What we have here is a case study in the concept that bigger does not always mean better. The conundrum facing Matthew Vaughn after the unexpected success of the first Kingsman film was, how do you outdo yourself? How do you make a sequel to a film that was so absurdly out there to begin with? Well, the approach that they took was to try to push the envelope as far as they could, until it fell off the edge of the table and into the deep end. Honestly, Kingsman: The Golden Circle is a mess.
If there’s one way I could describe the film-making here, it would be “trying too hard.” Every scene is dialed up to eleven to a point that you just end up fatigued of it all. It’s clear that they were trying to live up to the legendary church scene from the first film, but were unable to replicate the shocking magic of the controversial scene. Instead, they just had every action scene be this hyper-stylized comic book nonsense that worked sometimes and fell flat others. The problem with this is you can’t just have a graph of only extremes. You have to have some scenes be more subdued so that the bombastic ones stand out. It was just every scene filled with ridiculous fights and cartoonish humor without much substance behind it.
The storytelling in this film is beyond sloppy. Characters are killed and brought back to life without a moment’s hesitation. None of the actors ever seem to have any regard for the magnitude of events in the film. They seem relatively nonplussed by the fact that millions of people’s lives are on the line. They just sort of walk around and kill things and it never feels real. I guess what I mean is, I have great difficulty feeling like this world is believable. It all just feels very…silly. The opening act is very rough, as if they didn’t have plans for a sequel so they had to figure out some choppy way to throw our characters into some new and exciting adventures, while also finding a way to disregard the previous film’s arcs and developments. I’d say once we get into the thick of things we are able to follow the story a bit better, as it is suddenly cohesive, but the road to get there is absolutely rocky.
There are some genuinely good things in this movie. The set design, for example, is fantastic. It’s creative and unlike anything I’ve really seen before. Julianne Moore makes an effective villain, even if her introduction and denouement were pretty jarringly unenthusiastic. There’s a running bit with Elton John that I thought would grow old after a while but wound up being pretty consistently funny. I feel bad for the cinematographer, as he did a great job creating dynamic camera movements for an action movie, but his work will be overshadowed by the absurdity of the action sequences. I’d say over all, you will probably have fun with this movie. I know I was entertained most of the time. However, I can’t just sit here and ignore the glaring flaws in the storytelling. They overdid it and it really didn’t work out.
All images are from Kingsman: The Golden Circle, a film by 20th Century Fox