2014's Kingsman was a surprise hit, and deservedly so. The action was balls to the wall great, the production design slick, and the send-up of traditional spy movie tropes and winking nods to its own overflowing goofiness was impossible not to find charming. It introduced us to Taron Egerton, who was perfect for the role of a super-spy in training, even if he hasn't quite proved that his career has legs beyond this franchise. And it made over $400 million, quadrupling its budget. So it is no surprise that a sequel was green-lit. It's also no surprise that the sequel is basically a carbon copy of the the first movie, just dialed up louder, flashier and with a bigger budget.
Kingsman: The Golden Circle was not as well received and the box office, while not terrible, was not everything they were hoping for. But for me, the movie hit all the right notes. It is essentially just an excuse for well-groomed good looking people to walk around for 2 hours shooting and punching each other in extremely stylish ways. You have to judge a movie based on what its ambitions are - and this movie does not aspire to be anything other than a silly action movie that dials up the pulp to 11. Because of that, I consider it a success as it totally delivers on its promise to be a few hours of mindless, glossy fun. In particular, I like that in this franchise the characters are in on the joke - they know they are in a borderline parody, and they lean into it which makes it easier to tolerate things like the resurrection of Colin Firth's character using the wizardry of movie mumbo jumbo.
Despite this, both the original and the sequel have been accused of hiding problematic conservative messages. I find this ridiculous. This is the kind of whining, hypersensitive bullshit that drives people into the arms of someone like Donald Trump. So let's take a moment and dissect why it's insane to think this franchise is secretly pushing a conservative agenda. The first movie was about a super-villain/environmentalist whose plan involves getting all the elite, rich people together in a cave and then forcing the plebs to maul each other to death, in the process saving the planet from pollution and over-population. The plan backfires, resulting in decapitation by neck bomb of all the world's elites. The second movie is about a 1950s nostalgia-loving drug kingpin who poisons the world's drug supply in a convoluted attempt to actually legalize drugs. It features scenes where Elton John does a flying snap kick to the grill of a henchman and Julianne Moore grinds a man up into hamburger meat and then feeds him to another man in a scene that fully basks in its own bat-shit insanity.
It almost seems absurd to have to say this, but any movie where Elton John gives a ninja kick to the face (in gloriously over the top slow-motion so he can deliver a gratuitous wink to the camera, no less), or where Elton John uses a bowling ball to smash a killer robot dog's head is one that ought not be taken too seriously. This is not a franchise that is trying to offer serious commentary on class conflict, social cleavages, environmentalism, drug policy or anything else. It is a movie where secret agents who have their headquarters under a Savile Row tailor shop use see-through bulletproof umbrellas to shoot bad guys in some of the best blocked, choreographed, filmed and edited action sequences you will ever see.
That is all this movie purports to be - a silly showcase for sleek action sequences. And boy does it deliver! I just love the action in this film, fluid and kinetic and fun, never jumbled or over-edited. And that is all the film wants to do, is be a vessel for delivering flashy action set pieces while people walk around in exquisitely tailored suits. Over-analyzing a film like this to tease out an anti-elite screed is simply a sign that your Liberal Arts education has gotten away from you.