Review: Kingsman: The Golden Circle

Director: Matthew Vaughn
Writers: Jane Goldman, Matthew Vaughn
Producers: Adam Bohling, David Reid, Matthew Vaughn
Starring: Taron Egerton, Mark Strong, Julianne Moore, Pedro Pascal, Hanna Alström, Colin Firth, Channing Tatum, Halle Berry, Jeff Bridges
MPAA Rating: R
Running time: 141 min.

 

 

My original posting of this review can be found on LetterBoxd

 


The general attitude for making a sequel is “more” and Kingsman: The Golden Circle follows that straight to its demise. There’s more action, more style, more CGI, more characters, and it all drowns whatever this movie could have been, turning it into a barely tolerable assault on the senses that’s all confection and nothing more. The first Kingsman movie was a breath of fresh air, bringing a subversive tongue in cheek edge to the current glut of franchise movies that are so tired and repetitive, with each one feeling like an imitation of everything else. Of course, making a sequel to such a film creates the dilemma of how you can keep things consistent while still bringing that level of creativity to the table. Matthew Vaughn and company clearly weren’t up to the task, and their solution was apparently just to overwhelm this beast (running almost two and a half hours for god knows why) by throwing as much at the screen as they possibly could.

To be fair, The Golden Circle isn’t all bad. As far as the style and sense of humor goes, it does still feel unique among the rest of the pack of franchises out here, even if it can’t achieve the level of success in either of those departments that the first film did, particularly in the case of the comedy as a lot of the jokes in this one fall very flat. The action is still incredibly fun and inventive, although again they definitely do overdo it and nothing can compare to the incredible church fight in the film’s predecessor. Perhaps its finest asset though is the charm of leading man Taron Egerton. As is the case with the other compliments I can give the film, this does come with a caveat. A large part of the appeal of the first film was watching Egerton’s Eggsy on his Pygmalion arc from street thug to super spy, and inevitably we don’t get to enjoy any of that this time around since he starts the film off already established as a Kingsman. At the same time, it allows us to enjoy the charm of Egerton fully embracing that role from start to finish, and there’s plenty of fun there.

The counter point to that, unfortunately, is the incredibly misguided decision to bring back Colin Firth’s Harry. I won’t spoil how they justify this return in the context of the film, suffice it to say that the direction/explanation they take with it is unbelievably disappointing and retroactively damages one of the things that made the first film so great. It’s just one example of how messy and awkwardly written The Golden Circle is. Julianne Moore’s villain is completely isolated, removed from the action, and doesn’t have any interaction with the main cast until the very end for an incredibly brief period of time. It’s such a shame when you compare it to how great the first film handled Samuel L. Jackson’s memorable villain. It wouldn’t be hard to forget that Moore was even in this, and she’s the big baddie!

Forgetting about these new additions to the cast is pretty much par for the course on The Golden Circle though, as all of the highly advertised new names are underused to criminal proportions. Halle Berry has a cute, plucky role but the attempt to give her agency at the end feels unearned and she’s largely on the sidelines. Jeff Bridges is around for all of five minutes and is totally unmemorable. Worst of all, though, is Channing Tatum, who was certainly touted as the most exciting new addition to the cast in the advertising and build up to the film. He is introduced as a major new character, but then removed from the action after about five minutes for pretty much the entire movie. It’s almost hilarious how little he’s in the movie, and the awkward way that he’s sidelined is a clear indication that he had some scheduling conflict come up and they couldn’t wait for him, so instead they replaced what his character would have done for the rest of the movie with Pedro Pascal’s character.

Like a lot of The Golden Circle, this whole kerfuffle couldn’t have been handled more awkwardly, but of course instead of getting rid of Tatum they just took what they could get so they could make as much cash as possible off the value of his name. It’s a prime example of how rushed and messy this whole production was, and that’s not hidden whatsoever in the mangled final product. The first Kingsman was one of my favorite tentpole movies of the past decade at least, making this one of the very few sequels I’ve actually looked forward to in recent years. Sadly, The Golden Circle is nothing but a giant disappointment.