So, I finally got to watch Kingsman 2: The Golden Circle (spoilers)
Look, let’s get it right out of the way; Kingsman 2 isn’t as good as the first movie. As of writing this post, it’s sitting at 50% critics approval on Rotten Tomatoes; I think it probably more deserves it’s 71% audience approval rating. Not great, but good, enjoyable.
As such, things I liked/thought were good;
1. Eggsy and Harry’s relationship and how it still stays a massive part of the heart of the movie. In the second movie it’s Eggsy that has to believe in Harry, a good twist on their relationship in the first movie. It’s down right heart warming to see them hug when Harry finally gets his memory back, and watching them fight together like a well oiled machine was terribly satisfying after the first movie denied it to us.
2. Merlin’s death. Now wait, let me explain. Absolutely, I’d have preferred if Merlin survived (and if there is a sequel and he’s shows up with prosthetics then I’m all for it), but Merlin’s death was movie death done right. It was a meaningful sacrifice that impacted the characters, the plot, and was true to Merlin’s character. It was an active decision, and having him sing Country Roads was brilliant and sad and inspired.
3. Eggsy and Tilde’s relationship. I was never really in the crowd of people who found the anal sex joke too outrageous in the first (I kind of found it strangely sex positive for her, and also I was pretty okay with the church massacre so I felt like the line was already probably crossed?) but when I heard that she was going to continue to be part of the sequel, I was a little wary. But honestly, her relationship with Eggsy was sweet and understated. Tilde - and Eggsy’s relationship with her - end up serving the important purpose of showing that Eggsy is still different from the Kingsman of old, something that since he’s now a suited gentleman, was going to be hard to portray. The fact that he has someone he does love and how that impacts his character is a nice contrast between someone like Harry, who had no one and had died with that regret, and it was good to have in the movie.
4. Julianne Moore’s Poppy. No, she wasn’t as good as Samuel Jackson’s Valentine but jeez that wouldn’t be fair to hold against her. Jackson’s character was a tour de force and although Moore never reaches that level, her villain was fun and engaging. Her “legalize drugs” was a decent follow up to the first movie’s “save the environment” villain scheme, and although it wasn’t quite as fun of a plot, the story was fine, with enough mystery to be interesting.
5. Soundtrack was still amazing. Those fights in Poppy Land to Word Up and Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting weren’t the church scene, but they were still pretty damn good.
6. Harry’s handicap. I’m not sure if they specifically meant it this way, but it was kind of great to watch Harry’s troubles after he’s regained his memory, not just because they were hilarious, but also because if he’d lost an eye he would have lost his depth perception, and that’s the problems he was having. Also, watching Whiskey fuck up that bar while Merlin and Eggsy totally ignore him in favour of counselling Harry was great.
7. Elton “fuck you!” John. Look, Elton John was absolutely the best part of this movie, something I did not expect to be saying. If you’d told me I needed to watch Sir Elton John kill a guy with a piano dressed in rainbow feathers and glittery go-go boots I’d have wondered what drugs you were on. But he was hands down the most fun part of the movie, and his rescuing Harry (and more subtle anal joke) were absolutely fantastic.
That said, there were certainly some things that could have used some improvement.
And thus, in no particular order, the things I wasn’t that crazy about/needed some work;
1. Roxy’s death. Unlike Merlin’s death, Roxy’s death was pretty disappointing. Roxy was a secondary character, true, but she was, in many ways our tertiary protagonist (after Eggsy and Harry) and as a character, she deserved a death better than what she got. Her death was passive, in that it happened to her and she had no agency in it, it was the same death as all the other Kingsman we’d never met, and although it had an emotional impact on Eggsy, it really just served to let the story of “Eggsy and Merlin are all that’s left” happen, which is disappointing. Absolutely nothing would have been lost if Eggsy, Merlin and Roxy had been the ones to go the the USA and it’s too bad we couldn’t have had that happen.
2. The portrayal of America, in general? Look, I’m not American I’m Canadian, but I honestly felt a little uncomfortable with the portrayal of Americans in this movie. Apparently all American’s are southern cowboys and rednecks in this universe, which was kind of unnecessary. It worked in the first movie because we all understood that the church was a clear stand in for the West Borough Baptist Church and fuck those guys. But in this movie other than Halle Berry we didn’t get a single American character who wasn’t a huge “redneck” joke, and that joke got pretty tiring pretty fast.
3. Introducing the Statesman. Look, I get that the movie had a lot of plot to cram into its run time but seriously, I’d like to have had some of that time devoted to actually developing the new characters. The first movie had great secondary characters; Tilde, Michelle, Dean, Charlie, Roxy, Chester King and Gazelle all felt like they had personalities and real character. The Statesmen were at best, one note, and at worst, embarrassingly blank. Ginger Ale wants to be an agent. Champagne is an honourable guy who doesn’t drink (and is also 100% just Jeff Bridges). Tequila is a newer agent “bad boy” who does drugs (and spends most of the movie frozen). And Whiskey. Whiskey has a tragic back story that gets shoved in at the last second and that’s about it. These characters could have been so much more, but the movie never takes the time to develop them, and so you’re never really invested in what happens to them.
4. Whiskey and Eggsy’s dynamic. They mostly didn’t have one, and that’s the problem. The movie really misses a grand opportunity to have a contrast between how Harry and Eggsy’s mentoring relationship contests with Whiskey and Eggsy’s…mostly because they don’t have one. Sure, they complete a couple of missions together but even they don’t don’t really work together at the festival or the lab; they’ve got no real banter, no relationship. Instead of having Eggsy and Whiskey build a relationship of trust that goes against Harry’s style - maybe have them both be risk takers that go against Harry’s more traditional style - the movie forces conflict by having Harry shoot Whiskey, which Eggsy naturally responds with appropriate anger. That said, they don’t even do anything with that because Eggsy immediately forgives Harry and it doesn’t really impact his trust of Harry at all. That in turns makes Whiskey’s betrayal fall pretty flat at the end, and it’s a real shame because it wouldn’t have taken much to add a real emotional dynamic to that.
5. Would it have killed them to have had a scene with Eggsy’s mom and baby sister? Yes, Michelle was there for 1 second at his wedding but seriously, his mother and his sister were major parts of his character and his arc in the first movie. I’m not saying she had to be a part of the plot or anything, but it would have been nice to have them there and continue that motive of how important family is to Eggsy.
Honestly, Kingsman 2 was probably never going to be better than the first, for the same reason Men in Black 2 wasn’t better than its first movie, or really any other movie that hinges on the mentor/protege relationship. By the end of the first movie Eggsy was a Kingsman and so that dynamic with Harry that was so core to the heart of the movie was gone. That said, Kingsman 2: the Golden Circle tried admirably to capture a new twist on that relationship while still staying true to its original’s themes and while it’s certainly not flawless I think it succeeds more than it fails. I’d definitely recommend it for a watch if you enjoyed the first one.