The first Kingsman was pretty good. It followed a comic book of the same name by Mark Millar, a fellow Scotsman and writer who sold out years ago. His stories are glorified spec-scripts designed to be adapted and Matthew Vaughn was up to the task with Kick-Ass and Kingsman. What makes the first movie great is how straight it plays the Bond inspired set-up, juxtaposed with violence and dark humor. Vaughn comes from British crime thrillers that share the same formula and he does it well. Kingsman was a perfect balance of stylish action and a sense of heart thanks to Taron Egerton’s Eggsy and Samuel Jackson being crazy. It was a fun, cathartic film and I have a good feeling about The Golden Circle.
After the Kingsmen are wiped out in Britain Eggsy and Merlin, played by Mark Strong, go west to the United States. They slowly unfurl a plot involving a drug kingpin holding the world hostage with a deadly virus.
Picture Anchorman 2; it is not a bad movie, but unlike the first it went headlong into crazy far too quickly. The previous installment built up to the insanity, letting the humanity and realism of the comedy take control. Now imagine if Anchorman 2 was Austin Powers in Goldmember and you get Golden Circle. If you feel the sudden urge to kill yourself, no one will blame you.
There is no juxtaposition, no sense of seriousness to back up the touches of humor and stylish violence. The last film took after Bond, but it was in no way a parody. The premise was a foundation for the transformation into something new and different. The self-aware quality of the first movie that was thankfully not acknowledged makes up the entirety of Golden Circle. From the get-go no one is serious about what is going on because they know they are in a movie. It is just a game and a bad one at that, yet they try so hard.
This comes through in many places, one of which being the extended cameo of Elton John. Instead of keeping him around to scream at other characters because that was actually funny, he had an action scene where he was mugging for the camera while “Saturday” played in the background. You also do not care about what is going because there is no reason. Without the seriousness, how can the audience care if the film does not either? Eggsy had a girlfriend that was infected with the virus, but the lack of urgency and a feeling that shit is real made it totally pointless. And do not get me started on the President character or the scenes in Italy.
There is no finesse or narrative flow to keep the story moving at a decent clip. Scenes just happen in a disparate fashion, one on top of the other with no sense of direction. It was as though the story had a checklist of conditions that had to be met. Rather than construct a smooth narrative where each piece flowed into the other, the editor assembled it according to the list like a doctor performing a routine check-up.
All simple stories are linear, but you can have each plot point happen with some semblance of a clean transition. There is no build up to the villain’s grand plan, the Kingsman’ investigation of said plan, and nothing especially interesting about how it all happens. Then Merlin gets killed off, Channing Tatum is frozen virtually out of nowhere, and Colin Firth is cured of amnesia 10 minutes after he is reintroduced for no reason. It does not feel good to experience, like watching a montage that was ripped apart and edited out of order.
The only good parts are the action scenes. Vaughn has not lost his touch with a ton of faux long shots and slow motion. It looks great with nice choreography and grappling that was cool, despite my desire to see that whole move-set struck from existence. The performances were also acceptable with everyone doing their part. Julianne Moore did her best as the boring villain and Halle Berry was surprisingly okay.
That is all.
Kingsman: The Golden Circle is terrible. It is disappointing, not fun, and not worth your time and money. If anyone says it is somehow good they are either stupid or lying (looking at you, IGN). Wait a couple months for the action scenes to appear on YouTube and watch those instead. Better yet, watch the first Kingsman because it is fantastic in every way the sequel is not.