Kingsman: The Golden Circle suffers in the same way that all sequels suffer. It’s bigger, but it’s lesser. It’s bolder, but it’s weaker. It’s new, but it’s tired. It’s never a bad movie, really, so much as it’s pointless, which is just about the one aspect of the original film that translates well to its sequel.
There is, of course, a legion of movie lovers out there who would vehemently disagree with that assessment. Over the last few years, Kingsman has built a veritable army of proponents who defend and laud the film at every chance they can get. Like all cult classics, criticism is an ineffective weapon—people will love what they love, and nothing I or anyone can say will dissuade them from their passions.
To them I say: you’re in luck. Your love for the original will, no doubt, carry you through The Golden Circle, even if it doesn’t quite please you in the same ways as its predecessor. In fact, as with most sequels, how you feel about the original will largely color your perceptions of how you feel now.
For all my indifference, I can still admit that the original Kingsman was, when it was working best, a lot of fun. It was overly long and rambling at times, and occasionally dipped into the nonsensical, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy parts of it, sometimes immensely. So it is with The Golden Circle, which finds the ragtag crew of secret agent tailors devastated by a vicious attack and forced to seek assistance from their American counterparts, the Statesman.
Taron Egerton and Mark Strong return as Eggsy and Merlin, the sole survivors of the attack launched by the titular Golden Circle. They’re joined by Pedro Pascal and Halle Berry as Whiskey and Ginger, with whom they band to locate the villainous Golden Circle. Led by Julianne Moore’s Poppy, the Golden Circle seeks to force governments across the world to legalize drugs by poisoning the entire drug supply with a chemical that causes a distinctive blue rash and, eventually, a horrific death by hemorrhage.
This is about par for the course for a film whose predecessor featured thousands of heads exploding into colorful bursts, and those who delighted in that film’s madcappery will find more to delight in here, if still in lesser degrees.
As lukewarm as I am on the original film, there was a kind of meta approach to the story that elevated it somewhat and made it more enjoyable, perhaps, than it deserved to be. The knowing winks and nods to genre tropes played well, for the most part, and allowed the film to lampoon the same sandbox in which it played.
That’s mostly absent this time around; the winks and nods have been replaced with a more straight forward approach, rendering The Golden Circle more clichéd than anything else. It’s occasionally fun to watch, and sometimes even kind of hilarious, but they’ve replaced any substance it may have had entirely with style, stripping what little heart Kingsman had right out from its body.
Still, it’s impossible for me to deny that The Golden Circle is almost entirely worth seeing just for Moore. She has reached the point of her career where she is out of fucks to give, and she gives every role she takes, no matter how batshit, her absolute all. Her Poppy is equal parts terrifying and charismatic, and she positively steals the movie with her relatively brief time on screen. It makes me wish that she wasn’t surrounded by such trite pointlessness.
Take, for instance, Elton John. For some reason, Elton John is in this movie (starring, of course, as Elton John). It’s cute, I guess, to see him spoof his former penchant for wild costuming and absurdity, but mostly it’s sad. Going beyond the fact that it adds little to the film aside from some cute throwaway lines here and there, it actually detracts from the narrative and throws off the pacing of the entire story. It does, however, serve as an apt metaphor for the film as a whole. Pointless, yet superficially entertaining.
Director Matthew Vaughn (who co-wrote the script with Jane Goldman) is something of a master at producing pointless, superficially entertaining movies. His works are like the Taco Bell of modern cinema: You eat it, you might even enjoy it, but you certainly don’t brag about it later. Which I guess makes him perfect for this film series. You wouldn’t hire a four-star chef to work the assembly line at Taco Bell any more than you’d want someone besides Vaughn to direct this movie.
And, to his credit, he mostly delivers on the promises made by the film, even if the results are ultimately somewhat underwhelming. Given the love people have for the original Kingsman, I don’t think that’s going to be too terribly big of a problem. Superficial gloss is en vogue right now and, hey, if that’s your thing, you’re going to have a pretty great time.
Kingsman The Golden Circle is now playing in theaters everywhere.