“You’re not quite evil enough. You’re semi-evil. You’re quasi-evil. You’re the margarine of evil. You’re the Diet Coke of evil, just one calorie, not evil enough.”
To quote one of the funnier, unintentionally meta moments of another film suffering a similar fate to this one:
– Dr Evil, Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me (1999)
Having rewatched the first film the night before seeing the sequel (and actually paying attention this time) I completely believe it’s very fun for what it is; a James Bond/Men in Black mashup full of hilariously over-the-top violence and profane language, carried by engaging characters and a genuinely funny script. Unfortunately, like many sequels of recent times, The Golden Circle seemingly latches onto the superficial successes of its predecessor, and, to quote one of the best speeches caught on film ever:
“…and before you even knew what you had, you’d patented it, you packaged it, you slapped it on a plastic lunchbox and you’re selling it! You’re selling it!”
– Ian Malcolm, Jurassic Park (1993)
On the surface, The Kingsman 2 is not a bad film, far from it. The ensemble cast themselves are not at fault; everyone turns in solid to occasionally exceptional performances (in particular Mark Strong shines having graduated from supporting character to one of the leads), the script is for the most part relatively funny and the pace brisk.
The characters themselves, unfortunately, are a different story. The American additions feel superfluous, Colin Firth’s Harry apes off K’s character arc in Men in Black 2 (ironically, another case of Sequelitis) and Taryn Egerton’s Eggsy occasionally feels like a supporting character in his own movie. Where the film really suffers though, is in the villainy, and how Julianne Moore’s drug lord Poppy (pun acknowledged) spends the film so disconnected from the majority of the action and (spoiler alert) is disposed of so easily, the entire character feels completely inconsequential. The best villains are the ones who believe they are the hero, and Samuel L. Jackson’s Valentine absolutely fits this criteria (as well as having some hilarious character quirks that actually contribute to the plot), imbedding the original film with a social commentary completely forgotten in its sequel. Poppy’s bizarre plot to blackmail the world by paralysing every user of her products is so bafflingly nonsensical and convoluted, and completely falls apart once any logic is applied to it.
It’s unfortunate that the second entry into what I assume will now become a franchise is on the surface, a not horrible sequel, however I would be lying if I said I couldn’t sense a cynical undercurrent that leaves the viewer (not just me either, I was surprised to find out quite a few people felt this way) actually feeling a bit disoriented and nauseous.
Or that could be the camerawork. Remember the couple of action scenes in the first film that did the whole zoom-in, zoom-out, speed-up, slow-down one take doohickey thing during the fight scenes that, whilst not original, felt appropriate and interesting enough? This time around, EVERY fight scene is filmed this way. And it will actually leave you feeling queasy, and further exacerbates the thematic problem with this sequel as a whole; the novelty of the original having already faded, a second sequel seemingly set up in this one’s final moments … what story is left to tell?
Despite the efforts of everyone involved (or maybe they didn’t give a shit, I’ll never know), The Kingsman: The Golden Circle joins the ranks of Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, The Mummy Returns, Jaws II, American Pie 2, The Hobbit trilogy, and all of the Pirates sequels and spinoffs I can’t be bothered listing, as yet another tired, sad example of lightning not striking twice. Despite what Michael Bay still believes, making it bigger rarely (if ever) makes it better.