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The UnPopular Opinion: Kingsman: The Golden Circle

THE UNPOPULAR OPINION is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATHED. We're hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Enjoy!

****SOME SPOILERS ENSUE****

Every sequel has the expectation of being bigger, better, and just more than the film that came before it. While not all films can be THE DARK KNIGHT, MAD MAX:FURY ROAD, or even MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE - FALLOUT, they all strive to up the ante and deliver a piece of entertainment that revels in the franchise potential of their predecessors. When Matthew Vaughn chose to make KINGSMAN: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE his first sequel, everyone had high expectations. But, despite reuniting Taron Egerton, Mark Strong, and Colin Firth, KINGSMAN: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE was met with a divisive reception. Some critics lamented the excessive running time and considered the film to be less intense than the original. Fans did not flock to the movie as they did with the original and KINGSMAN: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE was forgotten almost as quickly as it left theaters. The real shame is that everything about this sequel is better than the original and that comes without a scene as iconic as the church sequence from the first entry in the franchise.

KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE had the difficult task of taking a comic book that most audiences were unfamiliar with, populating it with Britsh actors led by an unknown newcomer in Taron Egerton, and delivering a balls to the wall R-rated spy thriller full of violence and profanity. Usually, the violence and profanity would be a non-factor to get butts into seats, but Matthew Vaughn's trademark style blended the gore of KICK-ASS with the studio format of X-MEN: FIRST CLASS. With KINGSMAN: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE, Vaughn got his first taste of upping the ante on himself. But, while KINGSMAN: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE definitely goes bigger in almost every way, Vaughn intentionally avoided replicating himself. There is no scene that you can equate to the church scene from the original and the villainous Poppy (Julianne Moore) could not be more different than Samuel L. Jackson's Valentine. In fact, KINGSMAN: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE seems to be more like the AUSTIN POWERS franchise than anything else.

The UnPopular Opinion, Kingsman: The Golden Circle, Drama, Comedy, Action, Matthew Vaughn, Colin Firth, Taron Egerton, Julianne Moore, Channing Tatum, Mark Strong, Halle Berry, Jeff Bridges, Pedro Pascal

Now, I know more than anyone that Mike Myers spy series is not exactly the company you would expect a filmmaker like Matthew Vaughn to be found in, but here me out. The first AUSTIN POWERS film was a sleeper hit that defied expectations and budgetary constraints to become a box office hit. Just like KINGSMAN. When the time came for a sequel to be made, the budget was increased and the cast expanded. With KINGSMAN: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE, Matthew Vaughn has delivered less of an action film and more of a comedy. The first movie felt like the perfect blend of KICK-ASS and James Bond whereas THE GOLDEN CIRCLE fully embraces the satirical and ridiculous. Yes, the first film had a villain using cell phones to drive the world to violence which ended with the heroes using the technology to make heads explode, but it worked in the context of the film. In the sequel, everything is over the top and still works within this fictional landscape. Now, there are robotic dogs, a building shaped like a whiskey bottle, and Elton John fighting henchmen. In many ways, KINGSMAN: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE feels like a gritty remake of AUSTIN POWERS and I love that.

KINGSMAN: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE is a very long movie for a comedy. We have become accustomed to films crossing the two hour mark consistently in recent years but usually that is reserved for superhero movies. At twenty minutes longer than the original, KINGSMAN: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE could have gone in multiple directions and, to echo the complaints of many critics and audiences, Vaughn and co-screenwriter Jane Goldman, it instead crams them all into a single film. Could the story have been pared down to a more streamlined narrative? Sure, but then we would have missed the excess that is key to what the KINGSMAN franchise is turning into. KINGSMAN: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE is not James Bond nor is it even Jason Bourne. This is a mythology all it's own that could have aimed for the Sean Connery era of 007 as inspiration but instead is a homage to Roger Moore's more b-movie sensibility. That makes this film not just fun to watch but clearly fun for all of the actors involved.

While there is limited screen time here for both the great Jeff Bridges and Channing Tatum, whose roles end up more like glorified cameos, but both Halle Berry and Pedro Pascal get in to truly fun roles. Berry, who I could see becoming a mainstay for future sequels in to KINGSMAN: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE, gets to play a variation on Mark Strong's Merlin. Strong, always a pleasure to see in any project, bows out here but could easily return in a similar manner to how they brought back Colin Firth (more on that later). Pedro Pascal, whose Agent Whiskey is both a friend and foil for our protagonists, gets to unleash the most and play against the type of role we usually see him in. Julianne Moore is the lone wasted element as the main villain who gets upstaged by both Pascal as well as Bruce Greenwood. Greenwood, who plays the President of the United States, has played the Leader of the Free World before, but here he gets to channel the stereotypical American Cowboy version that the rest of the world sees in the White House and becomes a much more tangible menace than Moore's Poppy ever becomes.

The realy joy of the sequel is the return of Colin Firth as Harry Hart. Despite the brief return of Roxy, seeing Michael Gambon as the new Arthur, and even Elton John's brilliant supporting cameo, KINGSMAN: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE is really about the father-son relationship between Eggsy and Harry. The pair of Galahads had a reverse in this sequel to their pairing in THE SECRET SERVICE with the now amnesiac Harry recovering and needing to prove himself to his former protege. The dynamic between the two agents always feels heartfelt and geniune with the charisma shared between Egerton and Firth making for some truly enjoyable action and banter. It is almost like having two 007s at the same time. Vaughn and Goldman make great use of not needing to explain how the Kingsman agents function here and instead can rely on pure action and comedy. Yes, this film is violent but the gore is minimal. Even seeing two different characters fed into a meat grinder is less guignol and more slapstick.

The UnPopular Opinion, Kingsman: The Golden Circle, Drama, Comedy, Action, Matthew Vaughn, Colin Firth, Taron Egerton, Julianne Moore, Channing Tatum, Mark Strong, Halle Berry, Jeff Bridges, Pedro Pascal

All together, Matthew Vaughn's sequel deserved to be so much more highly regarded than when it first hit theaters last year. The action is more like a live action comic book than anything coming from Marvel or DC these days and pushes the R-rating envelope to places equal to DEADPOOL and LOGAN. The musical score from Henry Jackman and Matthew Margeson evokes the class of a big budget film while still sounding perfectly retro for a good Roger Moore 007 romp. George Richmond's cinematography is crisp and glossy, giving KINGSMAN: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE the look of an expensive studio blockbuster. And yet, at the same time Matthew Vaughn's film is the anti-Bond. It manages to be a post-Millennial homage to Ian Fleming's famous spy but one that circumvents the rules. In so many ways, KINGSMAN: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE feels like Vaughn saying screw you to every studio note he got on the first movie and going balls out to do everything you would never expect from a sequel while still following the tried and true formula of a second chapter in a franchise. For that, KINGSMAN: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE ended up being the best sequel of 2017.

Oh, and if you have any suggestions for The UnPopular Opinion I’m always happy to hear them. You can send along an email to [email protected], spell it out below, slap it up on my wall in Movie Fan Central, or send me a private message via Movie Fan Central. Provide me with as many movie suggestions as you like, with any reasoning you'd care to share, and if I agree then you may one day see it featured in this very column!
Source: JoBlo.com

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