Kingsman sequel: ‘More everything!’

Teaser poster for Kingsman: The Golden Circle

In 1968, there was a trailer for a Thunderball-From Russia With Love double feature that promised more thrills, excitement, etc. Finally there was this promise: “More everything!”

Kingsman: The Golden Circle, the sequel to 2015’s Kingsman: The Secret Service. more or less makes and delivers on the same promise.

With The Golden Circle, there’s more violence, more swearing (the f-bomb is a favorite) and more cynicism compared with the original.

However, the Matthew Vaughn-directed movie at times actually provides actual emotion. But don’t worry. If that’s not your thing, it’ll pass before long and you can enjoy more mayhem.

In a way, the movie is almost review proof. People who liked the original (also directed by Vaughn) are going to enjoy the sequel and won’t care about reviews. Those who didn’t care for the 2015 movie, more or less, aren’t part of The Golden Circle’s intended audience anyway.

Just to keep the plot summary to a minimum (what follows are shown on trailers so the spoiler adverse needn’t fear): The secret Kingsman organization is almost entirely wiped out although Eggsy (Taron Egerton) and gadget master Merlin (Mark Strong) survived.

They meet up with Statesman, a U.S.-based secret organization much like Kingsman except its front is a distillery. Julianne Moore is this movie’s lead villain, who is going to kill millions of people unless she gets what she wants.

Vaughn (who co-wrote the script with Jane Goldman) is a skilled director who knows exactly what he’s doing. The occasional emotional scenes demonstrate that. It’s more or less up to the viewer whether it’s what you want.

The movie is long (141 minutes). Still, it has its moments. For me, though, not as many as the first half of the original film. While there are plot twists, there’s nothing that surprising.

By this time, you know exactly what you’re getting. “Manners maketh man” of the original film is given lip service but mostly is gone. Grade: C-Plus.

Kingsman sequel gets mixed reaction from critics

Logo for Kingsman: The Golden Circle, sequel to 2015’s Kingsman: The Secret Service

Kingsman: The Golden Circle isn’t off to a fast start with critics.

The movie, a sequel to 2015’s Kingsman: The Secret Service, currently had a 57 percent “fresh” rating Tuesday evening on the Rotten Tomatoes website, which collects and scores reviews.

Here are some non-spoiler excerpts from reviews published after the movie’s premiere this week. The movie comes out this weekend in the U.S.

PHIL NOBILE JR., BIRTH.MOVIES.DEATH: “(Director Matthew) Vaughn’s new film suffers from a kind of Observer Effect: it knows what we loved about the original, is kind of self-satisfied by what mortified us about the original, and endeavors to give us more of both.  Everything is scaled up, and the end result is too much of a good thing, too much of some bad things, and just too much of everything.”

SCOTT MENDELSON, FORBES.COM: “Kingsman: The Golden Circle is surface-level entertaining and offers enough colorful diversions and solid action to merit a viewing. But it focuses too much of its energies on undoing its own narrative while letting everything else of value fall by the side or get outright written out….It feels less like The Spy Who Loved Me and more like James Bond Jr.”

MIKE REYES, CINEMABLEND: “Thankfully, I can say that Kingsman: The Golden Circle keeps the action cranked, the laughs fresh, and even injects more confidence into its proceedings, making for what Eggsy (Taron Egerton) himself might call a fucking proper blast.”

TODD MCCARTHY, THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER: “There is, then, an endearingly goofy method to the writers’ fervid madness that serves the material well and, as ever, Vaughn puts it all up on the screen with boisterous but carefully calibrated enthusiasm….Vaughn actually seems to prefer character, dialogue and humor to chases and explosion, and he makes mostly very good use of his almost invariably well-chosen actors by identifying their appeal and drawing out their humor.”

ROBERT ABELE, THE WRAP: “It took the Bond series 15 years and 10 movies to get to the ridiculed “Moonraker.” The laddish spy franchise “Kingsman: The Secret Service” series, based on Mark Millar’s comic book, has done it in one leap with the bloated, inexplicably un-entertaining follow-up “Kingsman: The Golden Circle.”

(Note from The Spy Commander: Actually 17 years and 11 films. Moonraker, 11th in the series produced by Eon Productions, came out in 1979, Dr. No in 1962.)

Sky News says time for 007 to retire

Logo for the Kingsman sequel due out in September.

Earlier this week, the Sky News website HAD A STORY declaring that, “James Bond is dead, long live the Kingsman!”

