If you’ve seen the first Kingsman movie then you should know what to expect and The Golden Circle delivers on those things very well – it’s another crazy over-the-top action film that tips its hat to the more outlandish Bond films whilst bringing them into the current year. It does suffer a bit from being the second film though as the take that the film has upon the spy genre feels less fresh and exciting than it does the last time – it feels a bit more like Vaughn and company are going through the motions somewhat this time around. Additionally there are a few plot elements that feel weak, mostly relating to character deaths. Two individuals from the first film bite the dust early on in an unceremonious manner, whilst another goes down in a way that feels incredibly forced and added in for the sake of drama (though it is a well done and emotional death). That doesn’t diminish from the sheer amount of fun that The Golden Circle delivers on all fronts. Once again the action scenes are grandiose and action packed, showing the sheer inventiveness of Vaughn and Goldman in crafting thrilling moments. Though there’s nothing on par with the church massacre from the first film the action scenes are still over the top and incredibly enjoyable. They also do well with the imaginative designs of areas such as the Statesmen’s headquarters (a building shaped like a giant bottle of whiskey) and Poppy’s hideout (which has a 50s theme), which shows how wonderfully imaginative the series still is. The music too is great again; not only do we have a strong score from Henry Jackman but many songs pop up and add to the awesomeness of the action – Prince and Cameo songs appear, and since Elton John appears as himself you can guarantee that at least of a couple of his numbers would be used to underscore the epic fight scenes.
The characters are overall pretty good, though the returning faces are on the whole better than the new hands. Egerton proved himself a star with the first film and he’s just as good here, melding together both the funny nature of Eggsy and his awesome superspy credentials and making him a compelling and charismatic lead. Firth showed himself off to be a surprising badass in the first film and here he plays another side of Harry Hart; as a result of the Statesmen he’s back to life (the method is a bit contrived but fits into the tone of the universe) but not quite himself, being amnesiac and believing himself to be a lepidopterist. This shows off the more vulnerable and weaker side of Hart that Firth pulls off very well; this can be seen by a fight in a saloon that is meant to call back the pub fight in the first film but results in Harry getting his arse kicked (though he does get better and kicks plenty of arse later on). Mark Strong is great too, being comical in his overly serious nature and having some surprisingly sweet moments. Of the new faces, the best of the bunch is easily Julianne Moore as main villain Poppy. She’s got a wonderful demeanour, often speaking down to people like they’re children as she’s about to kill them, which makes her exciting and charismatic to watch. Where The Golden Circle falls down is through the introduction of the Statesmen, who feel tacked on in this film. Channing Tatum, Halle Berry and Jeff Bridges all feel wasted as their roles don’t give them much to do, with none of them having a role in the big climax, and though there’s some inventiveness in their designs the whole agency feels weak and underdeveloped. The sole exception is Whiskey, played by Pedro Pascal, who has the most screentime, developing a suave intrigue with his actions that make you wonder what side he’s on and he has many a badass moment with his whip – he’s easily the saving grace of the otherwise weak Statesmen.
Kingsman: The Golden Circle is a more than worthy sequel to The Secret Service, though it’s not as good as the first film and has a fair few problems. This mainly relates to the introduction of the American characters, who are incredibly weak (Pascal aside) despite the fact that they were billed as being the big stars of the film, having very little of any worth to do. Additionally, there’s the fact that the film’s blend of crazy action and comedy doesn’t feel as fresh this time round. But that doesn’t stop the film from being lots of fun still; the action scenes and sets are very well conceived, there’s a lot of great comedy moments and the cast all do a fine job, especially the retuning faces. Though The Golden Circle doesn’t blow away the rest of the spy competition it’s still an exceptionally fun ride.
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