Back in 2015, moviegoers everywhere were introduced to director Matthew Vaughan’s visual spy action film Kingsman: The Secret Service. Adapted from the graphic novel Kingsman by Mark Millar (writer) and Dave Gibbons (artist), the film, which starred Taron Egerton, Colin Firth, Mark Strong, Samuel L. Jackson, and Michael Caine, follows the journey of troubled youth Gary “Eggsy” Urwin as he gets recruited into the Kingsman, a British secret agent organization, and joins a mission to stop a global threat from the nefarious megalomaniac Richmond Valentine. Deriving from its comic book source material and Vaughan’s overall direction, Kingsman: The Secret Service was presented as a 007 spy satire, offering up a visual action-spy feature film with a splash of stylized violence. This mixture seemed does seem like an odd choice, but the film benefitted, with the movie getting praised from critics and casual moviegoers as Kingsman: The Secret Service grossed over $400 million worldwide ($411 million to be exact) against its production budget of $94 million. With its success, it was inevitable that a sequel would soon followed. Now, after two years since its released, 20th Century Fox and director Matthew Vaughan return to the Kingsman world with its sequel Kingsman: The Golden Circle. Does this next chapter proved to be a worthy sequel to its predecessor or it’s a overstuffed and unnecessary continuation?
After thwarting evil and saving the world, Eggsy Urwin (Taron Egerton) has settled into his life as a full-fledged Kingsman agent, taking the up title of Agent Galahad from his fallen mentor Harry Hart (Colin Firth). While not working a secret agent, Eggsy also finds the time to spend with his girlfriend, the Swedish Princess Tilde (Hanna Alstrom), who seems to be hitting at something more in their relationship. However, after a run-in with a rejected Kingsman hopeful Charlie Hesketh (Edward Holcroft), disaster shakes the young agent’s world when a drug cartel known as the Golden Circle, led by Poppy Adams (Julianne Moore), delivers a devastating blow to the Kingsman organization. The remaining Kingsman agents, including Eggsy and Merlin (Mark Strong), make their way to Kentucky to meet the Statesman, an American secret service led by Champagne (Jeff Bridges), and finding a helping hand with fellow Statesman Agents Tequila (Channing Tatum), Whiskey (Pedro Pascal), and Ginger Ale (Halle Berry). Joining forces with the Statesman, Eggsy is exposed to a different type of spy game, reuniting with his mentor, Harry, who’s alive and suffering from amnesia. As Poppy plans for world domination unfold in the form tainted drugs, Eggsy and the Statesman rush into battle, hoping to infiltrate Poppy’s plans and save the world from global disaster.
I remember when Kingsman: The Secret Service came out as I went to see in theaters and was hoping it to be good. Thankfully, it was one of those movies that the marketing campaign got right as I found the film, rifting on the spy genre with a touch of Vaughan aesthetics of stylized action, and graphic novel violence. Basically, I called it “James Bond + Kick Ass = Kingsman”, which many will agree. Regardless of the excessive and sometime cartoon-ish violence, Kingsman: The Secret Service indeed made its mark on the 2015 movies that year, finding a unique and fun take on the classic spy genre as well as a capable young actor (Taron Egerton) in the lead role of Eggsy, a strong British supporting cast (Colin Firth, Mark Strong, Michael Caine), and some memorable villains (Samuel L. Jackson and Sophia Boutella).
As I said above, after the success of Kingsman: The Secret Service, it was inevitable that a sequel would materialized soon after, continuing the adventures of Eggsy and the rest of the Kingsman organization. However, Kingsman director Matthew Vaughan, who directed X-Men: First Class, Stardust, and Layer Cake, decided to shelf that idea of a Kingsman follow-up for just a little bit as he released the inspirational “feel good” movie Eddie the Eagle in 2016 (which was really good btw). Of course, I was excited when the trailers dropped online for Kingsman 2 (or rather Kingsman: The Golden Circle), hoping that the film continue the “look and feel” of the first film and didn’t end up as a mediocre and / or bad sequel film. So, what did I think of the movie? In truth, I actually liked it. Yes, there were some problems with the movie, but I found Kingsman: The Golden Circle to be a solid follow-up feature to its 2015 predecessor. It may not be the best and brightest sequel film out there, but in a sea of terrible and disappointing sequels, The Golden Circle shines (not burns).
