Okay. Alright. Okay. Alright. So. “Kingsman: The Secret Service” was admittedly a surprise hit for most people. I, like many, found that it was an inventive, satirical yet loving take on the spy genre in just the right climate. Much like “Kick-Ass” before, Matthew Vaughn took an imaginative, but ultimately flaccid, concept of Mark Millar’s and breathed new life into it with the advantages of the medium. Makes me wonder what Vaughn would’ve done with “Wanted,” if it were in his hands. The point is, “Kingsman: The Secret Service” was not only a great time, but the best kind. The kind that blindsides you.
Now comes Kingsman: The Golden Circle, the follow-up which pairs Eggsy (Taron Egerton, “Eddie the Eagle”) and Merlin (Mark Strong, “The Brothers Grimsby”), the few surviving agents after a coordinated attack on the organization teaming up with their American counterparts: Statesmen. Equipped with alcoholic beverage name schemes and an archetypal cowboy arsenal, they take the fight to Poppy (Julianne Moore, “Seventh Son”), who plans to spread disease throughout the world by means of her vast drug cartel. Meanwhile, a recovering Harry Hart (Colin Firth, “The King’s Speech”), who survived the events of the previous film, has to rehabilitate himself back into form.
What immediately stuck out to me in this sequel is Eggsy. His arc is more-or-less complete, and so there’s little for him in terms of development here, and what little there is, feels arbitrary or contrived, particularly the ending. Egerton is still charismatic and a blast to watch, but there was a clear lack of effort to provide him with a conflict or obstacle comparable to the first film. Sure, there’s the threat to the world, and the safety of his girlfriend, but that’s a given, I needed something more personal.
If you wanna go to the more superficial side of things, then fine. I love me some good action scenes. However, even in that respect, I feel like we’ve taken a few steps back. The choreography is just more of the same, nothing that stands out until the climax, and while the Statesmen, whose ranks include Channing Tatum (“Hail, Caesar!”) and Halle Berry (“Kidnap”), could’ve clearly added some needed variation — given their different gimmicks and weapons — their involvement in the action is sparing at best. With that and the excessive runtime of 140 minutes, it gets tedious. There’s nothing wrong with a little bloat in your action scenes, but you have to make the stakes and context of said action important. I don’t feel as if Poppy is any more of a threat than Valentine was, even if Moore’s performance was bubbly and sweet and uncanny.
I’m sympathetic to X-Factors, believe me. I don’t believe that a sequel should be shamed simply because it couldn’t capture the same unexpectedness or freshness as its predecessor. I don’t think “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” was able to, and yet I still felt like it was the superior film given the thematic content and more personal nature of its narrative. My point is a sequel should never feel like a “greatest hits” of the film before, and boy is Kingsman: The Golden Circle filled with callbacks that fall flat on their face. It’s classic sequelitis, and given the talent behind the first, you would think they’d be smart enough to avoid the same traps they themselves were throwing a middle finger to last time.
That’s not to say that Kingsman: The Golden Circle is bad film through and through. It provides enough laughs and entertainment to keep your interest through a fair chunk of it, and I’ll never not like principal players like Eggsy, Merlin and Harry. But with the foundation provided last time we saw them, and the potential paths they laid out, they deserve better. It’s not “Men in Black II,” but it’s not far off either. I’m not angry, I’m just disappointed. It’s fine, but I expect more. If there’s a third film on the way, I’m more dreading it than anything, especially given the way this one leads into a potential follow-up.