If there’s anything Kingsman: The Golden Circle feels like, it’s a third season of a show that’s slowly coming to a close. Characters are introduced and taken away to mix up the status quo, new locations are added to bring new ideas into the show. But ultimately, the feeling can never be shaken that there’s nowhere else to go. No matter the window dressing, we’ve seen everything there is to see. All that waits for us is the inevitable trudge towards the finish line, where the Kingsman franchise will probably collapse coughing and spluttering to an early death.
Granted, I’ve exaggerated that analogy to an insane degree, but the core idea rings true. After the success of 2015’s exciting and pulpy Kingsman: The Secret Service, there was nowhere to go but downhill. Eggsy had completed his mission, and the Kingsman would continue their adventures. We didn’t have to see them, nor did we need to. The first film felt like a singular, closed tale, making this sequel all the more jarring. There was a lot of building in the first film, but here the majority of it feels unnecessary. Despite the film’s best efforts, not once did I care about any of the Statesmen. Each of them are either wasted (Halle Berry as Ginger Ale), collecting a paycheque (Jeff Bridges as Champ), over utilised (Pedro Pascal as Whiskey, sporting an accent and demeanour that’s hilarious until it isn’t) and just plain random (Channing Tatum as Tequila, who’s in the film for ten minutes before being taken out of commission).
Much is added to the world, but most of these new developments detract from the film. The Statesmen have technology that can save people from headshots! That won’t take away any form of tension from any death in the film at all! In fact, while we’re discussing the removal of tension, the reintroduction of Harry Hart really takes the cake for that element of the movie. Him coming back is utterly artless and empty, and the film stops dead to explain how it happened. To make matters worse, Colin Firth is actually not great in this film. It’s utterly bizarre how backwards that is, considering that he was the highlight of the original. The old amnesia trick is used, and you get the feeling that Harry was only brought into the script late into the game to appease fans of the original.
There’s a few good things about the film. There’s two great action scenes; the opening set to Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy” and a third act action scene where Harry and Eggsy try to take on Poppyland, which also features a rather good celebrity cameo. The production design is stunning as ever, and Vaughn and the production company clearly had a ball designing Poppyland and all the weird 50s subculture inside it. In fact, Julianne Moore is good as the villainous drug dealer Poppy, even if her plan and general character motivation shows the film’s confused drug politics. Then again, if you were coming to a Kingsman film for insightful political commentary then I’m not sure what kind of drug you’re on.
In fact, Harry’s reintroduction is a microcosm of the whole picture: artless where the original was nimble, soulless when the original was full of wit and humour, and utterly predictable where the original was rebellious. It’s not that Kingsman: The Golden Circle is terrible, it’s that it is utterly, utterly lifeless. The franchise decided to run before it could walk, and now all that remains is an empty husk of what was once legitimately fun.