For me, Kingsman: The Secret Service (2015) was a fun ride that was kind of the Men in Black (1997) of the spy genre with a British setting, so the best way to express how I felt about Kingsman: The Golden Circle is to say it this way: if The Secret Service was Men in Black, then The Golden Circle is Men in Black II (2002), but just a little more fun. Let’s get into it.
Set approximately one year after the events of The Secret Service, The Golden Circle begins with Eggsy being chased down by an old foe in the streets of London in an exciting opening scene. Soon after he is one of the few Kingsman left after an attack by the silly villain Ms. Poppy, so he and Merlin are led to America to team up with their sister organization in the States, the Statesman. Oh, isn’t that clever? Anyways, from there it’s an all out war to not only stop Ms. Poppy’s evil scheme but also to help get Harry, the former Galahad and Eggsy’s mentor, back to where he should be.
Now, it’s going to seem as if in this list of positives and negatives that the negatives are going to be numerous and outdoing the positives, but I felt that some of the negatives weren’t a deal-crusher, and the positives that really work really, really work. Well, if we’re starting with the positives, Taron Egerton is a good place to start. It took me until almost the end of the first film to finally get into his character in the first film, but now that the introduction scenes and his big arc is completed, we just jump right in and I found it easier to root for him this time. Also all of his scenes with Mark Strong as Merlin are great, though surprisingly few in number. Probably the biggest strength, though, is Pedro Pascal as Tequila, a member of the Statesman. Pretty much every last aspect of his character, from his signature lasso attacks to his personality to his motivations, I couldn’t get enough of this guy. I’d love to see a spin-off film with him and a few other Statesman. I didn’t mind Julianne Moore as Poppy, though I’ve heard many complain, and I also enjoyed the satirical nature of American politics that are displayed in the film. I’ll say this: they could have gone for the easy joke and make fun of our current president in an over-the-top way, but instead they just make the whole position of who the president is and how he reacts such a farce and an original take that I applaud director Matthew Vaughn’s work.
Okay, let’s get into these negatives. Some of these are more nitpicks, but worth mentioning without spoiling anything. Well, with the exception of Egerton, Pascal, and the presidential oval office characters, whose roles and scenes are balanced, every other character felt like they would show up for a scene or two, then disappear for an hour, come back for a quick check-up, then disappear again. It felt very off with its pacing and keeping its characters in check. Also, what the hell was up with the Elton John stuff? Pretty much his only role in the film is to shout expletives toward the bad guys, and after two scenes I got what they were going for, but I didn’t need another five scenes of it. Now for two big complaints: number one, the film has no business being two hours and twenty minutes long. The pacing was so far off that after that opening scene it felt like forty-five minutes before the plot actually began, and from there it was all over the place with different scenes that should have been short and sweet being dragged out forever. One of those examples is toward the ending and it turned a potentially great scene into a dragged out mess. And the cream of the crop of problems with this movie: it ruins a key element of a potential franchise. With Colin Firth back in action as Harry, and the explanation that goes with it, it ruins all forms of suspense with the film and lowers the stakes to nil. If your characters can’t die or there’s an easy way to bring them back, what’s the point of our watching the film? It turns into a video game where if you die, just hit continue and you’ll drop back in. The heroes get an infinite number of lives and just keep going until they win. Again, so why watch the movie if we already know the outcome? Also, if you’re trying to be serious around a character’s death scene in this movie or any other future film, how can we take it seriously if we know there’s a strong change they’re not actually dead? This is when you know you have a poorly executed scene around a crafty idea. Sure, it was cool to see Colin Firth back in an action role, but at the expense of making death in the movies totally a non-factor, I wish they’d keep their dead characters dead.
You know, maybe years from now I’ll catch this film again on TBS or TNT over a long holiday weekend or something and I’ll change my tune on it. Maybe it’ll grow on me or maybe it’ll become worse in my eyes. Only time will tell, but for now I can recommend the film to any fans of the first, but be wary. There are elements that work and elements that don’t, despite worldwide catastrophic stakes for the common person, our heroes have no stakes, and the movie overstays its welcome big time. But I’ll be generous with this one since we do have some very cool ideas around a fairly mundane story that basically rehashes the first.
My rating: 6/10.