"Kingsman: The Golden Circle" is the sequel to the 2015 movie "Kingsman: The Secret Service" and Matthew Vaughn returns to direct along with the reprising cast of Taron Egerton, Coin Firth, and Mark Strong, as well as new faces in Julianne Moore, Jeff Bridges, Channing Tatum, Halle Berry, and Pedro Pascal. This time around, the Kingsman organization has been compromised by a new villain named Poppy Adams, and now the Kingsman have to unite with the Statesman, the American version of the Kingsman, in order to stop Adams.
I loved the first film. It was one of my favorite movies of 2015 and it certainly stood out as a prime example of the talent that Matthew Vaughn possesses as a director. It was a fun, stylized homage to the over-the-top spy films of the past, but it was also just an entertaining film to boot. And you could be certain that I was anticipating this movie once it was announced, though with some slight reservations seeing as how it's a sequel and we generally know how those play out. It can either be a successful expansion of what made the first movie great while adding something new, or it could be a disappointing rehash of the first film and unfortunately, "Kingsman: The Golden Circle" ends up being the latter.
With that I liked in this movie, it's ultimately the stuff that I was expecting to like ahead of time. I knew that the performances from everyone would be great, which they are. The likes of Egerton, Firth, and Strong all have that charm to them that defines them as characters in the Kingsman organization and it's hard not to like the British charisma that they have to offer. As for the new actors in the movie, they're also good with their material, but I'll eventually go into more detail about the problems that I had with them as characters. That said, all of the performances are strong and I kind of figured that much going into the movie.
I also knew that this movie would have fun action sequences and for the most part, it does. Matthew Vaughn once again directs the fight scenes in his own hyper-kinetic, stylistic way and that makes every action scene stand out, but again, it's not all positive and there's plenty that deserves to be criticized.
My big problem with this movie is that it falls into the trappings of classic sequel-itis. There was a lot of stuff that worked in the first movie, so now Vaughn feels the need to bring that stuff back into this movie, only it feels not only rehashed, but it also feels like it has the "bigger is better" mentality. The best example of this is whenever there's an action scene and it starts utilizing the hyperactive camera cuts and zooms. It worked for the minimal times that it was used in the first movie, but now that style of direction and editing is used for virtually every action scene and the currency starts to feel depleted. In other words, the more this style is used, the less unique it feels.
This movie also suffers from doubling down on all of the over-the-top ideas that existed in the first film. The first movie had plenty of over-the-top things for sure, but they felt like they were done in service to paying homage to the over-the-top, ludicrous stuff that we saw in old school James Bond films. There was also a good balance of outlandish ideas and things that still felt slightly grounded to reality. But now, everything is amplified to 100 and there's nothing in this movie that isn't absurd or unrealistic. I'm honestly not even expecting movies like this to be realistic, I just want there to be a point to the bizarre ideas. The point in the first movie was to throwback to cheesy spy films, whereas the point in this movie is just the mindset of "Well, bigger is better, right?"
As for the character, I was really disappointed in how the Statesman were handled. Let me just say that I actually really like seeing how different they were from the Kingsman. They have their own culture and way of handling things, and Pedro Pascal's character is a shining example of that. Pascal steals the show, but that's only because characters like Jeff Bridges and Channing Tatum both only have about five minutes of screen time. Julianne Moore also has slightly more time onscreen than they do, but it's still disappointing when these talented actors and potentially entertaining characters just seem to disappear from the movie at one point.
Finally, I have to say that I didn't buy the reason why Colin Firth's character, Harry, ends up being alive in this film. Spoiler alert for the first movie, but Harry dies near the end of that movie with a direct gunshot to the face. Now he's alive in this movie and the reasoning is actually pretty lazy. Is it cool to see Harry back in action? Of course, he's a great character. Is he utilized as well as he could have been? Not entirely. There's a direction taken with his character that felt unnecessary and it definitely hurt my enjoyment in this movie.
Overall, "Kingsman: The Golden Circle" disappointed me. It has entertaining action scenes and good performances from the entire cast, but it's classic sequel-itis. Things are rehashed, returning characters aren't given their due, the new characters are wasted, and it suffers from trying to be so big and grand, that it ends up feeling a lot less special than its predecessor. If you liked the first movie, then I still recommend checking this movie out simply because you've already invested yourself in this series, just go in with reserved expectations and you may end up enjoying it more than I did.