Essentially, writer Duarte Garrido argued that Bond’s day has passed because he’s a sexist character as well as “his covert racism and weird taste in beverages.”

The new king of spies, we’re told, is Eggsy, played by Taron Egerton, from The Kingsman: The Secret Service.

“Bond was a spy for post-war veterans. Eggsy is a spy for enlightened millennials,” Garrido wrote. “Every generation has its heroes, it’s time for the old ones to retire.”

This is interesting on a number of levels.

A Bond-inspired poster for Kingsman: The Secret Service

–Kingsman: The Secret Service made homages not only to 1960s Bond movies, but Harry Palmer films as well as The Avengers and The Man From U.N.C.L.E. television shows. That’s not the blog saying it. Star Colin Firth, who played Eggsy mentor Harry Hart, said it at the 2014 San Diego Comic Con.

So, it’s not exactly like Kingsman is blazing a trail. Rather, it’s more like a new take on a familiar genre.

–What about the ending of Kingsman: The Secret Service?

Sky tells us Kingsman is enlightened unlike that old sexist Bond. Remember, with Kingsman, we’re talking about a film ended with an anal sex joke.

Director Matthew Vaughn told the Cinema Blend website in 2015 that joke was another 007 homage.

It ends [on that joke] for a very strong reason. A lot of Bond movies used to end on things like Bond trying to ‘attempt re-entry,’ or ‘keeping the British end up.’ So I just thought, ‘We’ve pushed the boundary on every sort of spy cliché.’ We’ve got to end it on The Big One. And there’s only one way of doing it, taking it to the next level!

Meanwhile, Kingsman isn’t showing its superiority over Bond. It’s taking a Bond meme and taking it further. Doesn’t seem particularly enlightened.

–What about the connection between Sky and the Kingsman franchise? That would be Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox.

The company a 39 percent stake in Sky and wants to buy the rest. It also owns the 20th Century Fox studio, which released the 2015 Kingsman and its upcoming sequel, Kingsman: The Golden Circle.

That connection probably should have been noted in the Sky story.

Kingsman sequel gets pushed back to fall 2017

kingsman2-logo

The sequel to 2015’s Kingsman: The Secret Service has been pushed back to the fall of 2017 from June, Exhibitor Relations said on Twitter.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle now has a release date of Oct. 6, 2017, instead of June 16, according to Exhibitor Relations, which provides box office and release date information to clients. The company’s customers include Variety and The Hollywood Reporter, according to its website.

The June 16 date had Walt Disney Co.’s Cars 3 for competition, according to the release schedule maintained  by The Numbers website.

Kingsman: The Secret Service was based on a comic book by Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons. The film, which incorporated memes from 1960s spy entertainment, generated worldwide box office of more than $414 million.

The results spurred studio 20th Century Fox to approve a follow-up movie. Both the original and sequel were directed by Matthew Vaughn with Taron Egerton as Gary “Eggsy” Unwin. Also, despite his character being killed in the first movie, Colin Firth is back as Harry Hart in the new film.

The change in the Kingsman sequel’s release date was one of several made Wednesday and listed on the Box Office Mojo website.

Here’s the Exhibitor Relations tweet:

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Kingsman’s opening U.S. weekend: $35.6 million

kingsman logo

Kingsman: The Secret Service will have an estimated $35.6 million opening weekend in the United States, according to the BOX OFFICE MOJO website.

That was well above projections for $20 million for the Feb. 13-15 weekend, according to DEADLINE: HOLLYWOOD. It’s also near the $39.2 million opening weekend of Taken 3, the year’s first major spy film, which debuted in January.

Kingsman was a distant second to Fifty Shades of Grey, where the estimated three-day figure is $81.7 million, according to Box Office Mojo. 20th Century Fox essentially marketed Kingsman as an action alternative to Fifty Shades.

Kingsman is based on a comic book by Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons. Matthew Vaughn’s movie changed the spy organization from the comic book’s MI6 to a privately financed international group. It also added memes from The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and The Avengers.

REVIEW: Kingsman: The Secret Service

kingsman logoThis review contains a significant spoiler to make a broader point. There will be a warning.

By Bill Koenig

Matthew Vaughn set out to make an old-fashioned James Bond movie. It turns out Kingsman: The Secret Service is like Die Another Day — an excellent first half, with an overwrought second.

The first half of Kingsman, which Vaughn directed and co-scripted, stylishly updates familiar spy memes. It draws from 1960s Bond movies (including a score that evokes John Barry without copying), The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and The Avengers while updating them for 21st century audiences.

