Sunday, 1 October 2017

Kingsman: The Golden Circle (2017)

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Not gold standard

Director: Matthew Vaughn
Runtime: 141 Minutes
Starring: Colin Firth, Julianne Moore, Taron Egerton, Mark Strong, Halle Berry, Elton John, Channing Tatum, Jeff Bridges, Pedro Pascal, Edward Holcroft, Hanna Alström, Poppy Delevingne, Bruce Greenwood, Emily Watson

It's been 2 years since Kingsman: The Secret Service proved itself a hit with audiences and critics alike, so of course it's time for a sequel. If the first picture could be described as a spy venture in the self-referential vein of Kick-Ass, then the sequel is an ineffectually directed, juvenile money grab in the vein of Kick-Ass 2.

A year has passed since the events of the first film, and Eggsy (Taron Egerton) has adapted to his Kingsman status considerably, while being in a serious relationship with Princess Tilde (Hanna Alström). After a drone strike from drug dealer Poppy (Julianne Moore) sees the Kingsman organisation dismantled, and some personal losses for Eggsy, it's up to him and Merlin (Mark Strong) to seek out help from their American counterparts, the Statesman, where they discover the return of Eggsy's formerly desceased mentor, Harry Hart (Colin Firth).

Matthew Vaughn clears the board in a manner reminiscent of G.I. Joe: Retaliation. What was set up in the previous film is torn down, in an effort to introduce all new characters, establish the brand new organization called "Statesman", and to briefly relocate to America. Ultimately though, it feels like a pointless change to the story which fails to hold lasting changes for the story. Channing Tatum and Jeff Bridges are essentially given cameo appearances as Statesman agents, with the screentime in favour of Sir Elton John. It's jarring that it was believed audiences would prefer multiple scenes of the latter swearing, as opposed to Tatum or Bridges delivering their usual charisma and charm.

Image result for kingsman the golden circle youtubeDespite meeting a pretty certain end in the previous film, Colin Firth makes a return appearance. A clear attempt to add an emotional factor, particularly with inverting the roles of Eggsy and Harry, but this resurrection brings up more problems than it initially realizes. If there's technology to reverse something so final as having ones brains blown out, who's to say other forms of supposedly fatal ends cannot also be reversed? This is a step backwards for the franchise, as this decision has gotten rid of any potential peril that could be held for these characters.

There appears to have been a humour vacuum present during filming, as it feels as though the jokes have completely vanished. In their place are the most juvenile of attempts, with the most notable inclusion being an abundance of unneeded swears. While the first film wasn't a Mel Brooks masterclass in comedy, it's humour at least served some purpose, be it to skewer Bond, highlight the differences between Eggsy and the rest of the Kingsmen, and build on the My Fair Lady scenario at the centre of it all. There was more to it than an F word here and there to compensate. Adding to the juvenile nature is one scene involving the placement of a tracker on a target. It's an overly crass moment, which has no reason to exist in the manner it does.

Not helping matters is the films length. While a truly great film can make a long runtime fly past you, every minute is felt right here. In spite of the 141 minute length, there's little time devoted to exploring the grand plan of Poppy, the antagonist gleefully played by Julianne Moore. Her plan to make drugs legal is an intriguing one, especially when arguments are brought to the table about what is legal. The problem is how nobody bothers to actually delve into the pros and cons of such an argument, simplifying such a topic with "all drug users are bad". Considering the previous instalment gave decent arguments about class issues, the unexplored nature of this makes it feel rather perfunctory.

To the films credit, the ever reliable cast do wonderfully in their roles. Taron Egerton proves himself a wonderful young star once more, while Colin Firth and Mark Strong prove ever reliable in reprising their roles. Of the Statesman, Pedro Pascal makes the biggest impression as Agent Whiskey. In regards to the fight sequences, the opening one is executed pretty well to Prince's "Let's Go Crazy", while the finale impresses with two separate moments of action. A storming of the villains Cambodian lair set to "Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting", and a fight spliced together, giving the impression that it's been done in one take. In-between those moments are an unfortunate disappointment, while one snowy set-piece feels like the film's going through the motions. Also, was another bar fight entirely necessary?

Kingsman: The Golden Circle joins the ever-growing list of disappointing sequels. What Matthew Vaughn has brought to screen is both an overly juvenile picture, and an ill thought out, overlong follow-up. Maybe it's best for a third entry to be passed off to an entirely different director.

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