With Matthew Vaughan returning to direct, of which The Golden Circle heavily benefits from that, this follow-up sequel to The Secret Service does feel very much so like a continuing adventure from the first one. What is mean is that Vaughan doesn’t reinvent the wheel with The Golden Circle, but rather tweaks what many liked about the first film and interjects that into this new movie. Basically, Vaughan keeps The Golden Circle like a Kingsman movie, so expect a lot of visual action set pieces with a mixture of fast-paced close-ups and some over-the-top violence sequences. The jokes and some of its crude humor are also very much in-tuned with the first movie, with a couple of laugh-out-loud moments to be had, within the context of spy-action drama violence. Additionally, much like what sequels films do, Vaughan and fellow screenplay writer Jane Goldman (who worked help co-write the script for The Secret Service) make The Golden Circle expands upon the Kingsman universe by introducing the Statesman, the American spy agency organization, and it’s sort of a fun to see “Americanize” version of Kingsman agents (the Statesman based of operation is masked underneath a whiskey distillery versus the Kingsman tailor shop façade) and seeing their unique spy gadgets (like Whiskey’s lasso). Thus, the movie introduces this concept and I do hope that they continue to expand the Kingsman universe in future movies (if another does get greenlit).
Filmmaking wise, The Golden Circle looks great, with Vaughan and his team utilizing a lot of stylish and dynamic sequences for most the more dramatic and visual scenes of the movie. Like before, there’ a lot of quick close up shots that are mixed with slow-motion camera works that help break up the crazy fighting / action scenes to give several crazy (and frenetic) energy during those sequences. So, kudos for the film’s cinematographer (George Richmond) and editor (Eddie Hamilton), both of which worked on The Secret Service, for return to the project and keeping up the visual style of the Kingsman world within The Golden Circle. Also, the film’s production design (Darren Gilford) and concept artist team also must be acknowledged for the usage of some creative design layouts for The Golden Circle. This includes the 50s style layout of Poppy’s hideaway lair, which is called “Poppy Land”, as well as the Statesman distillery façade. Lastly, while the movie’s score, which is composed by Henry Jackson and Matthew Margeson, is good, Vaughan (again) makes sure to smartly select several musical songs some of the feature’s bigger action sequences that work with the pace and tone of what’s being presented on-screen, especially the film’s opening sequence (the car chase scene with Eggsy and Charlie) as well as the film’s third act piece that takes place within Poppy Land. While both scenes don’t blow out Harry’s church massacre scene from The Secret Service, they are set some pretty neat and fun sequences to watch and listen to (if you know what I mean).
Unfortunately, while The Golden Circle does shine, it doesn’t shine brighter than its predecessor with several problems within this sequel spy adventure. While the movie doubles down on what made The Secret Service great, it can be a bit repetitive on what’s going on this new movie. Granted, The Golden Circle is indeed a follow-up tale, continuing Eggsy’s spy journey as a Kingsman agent, but the film has certain bits and beats that are somewhat ripped from the first feature (another evil plan that affects people around the world). For the most part, The Secret Service banked its freshness to the spy movies with its more stylized action violence to sort of “shake up” the status quo within the genre. That being said, The Golden Circle tries to repeat that same effect, but it just doesn’t quite reach the same originality and / or freshness that the first film achieved. Additionally, there are some sub-plot material within the movie that aren’t quite fully realized as Vaughan (and Goldman) intended.
The cast in The Golden Circle sees the return of several main character from The Secret Service, finding the characters of Eggsy, Harry (Galahad), and Merlin return to save the world once again. Actor Taron Egerton, known for his roles in Eddie the Eagle, Legend, and Sing, returns to the character of Eggsy Unwin, main protagonist character in both Kingsman films, finding the character to be a bit more of a seasoned Kingsman agent and continuing his journey as he matures in both the spy world and as an individual young man. Egerton performance is also great, providing enough youthful charisma and fun bits to make the character of Eggsy endearing to watch from start to finish. Next, Colin Firth, known for his roles in The King’s Speech, A Single Man, and Pride and Prejudice, returns as once presumed dead Kingsman agent Harry “Galahad” Hart. I kind thought the whole “bringing back the Harry Hart character” angle was a bit unnecessary at first, but Firth’s performance is great and sort of does working within the character relationship between Eggsy and Harry (as mentor and mentee). Lastly, character actor Mark Strong, known for his roles in (Sherlock Holmes, The Imitation Game, and Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy) continues to be a great supporting character as the Kingsman tech support agent Merlin. His character as a more stronger presence in The Golden Circle than in the first film and even shares a counterpoint connection with new Statesman character of Ginger Ale. All in all, the return of these three actors (Egerton, Firth, and Strong) and of their respective characters makes The Golden Circle a solid one endeavor, with each one bringing a sense of fun and charisma to the spy-action proceedings.
