Erik Jimenez/Contributing Writer
Back in early 2015 when “Kingsman: The Secret Service” came out, it caught me by surprise by just how much fun it was. It had great and memorable action sequences, and it successfully combined the silliness of some of the Roger Moore Bond films of the ‘70s and ‘80s with the violence and shock twists that made director Matthew Vaugh’s film “Kick-A–” the cult classic that it is today.
The humor was pretty on point, feeling somewhat of a parody of “007” movie by pointing out how ridiculous it can be sometimes with what would actually happen in a situation like those if they were in the real world. Combine that with the wonderful performances of Colin Firth, Taron Edgerton, Mark Strong and the rest of the supporting cast and you had easily the best spy movie to come out that year. James Bond would have his 24th film “Specter” come out later that year. And he’s supposed to be the best movie spy, period!
So, you could say I was rather excited when they said that the sequel would have Vaughn and the rest of the cast return as well as some newcomers in the form of Halle Berry, Channing Tatum, Jeff Bridges, and Julianne Moore as the villain. I felt that it would have been nearly impossible for the film to be bad. The Lord himself would have to make this movie tank. And while the film is not a stinker, one thing has remained clear since my viewing; that “Kingsman: The Golden Circle” is nowhere in the same league as it’s predecessor.
Set a year after the events of the first movie, Eggsy (Taron Edgerton) is on his way home until he is ambushed by Charlie (Edward Holcroft), a Kingsman trainee that turned rogue at the end of the last film and apparently survived the climax. A spectacular chase through London ensues and though Eggsy escapes, it’s not before the rogue agent plants a hacking device on the Kingsman server.
Shortly after, missiles destroy the Kingsman headquarters and wipe out all the agents in Britain. Being the only survivors, Eggsy and tech wizard Marlin (Mark Strong) discover clues to the Golden Circle, a massive underground drug organization who may be behind the attack, run by Poppy Adams (Julianne Moore), who is so obsessed with the ‘50s that she partially converted her evil hideout into a town that one is more likely to see in Happy Days or Grease.
They eventually follow the Kingsman Doomsday Protocol which leads them to the Statesman, a secret American organization posing as a bourbon and whiskey distillery in Kentucky. Soon it becomes clear that Eggsy and Merlin will have to team up with the Statesman agents to stop The Golden Circle, but not before they learn that Harry (Colin Firth) has survived his injuries from the first film, suffering from amnesia. Eggsy realizes that the only hope they have to save the world is for Harry to regain his memories as it becomes clear that the enemy they face will require his skills to defeat.
Starting with the negatives, my biggest issue with it is that unlike the first film’s balance of seriousness and silliness, Golden Circle takes the silliness dial and ranks it from a 5 or 6 to 11.5 (theoretically). The best example of that balance from the first film is the fight scene in the church, where the ridiculousness of what was happening was immediately followed by learning that the consequences following that event were visceral and realistic.
“Kingsman 2” has nothing like that. By ramping up the campiness of the first film, it makes basically any serious moment that happens weak because how can we be shocked by character death scenes when the way they are taken out is so damn over the top? It’s almost like a joke in and of itself.
This also affects the overall action scenes. Though visually spectacular and clearly trying to top the first film, there is a constant feeling of low-to-no stakes throughout. Combine that with a pace that makes the 140-minute runtime of the film feel as long as it is, it is clear that Vaughn’s vision was to ramp everything that people remember the most from the first film and just do more of that. It feels like he left the character development and interest behind.
The actors do the best with the material they got. Colin Firth, Taron Edgerton, and Mark Strong are clearly the MVP’s of the film. They fit back into their characters like a glove, although they don’t develop much. Everyone else is used so minimally, it almost feels like the studio lied to us about how important the Statesmen are to the film. Tatum, Berry and Bridges, though memorable, may as well be considered extended cameos.
Pedro Pascal is the main Statesmen agent that tags along with Eggsy and Harry, but a twist with his character happens very late in the film and feels like it’s there to run the clock.
Julianne Moore’s Poppy is perhaps the biggest disappointment. While Samuel L. Jackson’s villain from part 1 was very eccentric and weird and a bit campy, he was still a very brilliant and ruthless man that you never underestimated how dangerous he was. And Edward Holcroft as Charlie with his robotic arm is nowhere near as cool or memorable as Sofia Boutella and her springblade legs.
Admittedly though, the film still left me wishing for a third Kingsman or at least a Statesman spin-off which is supposedly in the works. I didn’t hate the Statesman. I just wish they did more with them, not to mention they probably have the best use of Elton John in a movie I have seen, both physically and musically. I’m not sure whether or not I want to see Vaughn return to direct, but I’m willing to give him one more chance.
Screen Skeptic is a column by Erik Jimenez that features reviews on the latest movies in theaters. The views and opinions of Screen Skeptic do not reflect that of FIU Student Media’s editorial board.