Sequels are hard, especially when you lose the original director, an instance of this was with Kick-Ass 2 (2013), a thoroughly underwhelming sequel to director Matthew Vaughn’s original film. Thankfully time around Matthew Vaughn is here to ensure that Kingsman remains untarnished.
The story continues the journey of Eggsy (Taron Egerton) months after the events of the first film as a full-fledged member of the Kingsman. The story is set in motion with the destruction of the Kingsman headquarters by the villain known as Poppy (Julianne Moore) – this leaves Eggsy and his intelligence officer Merlin (Mark Strong) to fend for themselves and discover the mystery behind the secretive American agency known as the “Statesman”, a threat to the world, and the surprising return of Harry “Galahad” (Colin Firth).
Right off the bat, this movie was wildly entertaining as almost any Matthew Vaughn film tends to be – Vaughn has the distinct ability to make his films serious, silly, and thrilling all at the same time – much like his work on Kickass (2010) his films can move from scene to scene without much detection that the tone is changing by getting a nice balance of comedy and emotion out the cast. Taron Egerton’s role remains relatively similar to where he left off and it becomes clear that his character isn’t set up for growth in this film. Some deeper development would have been welcomed in this regard as it would have been nice to see how much joining the Kingman has impacted his personal life. The return of Colin Firth’s character in particular offers an interesting switch up that took me by surprise; I liked the approach they made with his character but I just wish they would have gone further. Julianne Moore manages to outshine much of the cast by offering up a unique and interesting take as a sadistic and glowing female villain; her bright and “American soccer mom” persona adds such an unsettling tone that may even outperform what Samuel L. Jackson offered.
She handles situations in a sadistic manner while simultaneously holding a genuinely warming smile, she was bat-shit insane. Mark Strong offers an emotional performance that really brings his character to a further level of depth. The supporting cast from the Statesman play fairly minor roles – Pedro Pascal proves that he can do more than play a quick-witted Spaniard/Chilean; he offers up a fairly convincing American accent and performs his role in style. I’ll say it straight; Channing Tatum is barely in this film. Elton John is in this movie as well, he can get a bit annoying at times.
Matthew Vaughn’s directing style and specifically his visual style has had its high points and low points – his CGI and long distance shots tend to be noticeably fake with digital extras and landscapes being abundant and very noticeable, however, his close quarters fight scenes (both slow motion and intensely fast-paced) offer heart-pounding moments that look and feel like they came from a $200 million dollar film. There are more than a few moments in this film where the CGI was visibly bad – the robot dogs had some strikingly bad moments, yes, robot dogs. The costuming was classy and clean as always, I just wish they supplemented a lot of the CGI interiors for real sets. The soundtrack never goes too far with its themes, always balancing a level of old style and new, we get Frank Sinatra and then heavily remixed action music, with both working well in their respective scenes.
What might the overall negatives be? Vaughn had trouble with creating a fresh approach, much of the story and characters felt airily similar to the first film with some adjustments made; and while I liked some of the call-backs, there was frankly one too many, what makes a sequel truly great is that it offers a different approach from the first film, I would have enjoyed seeing a more major role of the Statesman characters and the certain things could have certainly been cut to make way for this. Vaughn truly has so many ups and downs that it becomes difficult to decide whether the movie was “good” or just “okay”, he handles one characters outing in a grand way and another in an abrupt and almost unsatisfying way, I feel the film would have been better suited taking a far more serious approach.
Despite not being quite as dashing as the first film – director Matthew Vaughn has managed to make a film that fits the most of the important criteria for a decent sequel, be entertaining. With a villain just as sharp as the first installment – Kingsman: The Golden Circle offers some tailored fit thrills and solid casting; though not perfect, it stylishly succeeds as an entertaining sequel.