By: Mark Farmer, Entertainment Writer
Matthew Vaughn’s Kingsman: The Golden Circle released into theaters this past weekend. Starring Taron Egerton and Colin Firth as members of the eponymous spy agency, the remaining Kingsman must track down the source of a mysterious virus, who may have also been responsible for the obliteration of the entire organization.
Two years after the release of Kingsman: The Secret Service, Matthew Vaughn helms his first sequel with The Golden Circle. When I saw the trailer for the first film, I was immediately turned off; It seemed more akin to Agent Cody Banks but in 2013 rather than 2003. But there was more than meets the eye- Rather than just another “teenage spy” movie, The Secret Service had Vaughn’s expertly-directed action sequences plus some laugh-out-loud lines of dialog that lampshade other Bond-like spy films (like Agent Cody Banks). Unlike other genre-breaking flicks like Deadpool, The Secret Service walked the fine line between mocking the genre but also serving poignant moments that made you care about the characters (a problem many postmodern irony-laden works have).
Its sequel, The Golden Circle, seems to really eschew most of those lampshading moments and instead moves more towards a pretty basic action-spy-flick. Fans of the original will love seeing the old characters back in action again, plus the beautifully shot action sequences are pure eye candy. Beyond those pieces, however, most of The Golden Circle’s additions to the franchise are very hit-or-miss.
The new villain, Julianne Moore’s Poppy Adams, sucks. She is poorly introduced, and her character, especially compared to Samuel L. Jackson’s Richmond Valentine, is incredibly dull. Valentine had a lisp, an aversion to blood, and a comical way of dressing, on top of his dastardly plan to take over the world- All interesting characteristics that were used to their full comedic benefit. Poppy, on the other hand, is basically textbook Bond villain: She loves bad puns, she’s into the 1950s, and she immediately explains her take-over plot to every relevant authority- used to absolutely no comedic effect. The villain drop-off really hits the movie hard in the sequel.
The new characters have a massive amount of potential. The idea of the Kingsman traveling to America and meeting their agency’s counterpart is a really neat idea that has plenty of opportunity. With the Americans being played by Jeff Bridges, Halle Berry, and Channing Tatum, I was really curious to see how they’d work alongside the current cast of Kingsman agents. But these characters get virtually no screentime, with most of the plot centering around Narcos-veteran Pedro Pascal and his character, who- don’t get me wrong -is a great actor and a kinda interesting character, but is surrounded by an aire of wasted potential from his Statesman counterparts.
Even scenes featuring the old characters seem to lack the charm they had from the previous iteration. Characters like Sophie Cookson’s Roxy and Hanna Alström’s Princess Tilde make a return in Kingsman, but every scene they’re included in lacks the emotion that Vaughn is hoping for with The Golden Circle. The meaningful scenes that made The Secret Service just a cut above the rest are gone in the sequel (save for one special moment with Merlin).
These changes make The Golden Circle more of a cliché action flick than an ironic film full of lampshading, and it’s worse off for it. Still, I cannot deny how much fun I had during the film’s two hour runtime- The main cast is still hilarious, and every action sequence is an absolute joy to watch, just like the last Kingsman. Fans of the original will still enjoy watching this new iteration, even if it’s not nearly as good as the first. That said, audiences who didn’t enjoy the first Kingsman aren’t going to find anything of value here; In fact, they’ll probably like this one much less than the other.