Film: Kingsman and Kingsman II

Andrew Stephens, Thursday the 4th of January, 2018 in Films

Posters for both Kingsman : The Secret Service and Kingsman : The Golden Circle A young man from a housing estate is recruited into a secret society dedicated to protecting the United Kingdom against threats that government agencies cannot act against. Although he doesn’t quite fit the mold of the upper-class gentlemen that make up the Kingsmen, he nevertheless completes his training in time to save the world. And then save it again in the sequel.

Both Kingsman and the sequel are perfect airplane movies, which is lucky because I happened to see both of them on airplanes. I could wax lyrical about the tight plots, perfect casting, and the general sense of gleeful fun but the real reason I like these films so much is that they refuse to buy into the air of nihilism that pervades a lot of big budget action films these days. Both films clearly nail their colors to the mast and state that the little guy can become something better and make a difference in the world and that greatness is something that can be obtained with vision and self-sacrifice.

It is impossible to watch these films without thinking of James Bond, but Kingsman refuses to be lashed to that flabby anchor of a series, acknowledging it only to make fun of it. I especially enjoyed Eggsy entering the room of spy gadgets and asking what was special about the regulation cell phone he was issued only to be told that consumer technology has caught up to the spy business and the phones were just off-the-shelf models.

Both films are steadfast in their dedication to violence but are not the grim slogfests that modern fashion dictates. Both the fight scenes and endless sets of goons are well executed in elaborately choreographed single-takeFaked but still impressive scenes that look like something a young Jackie Chan would come up with if he had had access to CGI and a strong music licensing team. I am not sure that Chan would allow anything quite so joyfully bloody though - I felt a little uncomfortable with this on my screen during the flight with a young child standing beside me in the aisleNot uncomfortable enough to stop watching though - it's never to early to start the desensitizing process.

I have ranted before about bland villainsLooking at you, Justice League but you can't make the same complaint here. Both films boast ridiculously over-the-top bad guys with mad, somewhat satirical schemes and plenty of henchmen to dispatch. I am not sure how Samuel L. Jackson was told to portray Valentine in the first film but he certainly made some bold and memorable acting choices.

Speaking of bold choices, it somehow seems courageous that these films hold rich elites profiting off society's ills in such contempt. This shouldn't really be so unusual but it has become so rare for media to be so firmly on the side of the masses that both films seem refreshingI can't help feeling that maybe James Bond would be on the other side of both disputes depicted. The second film even ends with the president of the United States being impeached in a wacky and far-fetched twist.

There is still plenty to criticize the Kingman films for. While not exactly being sexistAt least not like the Bond films, woman are certainly secondary. The first film at least has a competent female sidekick but she is all-but written out of the sequelThe cynic in me wonders if the producers thought they had reached quota by having a female villain. I don't consider myself particularly Woke™ but it is a shame to see films that are in other way quite socially conscious be unable to say much about their female characters.

Both films tread the difficult satirical line between "biting" and "broad" and not everything works or makes much sense. But if you find fault in a film where robot dogs attack Elton John in a recreation of a 50s diner built in the ruins of a South American temple for sometimes getting a little silly then perhaps the error lies with you.

Actual frame from the second film. Somebody actually storyboarded, lensed, edited, and then included this shot in a big budget film. What a time to be alive.
Actual frame from the second film. Somebody actually storyboarded, lensed, edited, and then included this shot in a big budget film. What a time to be alive.