On account of how much I loved the first film , naturally I felt nervous that the sequel to Matthew Vaughn’s surprise 2014 hit Kingsman would fall short on expectations. Granted, the first film casts a long shadow; Kingsman: The Golden Circle had a lot to live up to. Despite not quite reaching the heights of its predecessor, it is a worthy sequel and definitely a lot of fun.
Kingsman: The Golden Circle sees the return of Taron Egerton’s Eggsy, now a fully fledged Kingsman agent and living in seeming domestic bliss with the Swedish Princess Tilde (Hanna Alström) from the first film. Other returning faces include fan-favourite Merlin, played by Mark Strong, and Colin Firth’s Harry Hart who seemingly returns against all odds. The trio, along with some new faces in the form of Kingsman’s American counterparts ‘Statesman’, unite to face off against Julianne Moore’s deliciously dangerous and undoubtedly unhinged drug baron Poppy. Although under-utilised, Moore’s performance is striking and intimidating, even if she isn’t solidified as a memorable villain as her nefarious predecessor Richmond Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson).
The action scenes are as dynamic and violent as the first. Sweeping camera angles and unbroken takes make a welcome return to create the type of action set-piece that is uniquely and distinctly ‘Kingsman’. Once again stylishly directed by Matthew Vaughn, each scene incorporates the crazy fun and frantic tone of the first instalment. Kinetic, distinctive and frankly bonkers, each violent moment is accompanied by a comedic undertone; be it the ingenious music choices, 50s diner settings, the crazy new gadgets -the most notable of which an electric lasso wielded by Pedro Pascal’s Agent Whiskey- or the presence of Elton John (yes, you read that right). As a consequence, the sequences are fresh, distinctive and memorable.
Newcomers Halle Berry (Ginger Ale), Channing Tatum (Tequila) and Jeff Bridges (Champagne), humorously named after beverages in comparison to the Kingsman’s Arthurian titles, are welcome additions to the cast even if they are remarkably sidelined for much of the film. Only Pascal’s lasso wielding character has any notable screen time, and he adds an interesting dynamic and contrast to the overtly British vibe of the film, but we are left wanting to see more of his character at the film’s close.
Despite some losses in character development being suffered, Matthew Vaughn and Jane Goldman’s script retains some of the heart of what made the first one special. The relationship between Egerton’s relatable working class hero and Firth’s gentleman spy serves as the emotional core. Their Pygmalion dynamic with The Secret Service offers an interesting twist on the spy genre and gives voice to the classist undertones which would otherwise be sidelined. Despite this, Eggsy’s character arc is seemingly complete in the sequel and left with nowhere to go in terms of development. As a consequence, Firth’s character serves as the emotional driving force in an interesting twist. Harry Hart is a welcome return to the franchise, and it is clear to see that the film would have lacked some of its magic without his presence. Mark Strong delivers an excellent performance and conveys heart and poignancy to one of the film’s more heart-wrenching and emotionally resonant moments.
Despite its impressive run time, it feels like some things are lacking. Reportedly, Vaughn’s original cut of the film was over three hours long, and it is easy to see from where the footage was cut and hence the film can come across as clunky and under-developed at times. As with the first, some scenes included in the final product could have been cut. Notably in the sequel, a set-piece centred around Glastonbury seemed like an unnecessary inclusion and akin to the joke which closed the first film.
As wacky and as fun as the first, even if it does feel lacking in some respects, Matthew Vaughn delivers an entertaining romp through his expanded world. With characters as memorable as these and a continually refreshing face to the spy genre, the sequel was a welcome one and offers much needed escapism.