Fangirl Friday: Kingsman – The Golden Circle

HEY everybody!

I’m on the road again (cue Willie Nelson song) and sitting here in an airport working on this here blog because FANGIRLIN’ IS A FULL-TIME JOB, Y’ALL! omg

Anyway. So I caught the second Kingsman movie last week and I’m not entirely sure how I feel about it. We’ll delve into that below.

ALSO! SPOILERS!!!!! OMG SPOILERS!!!! STOP READING IF YOU DON’T WANT THEM!

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Kingsman franchise, it started as a British comedy/spy/action comic series published by Icon, which is actually an American imprint of Marvel. The first of those, titled Secret Service, was published in 2012 and in 2015, the first Kingsman movie dropped, based loosely on that comic. In a nutshell, “Kingsman” is an independent intelligence operation based in a tailor shop in the UK. The franchise is thus a fun, high-octane homage to, say, James Bond especially since being a Kingsman isn’t just about kicking ass and taking names. It’s about looking stylish while you do it, and it’s also about having good manners.

I really enjoyed the first Kingsman movie (Kingsman: Secret Service) which introduced us to our main player, Gary “Eggsy” Unwin, played by British actor Taron Egerton who in the first movie is a street punk running wild with no prospects, no job, and basically no direction. Colin Firth plays Harry (code name Galahad), an agent with Kingsman who has been keeping an eye on the son of an agent who was killed when the child was a boy. That child is Eggsy and Harry sees potential in the young, brash, athletic Eggsy so he recruits him for the service after Eggsy runs into some trouble with the law. In the process, Harry becomes a friend and mentor to him. Maybe a bit of a father figure, too.

Here’s the trailer for the first Kingsman movie:

We follow Eggsy through his training and on to saving the world from an evil tech genius who, along with his evil sidekick, has hatched a plan to save the world from global warming by killing most of the people on the planet. Suffice it to say that our heroes prevail and Eggsy even falls in love along the way.

Egerton’s Eggsy is a romp of a character. He’s goofy, fun, competent, never arrogant, fiercely loyal, and not afraid to show his feelings. He and Firth — the suave, smooth foil to Eggsy — make a hell of a team and I enjoyed the first movie not only for its action sequences and gadgets but also for the relationship that develops between Harry and Eggsy (which of course has found its way into slash fiction LOL go, fandoms!)

Harry (left, Colin Firth) and Eggsy (Taron Egerton)

So I’d been looking forward to the second Kingsman installment, even though in the first Harry meets what we all think is his demise in a strangely grim scene that felt a little off-kilter for the overarching arc of the film, but in a way, it kind of worked. But that, I think, is part of the Kingsman franchise: these moments of pathos or grimly played violence woven into the high octane over-the-top special effects.

The second Kingsman opens with Eggsy, who has taken the code name Galahad in honor of Harry on his way home (he has continued his relationship with the crown princess of Sweden, who he met in the last movie), but he’s intercepted by Charlie, a guy who washed out of Kingsman and went bad who Eggsy thought had died in the previous movie. Now sporting a cybernetic arm, Charlie forces Eggsy into a vehicle and then a madcap off-the-charts car chase ensues, as Charlie’s henchman follow them.

Here’s the trailer:

He escapes with the help of Merlin, the tech guy on the inside who organizes and dispatches agents, but in a terrible turn of events, someone launches a missile attack on all Kingsman locations, thus wiping out the agency with the exception of Eggsy and Merlin. Eggsy even lost his beloved pug dog, J.B. and his good friend from the agency, Roxy. So he and Merlin initiate the “Doomsday Protocol,” which involves going to a wine shop and requesting a specific tasting room. Once there, they open a wall safe and discover a bottle of Kentucky whiskey, brand name Statesman (Old Forester is actually doing a Statesman whiskey as a tie-in).

Not clear on what they’re supposed to do with this bottle of whiskey, they open it and start drinking to fallen comrades and crying. Eggsy then realizes what the point of this is when he finds the Kingsman logo embedded on the label in “Kentucky” and he and Merlin set off to the Statesman distillery in Kentucky to see if they can find out what they should do. Turns out Statesman, like Kingsman, is an independent intelligence operation run by agent Champagne (Jeff Bridges) that includes agents Whiskey (Pedro Pascal who seemed to be channeling Burt Reynolds), Tequila (a hilarious Channing Tatum), and Ginger Ale (Halle Berry).

They discover, too, that Harry hadn’t died and instead is being held by the Statesman because his head injury from his shooting in the first movie has left him with a weird kind of amnesia and he’s not the same Harry, so of course there will be a plot arc trying to get him back on track. In the midst of this, they’re realizing that a mysterious drug cartel that goes by the name “Golden Circle” may be responsible for the missile attacks, and Charlie is clearly part of it because it was his cybernetic arm that hacked the Kingsman for all the location information. Turns out the Golden Circle is run by a creepily appealing Poppy Adams (Julianne Moore, people!) whose base of operations is among some ruins in I believe a Cambodian jungle. But Poppy has a thing for kitschy 1950s-era architecture, so she’s converted the ruins to 1950s-style structures.

Not your typical drug cartel HQ…

And because this installment of the Kingsman isn’t yet over-the-top enough, Poppy has kidnapped Elton John (playing himself) and forces him to do concerts for her. I have to tell you, Elton was pretty damn funny in this movie.