So far, so good. In fact, it’s better than good. You get socked in, you care about the heroes. Things move at a brisk pace.

Then, roughly at the midway point, there is a long, violent sequence. The purpose is to show (rather than tell) the villain’s scheme. But it’s so over the top, bordering on revolting, is like’s violence porn.

Now, I can hear some reactions now. “Whaddya expect? It’s Matthew Vaughn! It’s Mark Millar!” (Millar wrote and Dave Gibbons drew the comic book this film is based on, for those unfamiliar with the source material.)

True enough. Vaughn is known for violent films such as Layer Cake. Millar wrote Marvel and DC Comics stories of note to turn himself into a brand.

Still, much of it is unnecessary. The sequence could have been equally horrifying, and set the audience on edge, while still not becoming violence porn. But it doesn’t.

The plot is, essentially, a dressed up version of a megalomaniac trying to take over the world plot. Said megalomaniac here is Samuel L. Jackson, as Valentine, a billionaire who speaks with a speech impediment.

Valentine’s activities come to the attention of the Kingsmen, a private, non-governmental intelligence agency. One of its best operatives is Harry Hart (Colin Firth). Harry has a lot of his mind. Besides his normal derring do, he is trying to repay a slain colleague. Eggsy (Taron Egerton), the dead Kingsman’s son, had great promise but isn’t going anywhere. His mother lives with a low-life. Eggsy has been in trouble with the law.

When Valentine has another Kingsman operative killed, there’s an opening in the organization. Harry sponsors Eggsy, who’s up competing against a group of mostly upper class snobs.

Valentine’s ultimate plan is along the lines of The Spy Who Loved Me or Moonraker. But this being the 21st century and a Matthew Vaughn-directed film, things are more cynical than that. It turns out, some world leaders are more than willing to be a part of the scheme.

The aforementioned major spoiler follows. Stop reading now if you don’t want to know.

Eventually, the Kingsmen — well, what’s left of them — get the upper hand. They even manager to activate an implant in the necks of those world leaders who are collaborating with Valentine. As a result, their heads explode.

One of those people whose head explodes is U.S. President Barack Obama. Oh, he’s not named as such. But a tall, thin, African American U.S. president is in a bunker with his trusted advisers and they all have Valentine’s implants. Said U.S. president is photographed from the back. But nobody is fooled about who is this is supposed to be.

Anyway, all of their heads explode. It’s played for laughs — albeit extremely dark humor laughs. It’s part of a broader sequence where various, well-connected members of the 1 percent have their heads explode.

Now, in the “good old days,” escapist spy movies might have actors depicting an actual U.S. president without showing his face. Lyndon B. Johnson made “appearances” in Our Man Flint and The Wrecking Crew. But when such an official was needed for longer stretches, a “generic” U.S. president was shown such as In Like Flint, with actor Andrew Duggan.

Watching this movie, one suspects U.S. cable news networks may end up jumping in. One that’s known for leaning conservative (and owned by the parent company of 20th Century Fox, which released this movie) may call it brilliant satire. Another, known for leaning liberal, may work itself into a frenzy. We’ll see.
End spoiler.

In the end, Kingsman is worth seeing, particularly for fans of the spy genre who like an escpaist bent. However, it had a chance at excellence. It falls short. “Manners maketh man,” as Harry Hart says. Unfortunately, the filmmakers don’t follow their own advice. GRADE: B-Minus, mostly on the strength of the movie’s first half.

UPDATE: Valentine’s basic plot was also done in The Night of the Murderous Spring, near the end of the first season of The Wild Wild West. The episode, directed by Richard Donner, was the fourth appearance of Dr. Loveless. In this outing, he’s developed what amounts to a drug that releases all inhibitions so people kill each other.

In the episode, Loveless (Michael Dunn) is having dinner while James West and Artemus Gordon (Robert Conrad and Ross Martin) are caged up. A thug (Leonard Falk, Robert Conrad’s real life father) is leaning up against the door of a dining room where a large number of people are having food that includes Loveless’s drug. Suddenly, there are screams and yelling. Some of the people try to get out but the thug leans harder against the door to keep them in.

Now, this staging in part reflects the modest budgets for television. But it also forces the viewer to *imagine* the carnage occurring. Kitten, part of Loveless’s inner circle eventually opens the door is horrified. Loveless orders her to clean up the mess. Matthew Vaughn could have learned some lessons watching this episode.

