Taron Egerton and Colin Firth return to helm Kingsman: The Golden Circle. Can it continue the strength of the 2015 original? Lee reviews.
The difficulty with crafting a sequel to 2015’s excellent Kingman: The Secret Service is that while the spy thriller genre popularised by Bond has ample room for further parody, and while the continued exaggeration of those tropes could yet make for further exposing of the gimmicks that fester within modern blockbuster franchises, it was always going to be near-impossible to double the standards for the sequel while also keeping that golden balance of sentimentality that helped ground the original midst all the chaos. Yet Kingsman: The Golden Circle tries regardless, and it’s not hard to admire the attempt.
Yet while doubling the scale of every element might seem like the recipe for doubling the fun, unfortunately The Golden Circle exposes more holes in its original make-up than it can fill in with new material. The new target for parody – the Bondian template sequel – hits most of the marks thanks to the amping of violence, action, cast size, stakes and variety in settings to preposterous new highs. However, by taking the eyes off the original anti-machismo spoof and attempting to normalise the sentimentality in this universe, Vaughn and Goldman shift the focus somewhat too far in favour of rationalising this universe as the new normal – and that normal still happens to contain quite an obvious amount of stereotypes that are now no longer being made obvious.
This might not be much of an issue to anyone who watched the original, but as a standalone movie that for the most part really can stand on its own two feet (much like the Bond films it intends to ape), audiences are very likely to miss the groundwork that helps us contextualise that parody and just accept that it is what it is because it is what it is; somewhere no one really wants to go. Call it a job done too well, perhaps, as the film fits so succinctly into sequel territory it helps us accept its flaws all the more readily.
For others, that might not be such a big deal, but here’s another slight; it’s just not as funny as the first time out. It’s all well and good to get that an overcomplicated sequel plot is overcomplicated and twisty and turny and that’s the point, but is it funny? Not really. Does it have to be? Also not really, parodies can be smart and well-rounded and still not funny (see: every second Coens movie). Could this kind of excessive popcorn action movie use a few more laughs though? Absolutely.
The Golden Circle fits that classic oxymoron: it’s more of the same. For the most part, that means it’s more of the same fun. The inventiveness is still there, the choreography still adventurous, the characters still enjoyable, the seediness of the Kingsman world still hilarious, the sheer exaggerative scale still dauntingly daft and the odd sentimental moment here and there still genuinely affecting. It just can’t help but bring your attention more to its flaws than its pros, reminding us never to envy the follow-up to a good act. Yes, that’s intentional too, but you still won’t laugh.