Sequels in Hollywood tend to follow the tried and true formula of being “the same, but different.” Kingsman: The Secret Service was a violent breath of fresh air for the spy genre, harkening back to the older, ridiculous Bond films, while having nothing but contempt for the more recent grim iterations starring Daniel Craig. Kingsman: The Golden Circle is, unfortunately, the bad type of sequel; the kind that self indulgently wallows in its predecessor’s footsteps, while only introducing stale ideas and underdeveloped characters. The Golden Circle attempts to mask its flaws with its action and crude humor, but ultimately is a poor, bloated imitation of Kingsman: The Secret Service.
A charismatic supervillain with idiosyncratic quirks attempts to dominate the world with their cyborg sidekick. The Kingsmen are put on the defensive and have to stop the villainous duo with limited resources to save the world. This is a word for word description of the plot of the first movie...and also the plot of the second movie. The film does attempt to add a couple new wrinkles to the story by presenting an American version of The Kingsman, The Statesmen, but this is nothing more than window dressing. Also, it’s pretty amazing to me that The Statesmen and The Kingsmen have never heard of one another despite being near omniscient super-spy agencies with limitless budgets.
The plot isn’t the only lackluster aspect of The Golden Circle. The film is brought down by its lack of character development. I must emphasize that the characters themselves are not the problem. The cast has great chemistry together and generally seem to relish hamming it up in this spy film. Ironically, the film spends too much time jumping through hoops to bring fan favorite, Harry ‘Galahad’ Hart (Colin Firth), back from the dead. An inordinate amount of time is spent explaining this character reincarnation, as well as trying to break Galahad out of his gunshot-induced amnesia. Additionally, the film spends way too much time on the cliché boy-from-the-wrong-side-of-the-tracks romance of Eggsy (Taron Egerton) and his girlfriend, Tilde (Hanna Alström).
Statesman Agent Tequila’s (Channing Tatum) character, on the other hand, is utterly wasted, and he spends most of the film in a coma. In addition, Statesman Agent Whiskey’s (Pedro Pascal) brief character arc comes at us all at once, right at the end of the movie. Agent Whiskey’s arc is so contrived that it reminded me of Magneto’s introduction in X-Men: Apocalypse. Similarly, the big-bad, Poppy Adams, played by the magnificent Julianne Moore, is criminally underdeveloped. She is a delight whenever she is on screen, despite the satirical nature of her insane methods. Moreover, the underlying idea driving her character, that drugs should be legalized, is one that is dying to be explored in greater detail. Despite the movie’s general aforementioned lack of significant character development, the film is an agonizing two hours and twenty-one minutes long, and you can really feel its length when watching it.
The Golden Circle attempts to disguise its shortcomings by relying too heavily on director Matthew Vaughn’s (Kick-Ass, Kingsman: The Secret Service) trademark hyperkinetic ultra-violence. The action sequences are elaborate and fun to watch but they often drag on for far too long and rely on some dodgy CGI at times. The other area where The Golden Circle fails miserably is in its humor, which is often juvenile, crude, and at the butt of the female characters in the film. One sleazy sex joke is a major plot point that the film spends an incredible amount of time on and bends over backward to make sure it happens.
This is normally where I would say, if you liked the first movie, then you’ll like this one, but that’s not the case. I enjoyed the first film a lot, but The Golden Circle is a bad, uninspired sequel. The Golden Circle relies too much on pointless action, a half-baked plot, and poor character development. To make matters worse, the film is an overly long rehash of its superior predecessor. The Golden Circle attempts to be a fun romp, unencumbered by ‘realism’ but it doesn’t succeed. The film instead devolves into an absurd, juvenile mess.
TLDR: Kingsman: The Golden Circle is an overstuffed and underdeveloped sequel to its much better predecessor. Coasting on its action, the film is a major disappointment. 2/5 Stars.