Kingsman: The Golden Circle Review

It can be hard to live up to expectations when the first time around, there were none. Kingsman: The Secret Service was the big unexpected hit of 2015, because no one was sure what to expect going in. With such big expectations being built up from the success of the first film, can the sequel live up to the hype or is it destined to be another disappointing sequel in a sea of them?
Kingsman: The Golden Circle picks up a year after the events of the first film and finds Eggsy (Taron Egerton) settling into his role as Galahad. As the film begins, Eggsy sees a familiar face from the first film reappear and through a sequence of events the entirety of the Kingsman are all wiped out. This forces Eggsy and Merlin (Mark Strong) to go into deep hiding and initiate “Doomsday protocol” which leads them to the United States to team up with the Statesmen, their American counterparts. At the Statesmen headquarters we are introduced to several new characters, Agent Whiskey (Pedro Pascal), Tequila (Channing Tatum), Ginger Ale (Hallie Berry) and Champagne (Jeff Bridges), who all offer their resources and aid to Eggsy and Merlin to try and stop the Golden Circle, headed by Poppy (Julianne Moore).
Taron Egerton proves here that the first Kingsman film was no fluke, as he once again stands out as a confident, charming character and carries the vast majority of the film on his shoulders. It’s nice to see the evolution of Eggsy from the punk that we was at the beginning of the first film, into this complex character that we find here in this film.
A big surprise of this film is just how much more screen-time they gave Mark Strong’s character Merlin here. In the first film, it was evident that Merlin was simply a helping hand that had great chemistry with the rest of the Kingsman. Merlin has to step up as the father figure in Eggsy’s life at the beginning of the film, as Eggsy is clearly still dealing with the loss of his mentor Harry (Colin Firth). This role grows larger as the film goes on and has a surprisingly emotional turn that Mark Strong nails perfectly.
While Taron Egerton and Mark Strong stand out in the film, it’s hard to say the same when talking about the supporting cast. That’s not to say that the actors aren’t doing a good job — they’re doing just fine — it’s the material that they are given that just isn’t all that strong. They’re all interesting characters, but they just weren’t given enough time to be fleshed out and we only see bits and pieces of their personalities and motives. There’s a celebrity cameo here from Elton John that is quite funny but overstays its welcome by the 20th time they cut back to him.
The first film made a name for itself with all of the over-the-top action and comedy that hit all the right notes and made for a huge unexpectedly fun time at the theater. The second film doubles down on the insanity of the first film and this can become tiring as the film draws near its end. You do begin to become fatigued by the crazy action going on and can begin to check out the same way many people do during Transformers movies. The difference here though is that you actually care for the characters and there is enough variety thrown into the action scenes that you can forgive it.
The film also boasts considerably more special effects than the first film and there is a good portion of it that really looks bad. The special effects here can be very distracting in how bad they are at points. However, one can’t help but think that this may have been done on purpose, given the overtop and bombastic nature of the film and how it is a semi-spoof of the older spy films of the 1960’s and 70’s.
Kingsman: The Golden Circle isn’t able to avoid the “sequel fatigue” that plagues many other film franchises, but it isn’t entirely hindered by it. The film is still a very fun time at the theater that provides stylistic action as well as characters you care about and can pull a few surprising punches that will catch you off guard.

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