A fun but forgettable spy parody gets a sequel that feels completely unnecessary.
Eggsy, as a fully-fledged Kingsman agent, finds the odds stacked against him when a secretive but powerful drug baroness destroys the agency and holds the world hostage, he needs to find allies, new and old, to stop the supervillain.
Nobody asked for a Kingsman sequel, and despite all of this film’s glossy appearance and self-awareness, The Golden Circle stumbles around with a discordant tone and arbitrary screenplay writing. It is more Men in Black II than Beverly Hills Cop 2. To compare it to its action/comedy peers.
It is easily, easily worse than the first film (which I quite enjoyed, for all the cliche spy-parody stuff we’ve seen many times before, it still had great action sequences) generating very little cause for concern for our characters because it is implemented all so arbitrarily and without purpose, while the villains are utterly hopeless, with a hokey plan and zero presence, ultimately leading to a disappointing payoff. It is a film without a steady motivation, heaps and heaps of subplots, none of which get enough time to mature; it hopes to just dazzle you, but the sheen wears thin very quickly.
To elaborate, spoilers will be required. So here’s your warning.
A sequel, regardless of its genre or trappings of any sort, generally needs to raise the stakes, to challenge the protagonist further and change the rules. While Kingsman 2 does the obvious bit (destroying Kingsman’s operation) it utterly fails at almost everything else. Eggsy’s dear dog JB gets blown up, and for this film (and the previous one) the agent’s dogs were cornerstones of their personal lives. Yet this is brushed aside: “Here’s a new dog, can’t replace JB, but hey,” and this other dog isn’t seen again.
Or Harry, who is no surprise to anyone, given Colin Firth’s return is in every trailer, does indeed return. Why? Pretty much no reason at all. No thematic reason. No reason that couldn’t have been written out completely. His return does give perhaps the only deep character scene in the film, but his return also sets the old pretense: does death matter in this franchise? Heck, even Mark Strong gets the axe… Probably my favourite character in the first film. Not only is it executed extremely poorly (how wasn’t that avoided?) but Harry survived a bullet to the brain… who’s to say Merlin doesn’t survive also?
Then, there’s the real issue. Juilianne Moore’s evil Poppy. A druglord who apparently made all the drugs in the world. Cannibis, Cocaine, Ecstasy, etc etc. Now, that’s more than a little unlikely. But it goes on with her “plan” that everyone who’s taken her drugs is now fatally poisoned (huh…) and she has the cure (huh…) to give everyone on the condition her regular drugs are legalized.
This is so stupid. Even the deeper moral debate involved is not explored because this film is too busy being jovial and self-aware (Eggsy required to finger a girl, anyone?) to such an extent that I actually thought of what this film’s villainous US President thought before he said it! I was agreeing with the villains, on a serious moral issue!
This isn’t because I am totally corrupt and want thousands of people to die, it is because the film gave zero personal urgency to any of it for our characters. Oh, but Eggsy’s fiancee eventually succumbs to the poison. Yet another totally arbitrary event, it has no foreshadowing, no setup or thematic device earlier. The Princess of Sweden apparently does ecstasy, and its no big deal to anyone.
Plus, Eggsy and Princess Tilde have a totally arbitrary falling-out, they have no reconciliation, he saves her and millions of others by proxy (not personally) and the next thing we know they are getting married! Waaaaaaaaa??
I really am struggling to think of good things. The American version of the Kingsman, The Statesman, was neat (no pun intended) and there’s one action sequence (yes, just one, the rest are far too heavily CGI-altered) that was awesome. The film is visually popping, and Pedro Pascal as Whiskey was probably the show-stealer, he was giving a lot more energy than anyone else.
It is a paper-thin and ridiculous movie, reminding me of all the stupidest sequels that miss the value of their character arcs. The most useless villains put to film in recent memory, providing zero credibility (at least Stormtroopers FIRE their guns when they have them!) and despite its glossiness, it succumbs to nitpicking so easily it is like pulling a single thread that unravels the entire tapestry.
A film that tries to do too much, and achieves nothing.
Why would a villain openly tell us she uses robots (highly advanced robots) instead of humans because humans are unreliable… yet have loads of humans in her main base,: 90% of her defense force is human.