By Julie Winspear
Caution: Spoilers Ahead
The original Kingsman movie charged into theaters in December 2014, with guns blazing and wardrobe looking immaculate. This Matthew Vaughn action/spy/comedy film garnered success thanks to its colorful sequences, star-studded cast, and black humor balanced with over-the-top action. Kingsman, though originally based on a comic book, made some bold moves for a film: it poked fun at the classic spy movie genre while simultaneously presenting the viewer with an exemplary spy movie. Kingsmen are spies codenamed after knights of the round table and they covertly protect their nation from threats. When one of them dies, a chain of events begins that sweeps the protagonist, young “Eggsy,” into a selection process to take the open spot. What follows is a witty, humorous, and satirical coming of age story that just happens to take place in the midst of skydiving, espionage, explosions, and impeccably tailored suits. Ultimately, the scrappy protagonist (in many regards the anti-Bond) saves the world and comes out on top in a spectacular fashion. Britain, the United States, and the world eagerly anticipated the next installment.
Enter: the sequel. Clocking in at 2 hours and 21 minutes, this R- rated film promised to be a wild, action-packed ride. As usual, the acting is vibrant, likely an effect of the enjoyment the actors get from playing these colorful roles. In fact, many of the actors from the previous film returned for the second, and as the trailer shows, even Colin Firth reprises his role of the supposedly-dead “Gallahad.” Samuel L. Jackson no longer plays the whacky villainous megalomaniac “Valentine,” but Vaughn delivers us a fresh delusional psychopath in the form of “Poppy,” played by Julianne Moore. Also joining the big-name cast are Channing Tatum and Halle Berry as members of the Statesmen, the Kingsmen’s American counterparts. These gentlemen, clad in boots rather than suits, are called into action when all the Kingsmen are simultaneously attacked, forcing the survivors to seek help abroad. This addition is where “Golden Circle” begins to diverge from its predecessor. While “Kingsman: The Secret Service” was a witty and brilliantly over-the-top answer to a genre full of cool, suave, professional secret agents, and got its kicks from turning the expected tropes on their heads, this new film is focused more on expanding the world of the last. New locations, new characters, new gadgets, but the same kinds of sequences. Also, viewers might be disappointed or pleased to note that the complex father-son relationship undercurrent and the commentary on class assumptions that ran through all of the last movie have been exchanged for simpler themes of romantic tension and the line between right and wrong. It feels much more like a traditional spy/action film. The movie lacks the self-awareness that made the first one so compelling, but it does not fail to provide the action, hilarity, and sudden twists and turns that keep most audiences (if not critics) satisfied.