Kingsman: The Secret Service was a surprise hit two years ago, grossing nearly $130 million in the U.S. despite releasing in the same weekend as Fifty Shades of Grey. Written and directed by Matthew Vaughn, it does to the spy genre what Kick Ass did to the superhero genre: create a film that plays off some of the traditional tropes and clichés of the genre to create a fun action film that at times boarders on parody. Two years later, which, for better and for worse, delivers many of the same beats as the first film.
Much like its predecessor, Kingsman: The Golden Circle follows the spying adventures of Eggsy, a member of the Kingsman as they try to thwart a worldwide catastrophe. This time, instead of a crazed billionaire attempting to address global warming with a mass purge of humanity, they must take down the leader of a worldwide drug cartel trying to legalize all recreational drugs, and thus pay some taxes. The Golden Circle is clearly inspired by the Golden Triangle in Southeast Asia, which is one of the largest producers of opium in the world.
The sequel follows many steps from the original film with the training scenes being replaced with trips to the Kingsman’s U.S. counterparts, the Statesman, as well as trying to resuscitate the dormant memories of Harry Hart, aka Galahad who was presumed dead in the first film. What would have been a nice twist in the middle portion of the film was one of the main advertising aspects of the film, which is a shame, but what are you going to do? After he is snapped out of his amnesia, he, Eggsy and Merlin proceed to go on a mission to shut down the Golden Circle before it can complete a plot to kill millions of people around the world. Sound familiar?
This storyline is extremely similar to that of the first film, except Samuel L. Jacksons mountain bunker is replaced with Julianne Moore and a nostalgic 50’s town stuck in the middle of a jungle. The threat remains largely the same, which must make one wonder how long this series will go if it cannot find a different threat. There are rumblings of a third Kingsman film, but it will need to mix the formula up a bit, or else it could easily be the last of a franchise that has some potential.
However, in order to fulfill its potential, it has to avoid some pitfalls which begin to show themselves in Kingsman: The Golden Circle. Two years ago, framing a fight scene around pop music still felt fairly new and novel. Unfortunately, that is quickly becoming a cliché at this point with so many films doing the same thing (it almost seems to be the main reason Atomic Blonde was even made), and the fight sequences without the pop music are beginning to feel more fresh than those that with it.
Another element it may need to address is its level of sophistication. There is not much of it. I don’t expect every action film to try to be a Bourne film, but the Kingsman films both attempt to address high profile political issues which does require a level of sophistication to execute without coming across as ham-fisted. This comes up in both films, but it is more apparent in the second one, and it doesn’t quite hit the mark. It is perfectly acceptable for an action film to have a juvenile nature to it, especially when it is simultaneously trying to parody certain elements of the genre. Political messages, however, need to be handled with more care, otherwise then end up feeling clumsily hacked into a film and slaps the audience in the face.
Finally, the series needs to take fuller advantage of what it is: an action-spy-comedy. As mentioned before, there are elements of the film which feel like parody, yet the film never goes quite far enough to dive into the realm of parody or spoof. Is does not have to be silly in the way that those films often are, but the ability to play around with audiences expectations based on tropes and clichés is there for the taking if the filmmakers will only take advantage of it. This series can maintain much of its appeal, and potentially expand it if it can take proper advantage of the tools it has at its disposal.
Overall, this is a film that should be a fun escape for a couple of hours. It is not necessarily going to stick with the audience, but it is not necessarily trying to either. It is merely a film that aims to provide some fun and entertainment for the audience, and it accomplishes that nicely. There is still room to grow, but there is enough there for anyone interested to check out this film.