Simply by being a sequel, Kingsman: The Golden Circle had the potential to be better than the first. The Blair Witch and Paranormal Activity sequels made good movies out of originals I didn’t like by giving creative twists to the established history. I thought if they took out the misogyny and self-congratulatory political incorrectness, Kingsman might have something. Now, all that’s left is mediocrity.
By the way, don’t cry too hard for the misogyny because it’s still there. The U.S. President (Bruce Greenwood) calls women “dumb bitch.” He’s supposed to be bad but it’s still a deliberate and unnecessary tangent. The Swedish princess who let Eggsy (Taron Egerton) put it in her (Hanna Alstrom) butt is introducing him to her parents, so at least he made an honest woman out of her. But the plot still requires Eggsy to finger another woman. This movie is like the guy who’s still bragging about finger banging long after college when everyone else has grown up enough to stop talking about getting to third base. And Princess Tilde’s response is fingering a woman for the mission would be okay if Eggsy marries Tilde, so pile on a commitment-phobe’s fear of being tied down on top of the misogyny.
The action lost me right away. I sort of expect the new thing is to make it look like the actors are really doing stunts, and since they’re not trained stunt people that means faking it with CGI, be it putting their faces on someone else or simply having the actors mimic action and adding the other elements in post. The camera moves were a giveaway to me. They look too choreographed to the action somehow. Perhaps the camera jerks were used to hide cuts? Maybe it’s because, in the backseat of a speeding taxi, there’s no real way to move the camera that much so it had to be fake. Every action scene looks like this though.
Skilled action directors establish the geography of their action scenes, so that when the elements collide the audience has already been brimming with anticipation. Kingsman never has to worry about setting up geography because they can just let everything happen simultaneously and jerk the camera over to every beat so it doesn’t matter. The third boss fight of the extended climax is especially egregious, where Eggsy and Harry (Colin Firth) take on the villain but have their own separate adventures in the same space. A Spielberg could choreograph that so we can keep track of the geography on our own, but you don’t have to be Spielberg.
In the middle of the movie, there’s a gondola sequence that you know is mostly green screen shots of the actors “inside” the gondola, and maybe a shot or two of a real gondola outside. But not really because it’s rolling and crashing in CGI ways too, so we’re just watching a cartoon with no stakes that barely even establishes what the out of control gondola might crash into. A callback to Firth’s bar fight in the first movie should have been fun but they botched that too.
If even the set pieces are boring you can imagine how boring the plot stringing them together is. Seriously, the plot of Kingsman: The Golden Circle does not need 141 minutes to cover all the territory. Poppy (Julianne Moore) wants to hold the world ransom for an antidote to the drugs she poisoned.
Poppy destroys Kingsman and their allies, but they discover an American counterpart, Statesman, to whom they turn to help. Eggsy and Merlin (Mark Strong)’s interrogation by Tequlia (Channing Tatum) is one of many scenes that just does not need to be there, considering there’s no suspense. It’s interrupted by Ginger Ale (Halle Berry) to get the plot back on track. All Tequila and Ginger Ale do is give exposition. So does Champ (Jeff Bridges) but that makes more sense because he’s the M of Statesman. Still, what fun is introducing all these A-list Hollywood stars if they don’t even go on the mission? Whiskey (Pedro Pascal) goes with Eggsy, Merlin, and Harry and it looks like Pascal learned some moves for his role.
Perhaps if I ever cared about the franchise, blowing up Kingsman would be huge but it probably still wouldn’t. The sequel trope of destroying everything you thought was sacred is such a cliche at this point it’s meaningless.
Elton John is fun but it’s not enough just to have some CGI nonsense and exposition for Elton John to spoof one of his songs and do a kick that’s clearly his face on an actual stuntman’s body.
It’s always possible for a sequel to build off its predecessor’s mistakes and turn this ship around but it’s not always a given. Some franchises just suck and Kingsman has proven itself to be barmy. It’s more like Kingsman: The Golden Shower. Get it? Because it’s piss poor. Release the pee tape!