Poppy’s big plan is that she has introduced some kind of nastiness into her drugs, so people who use them develop a terrible condition that goes in stages: a “blue rash,” manic behavior, paralysis, then a nasty death. And this is a range of drugs, from pot to more hardcore. She’ll provide an antidote, if the president of the U.S. ends the war on drugs and offers her immunity. The president (a real douchebag) says sure, but his actual plan is to quarantine everybody with the blue rash and let them die, thus, in his mind, getting rid of undesirables. Him and the clips of Fox News creeped me out way more than Poppy did.

So our heroes — the urbane, debonair Kingsman — team up with the down-home, rowdy, super Southern Statesman in a rollicking, often completely over-the-top mission to stop Poppy and get the antidote to millions of people worldwide.

The movie is thus filled with clever one-liners (and for those of the faint of heart, lots of swearage and some icky meat grinder scenes), ridiculous scenarios and crazy plot twists met with a sly earnestness on behalf of our characters. So if you look at it like that: an almost-superhero spy comic come to life in a movie, then it’s great fun, though there were some parts of the plot that dragged a bit.

If, however, you’re looking for the tighter flow (I thought) and clever character development of Kingsman 1, this isn’t your gig. Kingsman 2 truly is a comic book come to life, though once Harry and Eggsy are back in business together, they bring a sense of purpose and spark back to a plot that too often feels like a bucking bronco at a Frontier Days rodeo.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

It was a fluffy, fun movie though the asshole president and his horrible plan hit a little too close to home for me (let’s not even go there) and the moralizing over the drug war and pointing out that people who use drugs aren’t necessarily criminals fell a little flat (and felt a little forced) against the backdrop of fast-paced cartoon-ish action. That was one quibble. Let’s now get into some others, but I’ll start with pros:

  • Great action. Sure, it’s over the top and borders on superhero movies special effects, but it’s fun to suspend disbelief and get into it.
  • Fun, snappy dialogue with laugh-out-loud lines.
  • Amusing (albeit stereotypical) juxtaposition of the debonair Brits with the down-home Americans. But it felt all in good fun. And I hope Channing Tatum reprises this role in another Kingsman movie because he was hilarious and sadly didn’t get much screen time here.
  • Julianne Moore’s creepy (including a cannibal twist) but somehow suburbia wholesome (I have no idea how she did it) drug lord. However, a character like this I think was untapped potential, and demonstrated one of the intrinsic issues with this movie — is it a romp or trying to be more serious? At times it seemed it was trying to capture the dark comedy of a Coen brothers film but with the slapstick comedy in some areas and the comic book turn of the action sequences, it didn’t quite mesh.
  • Elton John. A seemingly weird addition as Poppy’s long-time hostage, but somehow, he made it work. And with many F-bombs and fun incorporation of his music.

Let’s do some cons:

  • Women didn’t play much of a role in this film and indeed, seemed to be fridged in at least one instance. Eggsy’s good buddy and fellow agent Roxy died in the missile attacks, for example, which happened within the first 30 minutes or so. Then Eggsy’s girlfriend ended up being one of those who took bad drugs, so the stakes get upped. Then another woman Eggsy meets at the Glastonbury Music Festival is Charlie’s alleged ex-girlfriend (turns out later she may not be “ex”) and he has to get a tracking device into her via — are you ready for this — va-jay-jay. It’s in the tip of a finger condom, basically, and…yeah. Not working for me in terms of this film. Plus, her character was basically used as a fall girl, if you will, with little development and stereotyping as the oversexed slut, if you will, to Eggsy’s nice guy. Ugh. And Julianne Moore’s character had a lot of potential, but she ends up falling flat in the end, too, and basically being murdered by Eggsy. So this character won’t be back in future Kingsman movies. Halle Berry’s character is one of those behind-the-scenes coordinator types who wants to be in the field, but apparently Whiskey has been side-lining her for years, so she doesn’t get much play though she gets her wish in the end. So yay! Maybe in a future movie?
  • WTF with the insertion of a tracking device via va-jay-jay? Seriously? And if that wasn’t icky enough, we had to watch the camera take us Fantastic Voyage-style along with the tracking device into her body. We don’t actually see the girl parts, though the camera zooms onto the fingers easing below her underwear waistband. Instead we have to watch the tracking device floating along inside a body. That was a seriously WTF moment for this viewer.
  • Disjointed plot points and pacing. The missile attacks didn’t seem to make much sense, though they seem to have originated with Charlie and the Golden Circle cartel. We’re never really sure why GC targeted Kingsman unless it was all Charlie’s thirst for revenge for washing out. At one point in the movie, I think I heard a character say that Kingsman was wiped out because of “an accident.” I’ll have to see it again to check that, but if so, it muddies the water further. And the whole Glastonbury side trip felt unnecessary, though it was used so we could all be exposed to the insertion of the tracking device, I’m guessing. But there are so many other ways that could have played out, and it would have taken half to a quarter of the time it took here.
  • A mole in Statesman. Okay, I like that as a plot twist but the mole’s reasons for doing it also fell flat and aligned with the dicey moralizing of some of the plot points.

Overall, it was a fun movie as long as you don’t think too deeply about it. I will admit that I enjoyed the first Kingsman movie much more, because I liked the mentor relationship of Firth’s character with Eggsy and Eggsy’s transformation into a Kingsman. Eggsy’s character in Kingsman 2 continued his ultimately nice-guy arc and his reliance on Harry’s mentorship continued through his memories (and then after Harry regained his memories, it continued), which was cool. I like that Eggsy, despite his past, isn’t a dark, douchey kind of guy. Heh.

It’s a fun way to spend a couple of hours, but again, if you’re not familiar with this franchise, you may not get some of the references in this one.

Happy Friday and may the odds be ever in our favor.

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