Of the new characters in The Golden Circle, perhaps the best is lies within the movie’s villain…the sweet and charming, but psychopathic drug cartel “Queenpin” antagonist Poppy Adams. Played by actress Julianne Moore, known for her roles in Still Alice, The Big Lebowski, and The Hungers Game: Mockingjay Part 1 and Part 2, the character of Poppy Adams, much like Samuel L Jackson’s Valentine in The Secret Service, is a fun baddie to watch on-screen and watch her villainy unfold. Moore seems to be having fun in the role, playing up the character’s upbeat / confidence attitude persona that’s blend together with her ruthlessness (if sometimes disturbing) villainy. In short, Moore’s Poppy Adams is a terrific villain for The Golden Circle and a great strength for the movie.
While the movie’s antagonist is well-developed (and a fun one to watch display her villainy), the Statesman agents, the American secret agent organization, get a bit shortchanged in some areas. Perhaps the strongest represented Statesman character of the bunch is in the character of Whiskey, who is played by actor Pedro Pascal. Known for his roles in The Great Wall, Narcos, and Game of Thrones, Pascal does a fine job as strongest represented Statesman agent, finding his character of Whiskey to be a fun addition to the Kingsman team (in the field). The other three Statesman agents, consisting of Statesman leader Champagne (or Champ as he likes to be called), the hotshot bad boy Tequila, and whiz tech genius Ginger Ale, aren’t as fully rounded. To be sure, the actors playing them, Jeff Bridges (Tron, True Grit, and Iron Man), Channing Tatum (Magic Mike, 21 Jump Street, and Logan Lucky), and Hallie Berry (Cloud Atlas, Monster’s Ball, and several of the X-Men movies), give their respective characters their right amount of nuances and charming to make them appealing and likeable (a certain Americanize counterpoint to the Kingsman agents), but they aren’t fully realized enough and could’ve played a larger part in The Golden Circle. An example of this is found with Tatum’s Tequila, who was heavily promoted in the film’s marketing campaign, but isn’t that much in the movie (I think principal photography for The Golden Circle was around the same time as Soderbergh’s Logan Lucky, so maybe that’s why). Granted, the introduction of the Statesman organization (as well as these characters) are indeed a welcome addition within the context of this cinematic universe, so it’s their involvement within The Golden Circle is kind of good and bad as maybe Vaughan and Goldman are holding out to develop these Statesman characters further in a possible future sequel (at least that’s what I think).
Additionally, some previous characters from The Secret Service return to reprise through roles, including Edward Holcroft (Wolf Hall and London Spy) as Charlie Hesketh (a rejected Kingsman applicant who is now a bad guy in The Golden Circle) who is like Sophia Boutella’s Gazelle from The Secret Service), Hanna Alström (Sami Blood and Vita lögner) as Princess Tilde (the princess from the end of The Secret Service, but who is now Eggsy girlfriend in the new movie), and Sophie Cookson (The Crucifixion and Gypsy) as fellow Kingsman agent Roxy. Whether big or small roles in the movie, it’s kind of neat to see these characters return for this follow-up film. Also, in smaller roles consist of some familiar / recognizable faces like Michael Gambon (Layer Cake and several of the Harry Potter movies) as the new Kingsman leader Arthur and Keith Allen (Eddie the Eagle and Trainspotting) as one of Poppy’s flunkies Charles. Lastly, and perhaps the biggest scene stealer of the entire movie, is the cameo-like appearance of iconic musician artist Elton John. Playing himself in the movie, the famed Elton John has some of the best lines in the film and is definitely a welcomed (and surprised) appearance to show up in The Golden Circle.Read the final thoughts from jasonsmovieblog.com