I have rarely been so disappointed with a film. Not only did I love Kingsman: The Secret Service but the sequel opens with a fight scene played out to Prince’s Let’s Go Crazy. How could a film that used Prince as its first track be so bad?! Prince would never have let them use his song in such a dud if he were still alive.
The best way to describe The Golden Circle is ‘overstuffed’. There is too much of, well, everything. Too many new faces, too many extended callbacks to the first film, too much bad CGI (I can’t stress enough how bad the CGI is)… While the stylized fight scenes worked in the first film, in The Golden Circle there are simply too many of them and they go on for far too long. The filmmakers have clearly decided that the ‘formula’ for the first film worked, so they are just going to repeat it ad nauseum.
Eggsy’s got talent
Kingsman: The Golden Circle continues to follow Eggsy’s escapades, now as a fully-fledged Kingsman agent. After an ‘ordinary’ day of work (as ordinary as life as a super spy can be), failed Kingsman applicant Charlie attacks. But Charlie isn’t how we remember him – he now has an impressive bionic arm, making him far more dangerous.
After the addresses of all Kingsman agents and headquarters are uncovered, the agency is almost completely wiped out. Only Eggsy and Merlin survive. The emergency protocols lead them to Statesman, their American counterpart agency. Together, the two agencies must work together to save the world from Poppy, the devious leader of the world’s largest drug cartel.
Escalation and recreation
I can understand the desire to recreate the success of a previous film that performed well, but when will filmmakers learn that trying to hit the same notes as before never works? The odd callback is fun and enjoyable fan-service, like Tilde’s reference to ‘you know what that means’ if Eggsy saves the world again, but most of the callbacks are really re-treads.
Sequels often seem to struggle with the idea that they need to be even bigger and better than their predecessor. But bigger doesn’t always mean better (it’s how you use it, after all…). Kingsman: The Secret Service had a villain with global impact, so of course for the sequel they had nowhere to really escalate to. What happens is a villain that feels very similar – creating a virus that infects millions of people worldwide and can only be ‘cured’ by a passcode for the computer. To make matters worse, they have the fabulous Julianne Moore playing the villain but do absolutely nothing with her.
The women problem
A nice twist on the spy genre is the monogamous spy. Tilde, the Swedish Princess at the end of the first film who was so, er, open with her behind, returns in The Golden Circle as Eggsy’s long-term girlfriend. He is very sweetly devoted to her, making for a great twist on Bond’s usual ‘use them and lose them’ approach to women. But in the end, she is still given nothing to do bar being Eggsy’s motivator when it comes to saving the world – she is one of the victims of the terrible virus. Women should have more purpose than simply driving the hero to complete his mission.
Roxy is also problematic. While I recognized that the first film was Eggsy’s story and thus her sidelining was inevitable, she was still the ‘best’ of the agents. This premise is carried through to The Golden Circle. Roxy is hard working, diligent, and exceptionally talented. But she is also immediately disposed of. I find it odd for a film with Jane Goldman involved would be so dismissive of its women. Without Roxy, there is very limited oestrogen representation in the rest of the film, and none of them have any particular agency either, mostly being used as plot devices.
Having thoroughly enjoyed the first film, The Golden Circle was an utter disappointment. It didn’t really deliver on any level bar putting Mark Strong in a sexy tailored suit (I can’t be the only one who finds him completely beguiling?). Even the gorgeous Pedro Pascal is underwhelming. It really is a shame that the sequel went so wrong. It had too many cameos, too many big name actors, too many fight scenes, too many sub-plots that added nothing, and too many minutes in its bloated runtime.
Verdict: Just no. This is a terrible film. Watch the first one and leave it at that.