By: Daniel Kilgallon, Staff Writer
As I’ve made clear before, film sequels have become somewhat dangerous territory to me. In contemporary Hollywood, it seems to be a challenge to balance what worked in an original movie with enough new content that progresses to a larger story. When it comes to blockbusters, the most common mistake seems to be trying to do too much with a sequel, oftentimes leading to an overstuffed and convoluted mess of a movie. To be honest, I was somewhat skeptical about this second Kingsman film and didn’t rush to theaters to see what returning director Matthew Vaughn (Kick-Ass, X-Men: First Class) had come up with. Kingsman: The Golden Circle hit theaters back in September, yet it took me well over a month to go out and finally give the movie a chance.
I was big fan of Vaughn’s work with 2014’s Kingsman: The Secret Service and thought it offered a much needed fresh take on spy movies. The film played off the cliches of the genre through an interesting blend of parody and homage, but contained enough originality to stand out as its own movie. Personally, it hit a sweet spot of the action genre for me, with a perfect suspension of disbelief that was just as over the top as I wanted a film like it to be.
Each of the Kingsman movies are based off of the same named comic book series by Dave Gibbons and Mark Millar, and the title refers to a top-secret British spy organization. The Golden Circle takes place roughly a year after its predecessor and, of course, raises the stakes for the titular characters. Early on in the movie, the Kingsman’s headquarters are destroyed, with Eggsy (Taron Egerton) and Merlin (Mark Strong) as the only two survivors of the attack. Their mission to track down their enemy leads them across the Atlantic Ocean to the United States, where they go on to team up with a similar, American agency known as the Statesman.
It is eventually discovered that the mastermind of the attack on the Kingsman headquarters was a psychotic international drug dealer named Poppy Adams, portrayed by Academy Award winning actress Julianne Moore. Poppy designs the drugs she sells to result in several painful stages for users, eventually ending with a gruesome, bloody death. Her ultimate intentions are to put these products out on the recreational market while refusing to release the antidote until there is an official end to the War on Drugs. The Kingsmen must team up with the Statesman in order to prevent Poppy’s global threat from becoming a reality.
For better or worse, The Golden Circle is an Americanized version of its predecessor, but this change occurs long before the Kingsmen travel across the globe and met up with their counterparts. From the opening chase scene, The Golden Circle feels even more unrealistic than the over-the-top-but-contained universe of the original movie. The action sequences are cool and exciting as before, but there are certain moments when it feels like you’re watching a highly stylized video game. Simply put, it drifts out of that previously discussed “sweet spot” and goes in a more far fetched direction typical of the average American action movie.
While I think the overdone action sequences represent a slight dip in quality for this franchise, the characters remain very effective in this new movie. Taron Egerton, Mark Strong, and Colin Firth stood out as highlights of the returning cast while Channing Tatum, Jeff Bridges and yes, Elton John, were all positive additions. I truly believe that the young Egerton has a funny but down-to-earth charisma as an actor and I think he has a bright future ahead of him as an action star in Hollywood. I’m sure we’ll be seeing him again in a third Kingsman movie and I am happy to say that The Golden Circle was good enough to be worthy of a follow up. I have faith that Matthew Vaughn can fix a few things and return to the roots of the more contained original.