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Kingsman 2: The Golden Circle
When Kingsman: Secret Service was released in February 2015 the result was well-received. And for good reason as it was a damned enjoyable film, in the vein of the ‘60s British spy films, with a modern flair and lots of great action sequences. So like most $100 million action films (and almost a half billion internationally), a sequel was inevitable.
Jane Goldman and Matthew Vaughn co-wrote the script for Kingsman: The Golden Circle as they did for the first film, and Vaughn directs this film as he did the first. Eggsy (Taron Egerton, Eddie the Eagle) returns and is part of the secret society in London that bears the Kingsman name. And following a fight from a man with a familiar man with a robotic arm (don't ask), the remaining Kingsman throughout England have been eliminated by rocket attacks, save for the gadget man named Merlin (Mark Strong, reprising his role from the first film). They try to seek the help of a similar secret society in the states named, well, the Statesman. The predominant members include the leader, Champagne (Jeff Bridges, True Grit), two onsite members in Tequila (Channing Tatum, Logan Lucky) and Whiskey (Pedro Pascal, Narcos), and Merlin's gadget heavy equivalent named Ginger (Halle Berry, Cloud Atlas). They learn the person responsible for the attacks is a charming but precise villain named Poppy (Julianne Moore, Short Cuts), who wants all drugs legalized and threatens the lives of millions with a virus in order for this to happen.
( POTENTIAL SPOILERS) So there are a number of things in The Golden Circle that plague it and provide some pain, first of which is Poppy's introduction to audiences. She "interviews" two potential assistants in the middle of the Asian jungle, which she's set up a compound that could only be described as a retro-‘50s inspired design (though begging the question how she gets all this electricity and technology to work in the middle of said jungle), and the result is someone being mauled by two robotic dogs with lasers for eyes, like something Dr. Evil would utter without irony. There's little sense in the backstory and almost as much in the execution of making her evil, other than for giggles I guess?
Next up is the desire to cram everything into this film and it bursts at the seams even at its 140 minute runtime. Eggsy and Merlin run into Harry (Colin Firth, Bridget Jones's Baby), shot dead in the first film but back now, falling back on his knowledge of butterflies that are prevalent through his house in the first film. It's a nice hook that takes up a lot of time because Vaughn wants to give it that time of course, but he does this with virtually everything in the film. The action scenes lack the luster and fun of the first film despite a fun nod to Prince in the opening moments, and the third act battles that are set to "Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting" are interminable, made more so by the inclusion of Elton John, who appears early in the film and never really goes away. It's not that his appearance in the film is unwelcome, it's just overly abundant. (END POTENTIAL SPOILERS)
And for the pain that The Golden Circle brings, I think in some strange way that Matthew Vaughn made this movie as he did so as to nuke any possibility of a trilogy (despite words that hint otherwise in the bonus material). Given that Egerton can't carry the film on his own, hence the ample screen time of Strong, and that there are several different subarcs going on in the film; given that John might have as much time on screen as Tatum or Bridges, given the robot dogs and near two and a half hours of confused movie, who would put all of this together and say that it's an ample sequel to a fun original? I'm not hammering on the believability because the reason why this film was made was because of the silliness of the first one, but this one tries way too hard to immerse itself in the camp, to the point where it would HAVE to run counter to the ethos.
I really enjoyed the first Kingsman movie, and adored the trailers which used songs by Frank Sinatra and The Who in them in what I could describe as uniquely Matthew Vaughn moments. And The Golden Circle tries to replicate the success of the first and makes some curious decisions in some places and some bad ones in others, leading to a disappointing experience. I hope Vaughn is going punk by subtly nuking this franchise, or at the very least rebounds to form with whatever the third film is going to be. Nevertheless this is hardly worthy of the footprints of its predecessor.
The Blu-ray Disc:
Presented in 2.40:1 widescreen and using the AVC codec, The Golden Circle lives up to the part with inky black levels and vivid saturation in the brighter palette without excessiveness or haloing in the image. Flesh tones appear natural and lots of detail can be gleaned in things like hamburger fibers or in the feathers of Elton's outfit. It replicates the recent source material accurately and Fox does well with the transfer.
Fox gives The Golden Circle a DTS-HD 7.1 lossless surround track and the results are up to the challenge as you'd expect. The opening cab fight/chase pumps through all speakers cleanly and powerfully with music, thuds of punches and gunfire and cracking of bones all throughout and puts you in the cab during the battle. Songs possess ample dynamic range and the score is clean as can be. Dialogue in quieter moments is nicely placed and consistent through the film and the soundtrack does a lot of work in the film and doesn't break a sweat. It's great to listen to.
So The Golden Circle is 140 minutes, but "Inside the Golden Circle" is a multi-part, behind the scenes look at the film that almost matches it in terms of time (1:57:13). It's a comprehensive look at the production, from the ideas of what to do after The Secret Service. The cast share their thoughts on the script, their roles and how Vaughn conducts a shoot, and the new cast members talk about the film and working with the ensemble. Everything from wardrobe, hair and makeup to stunts and preparation for the characters is covered, along with editing and scoring sessions, which Vaughn was also involved in. Sound design and visual effects are covered too along with working with the many unique weapons each character has. Like the film it runs a little bit long but has a bunch of information in it and is worth the time. "Black Cab Chaos" (12:49) looks at the approach, intent and execution of that opening fight and chase sequence, and the stunts, rehearsals and challenges therein. "Kingsman Archives" is a couple of stills galleries for the film and the movie's two red band trailers (3:53) complete things.
Kingsman: The Golden Circle tries to get everything done in its second installment and for the most part falls short of it, whether it's the silly "Statesman" concept, the cameos, the antagonists, and even some of the action sequences. Hopefully they return to more welcomed ground in a (presumed) third film, but this is a clear dropoff in quality from Kingsman: Secret Service and in a vacuum is muddled at best. Technically it's a peach and the making of is worth a check out alone. If you've seen the first the second is worth a look, if nothing else so you can enjoy the first one all the more. Otherwise the best Kingsman remains the first one.