giving the Kingsman a sister organization that’s committed to helping and staying out of the way is a fun idea. Given that we were shown that they’ve got a lot of members, I’m hoping that they could be explored further if there is a 3rd installment.
I’d definitely watch a 3rd installment of the Kingsman franchise. I’d just be coming in to the 3rd movie with slightly lowered expectations.
Kingsman: The Golden Circle (2017)
- Everything that's good about the first Kingsman is still in this movie
- Action scenes keep their distinctive look
- The wit and humor is still their
- Doesn't "wow" as much as the original
- Feels like it tries to stay too close to the formula of the first movie