The spy comedy is probably one of the most interesting genres around because you don’t see it that often. Aside from Melissa McCarthy’s Spy, the last big string of spy spoofs that I remember are the Austin Powers movies, and that’s going back over a decade! It’s a subgenre that gets forgotten about and then gains popularity again when a bored director decides it’s what the movie market needs. Thus in 2015 we were given The Kingsman, which surprised everyone. Obviously in a good way because it got the green light for a sequel.
Kingsman: The Golden Circle follows field agent Eggsy (Taron Egerton) and tech master Merlin (Mark Strong) in their quest to save the world from a psychopath drug manufacturer (Julianne Moore) after she poisons all of her products and holds the world ransom to legalise recreational drug use. Time is against them as half the world is infected and, to make matters worse, Poppy manages to destroy all of Kingsman’s agents. In order to save the world, Eggsy and Merlin must team up with their American cousins, the Statesmen, to bring down Poppy and her drug empire.
The first movie was such a surprise with its MA rating and somehow un-gory climax of heads exploding, I was concerned that the moviemakers would somehow try and best that (and overdo it in the process). Thankfully, director Matthew Vaughn and the writers decided to up the ante on a different front: the villain. Poppy is a strange villain. She’s kind of a cross between Heath Leger’s Joker and a Stepford Wife. She’s all smiles and cheerful 1950s housewife visage, even when she’s feeding employees burgers made from their ‘fallen’ colleagues, and there’s no given rhyme or reason to her actions other than ‘she’s crazeh’, which is now apparently a character type for women…
And it seems that there were some struggles in adding depth to the film, which eventually got given up on by the looks. Firth’s character is back (not a spoiler, the trailers give that away) and I can see they tried to have some sort of character journey/story between him and Eggsy, but it fell flatter than a crepe. Whatever other drama aside from the central plot they tried to inject was rejected with a cinematic upchuck reflex.
Ultimately Golden Circle isn’t better than the first movie because it doesn’t have that fresh novelty. The story is a strategic save the world narrative taking the place of Bond meets My Fair Lady, which is fine but not groundbreaking, the action sequences are cool if a little cartoonish, and the characters are all pretty bland and archetypal. All the elements work together to make a good popcorn movie, but really that’s all this is: a film that you can just watch and don’t have to think through. It may start with all guns blazing, but by the end of Kingsman: The Golden Circle you’re left feeling a little zoned out and unfulfilled.