I couldn’t stop grinning throughout this whole film. God, how I love a cold-opener to just dump me right into the middle of the action!
The fights are bigger and better than the first. There’s one scene, in particular, towards the end, which blew the whole church massacre from the first film away. The stakes are higher, for the heroes, and more personal, and everything great about the first was cranked up to ten…except the antagonist.
I won’t call Poppy a villain—that implies she has a motivation for doing what she does and is as much a developed character as our sharp-dressed heroes. Julianne Moore is a near and dear favorite of mine, so seeing her in a role like this (which I’m not placing blame totally on her for) aches, a little. Poppy may be a “psychopath”, but that doesn’t translate into a formidable foe. She’s absent for a lot of the film, and, often—other than the initial missile strike against the Kingsmen—she doesn’t really have any effect on them. Everything is periphery. Samuel L. Jackson’s Valentine, from the first film, at least was present in the story—working behind-the-scenes, yes, but also front-and-center, to the world and the Kingsmen. Perhaps if Moore had a bit more creative control, or was given more free-rein over her role, it would’ve polished off the film nicely. Poppy is just very two-dimensional, and that really subtracted from my overall enjoyment…
The soundtrack and score, camerawork, and classic Kingsman atmosphere got me totally immersed in the film, though, for the most part. There’s some wonky-looking CGI in here that even the most casual of movie-goer could pick out. Seemed half-baked. A lot of primary characters die off—some very early, some before we even get to know them—or become absent for a lot of the film. As much as Channing Tatum was advertised for this one, I’d’ve loved to have seen more of his character. It’s good to see the dynamic, surrogate father-son duo of Eggsy and Harry back in-action again (after some very grueling work to get them back together). I garnered a greater appreciation for Mark Strong’s Merlin, too—his arc was great in this.
As far as the action set-pieces, they were a lot more intense than in the first film. That’s not bashing the first film for lack-luster sequences, but Vaughn and company knew what made those fun and maxed these new ones out. A lot more Bond tropes are picked apart and satirized in this film—one of the franchise’s lauded strengths. Of course, there’s the “last-minute” save motif that these spy movies are famous for, but it’s different with Kingsman—I didn’t care so much about them saving the world as I did watching the action-packed journey of getting to that point.
This film didn’t blow me away, but it’s a good popcorn watch. My eyes were glued on the screen the whole time, and I was very involved in the many returning characters and interested to see how the filmmakers develop the new ones, going forward. The world of Kingsman has been blown wide-open now; they can take the story anywhere they’d like, from here. Lacking villain and CG, aside, Kingsman: The Golden Circle is a wild ride. Can’t wait for the inevitable third installment.
Final ‘Risk Assessment: ****/*
Next review: Blade Runner 2049 (Oct. 6th)