UPDATE II (Feb. 15): Matthew Vaughn denies the U.S. president shown in the movie is supposed to be Barack Obama, the director said in a Feb. 13 story on ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY’S WEBSITE.

Here’s the quote:

First of all, it’s not Obama. I just want to be clear. This is not an attack on Obama at all. This is an attack on all politicians, but the easiest way to making the point where people knew that Valentine was in power was to have the White House. We needed someone who was reminiscent of Obama, so that people got the point.

Personally, I think he’s being disingenuous. But there you go.

Kingsman: Is the spy pendulum swinging back?

kingsman logo

Kingsman: The Secret Service, the next film up in “The Year of the Spy,” makes its U.S. debut on Feb. 13. Its importance, though, may extend beyond its opening weekend.

The movie, directed by Matthew Vaughn, may be a sign whether the pendulum of spy movies is starting to swing back from the grim and gritty that has dominated the 21st century.

Vaughn and his collaborators certainly haven’t been shy about playing up that angle. The return of the “fun” spy movie was emphasized last July at the massive San Diego comic book convention.

Vaughn’s film is based on a comic book by Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons. At San Diego, Millar was quoted by the Screen Rant website as saying, “James Bond cries in the shower now in these movies but [Kingsman star Colin Firth] gets to do cool stuff – like firing these gadgets and all this stuff. I think he got the best gig in the end.”

Millar referred to a scene in Casino Royale, Eon Productions’ first entry in the “grim and gritty” genre, in which the 007 series started over. Bond (Daniel Craig) doesn’t actually cry in the shower. But he comforts a sobbing Vesper Lynd (Eva Green) who is overcome after watching Bond in action. Regardless, the scene was an example of how Casino Royale was from the preceding 20 007 films made by Eon.

Casino, in turn, had been influenced by 2002’s The Bourne Identity. That came out in June 2002, a few months before Die Another Day, the 40th anniversary Bond film starring Pierce Brosnan. A second Bourne film, The Bourne Supremacy came out in 2004 while Eon was agonizing what to do next.

Bourne’s style — including faster paced and grimmer action sequences — weighed on the minds of executives at Eon and Sony Pictures, which began distributing Bond movies with Casino. Here’s how The New York Times described it IN AN OCTOBER 2005 STORY about Craig’s casting. The passage refers to Barbara Broccoli, Eon’s co-boss and cites executives who weren’t identified.

For both Ms. Broccoli and Sony, executives said, the model was Jason Bourne, the character Matt Damon successfully incarnated in two gritty spy movies for Universal Pictures, “The Bourne Identity” and “The Bourne Supremacy.”

Casino turned out to be a big hit. For 2008’s Quantum of Solace, Eon doubled down on making its movies more Bourne like, including more rapid epiding and hiring Dan Bradley as second unit director. Bradley had worked on two Bourne films (The Bourne Supremacy and 2007’s The Bourne Ultimatum).

Quantum roughly matched Casino’s box office. The next 007 entry, Skyfall, didn’t adhere so much to Bourne as it did to Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, another dark series. Skyfall director Sam Mendes even acknowledged the influence.

No complaints at the box office. Skyfall reeled in $1.11 billion worldwide.

Still, trends don’t last forever. Even among fans, you’ll occasionally hear comments such as Skyfall “is like watching the same funeral over and over.”

So enter Kingsman. Its trailer openly mocks grim and gritty spy movies. Colin Firth at one point says current spy movies are too serious for his taste.

We’ll see how Kingsman performs with movie goers. It’s rated R — mostly because of its violence. That normally holds down ticket sales. Also, the comic book on which it’s based isn’t that well known among the general public.

Kingsman probably has more humor than The Man From U.N.C.L.E., although Henry Cavill, the star of that film, has said that movie also has a humorous element. U.N.C.L.E. won’t be out until mid-August.
SPECTRE LOGO

As for SPECTRE, the Bond film currently in production, it’s hard to tell. Sam Mendes is back as director and he’s not exactly hailed as a master of humor.

On the other hand, if you read between the lines of a spoiler-laden DEC. 12 GAWKER STORY, the movie appears to be attempting to be more like a “classic” Bond film while retaining Daniel Craig seriousness. The Gawker story was based on a draft SPECTRE script that surfaced because of the hacking at Sony.

Meanwhile, it’s too early to write off grim and gritty. Matt Damon is planning to do a fourth Bourne film that is supposed to be released in 2016.

UPDATE (Feb. 11) — Kingsman is forecast to finish a distant second to Fifty Shades of Grey this weekend, according to DEADLINE HOLLYWOOD.