It can be hard to get a movie to truly work, and when it comes to sequels to surprise smash hits, it gets even harder. When Kingsman: The Secret Service came out and did really well both commercially and critically, it didn't seem like anyone expected that level of success. So now we have a sequel, and unfortunately, there are some huge missteps that really cripple the movie in a couple of different ways.
However, they are spoilers, so they weren't touched on in the review. They do need to be touched on and this is a spoiler warning for Kingsman: The Golden Circle. If you haven't seen the movie yet, this is going to spoil all of it — including some major plot points. If you've seen the movie or don't care about spoilers, then let's talk about this.
The woman in this photo is Roxy Morton, played by actress Sophie Cookson. You may remember her as the fellow Kingsman recruit that Eggsy (Taron Egerton) befriended while training. She was a badass, she was top of the class, and she actually passed the test to become a proper Kingsman by shooting the dog. She also helps save the day in the first movie conquering her fear of heights.
Her relationship with Eggsy was one of the few platonic male/female relationships we get to see on movies. There were hints that maybe there could be something there, but they mostly just looked like best friends. It was awesome, the dynamic worked like gangbusters, and was one of the things that set the movie apart from previous spy entries.
So, of course, they kill her in the sequel after she has all of two minutes of screen time.
This is something that I've been personally predicting since the first few trailers. We hardly ever saw Roxy and when we did it appeared to be all from the same scene. She got a last-minute character poster, which is almost insulting after seeing the final movie.
There is a fantastic moment, right before she dies, where we get to see that dynamic again. Eggsy uses Roxy to look up facts to show off to his girlfriend's parents. It's great, and then she's just gone. It's a waste of a fantastic character that deserved much better than that. They had to set the stakes, really strip the Kingsman down to nothing — but there was no reason that she couldn't live, too.
The worst part is they kill off this fantastic character with tons of potential, but give Princess Tilde (Hanna Alström), the anal joke princess from the first one, a whole story. You can have more than two women protagonists in your movie, Matthew Vaughn. You're not going to hit peak woman and suddenly everything gets too girly.
Perhaps I'm the only one who cares about this, but while death becomes the driving force behind this movie, it is essentially meaningless. We find out that Harry (Colin Firth) survived a gunshot to the head because the Statesman were around and they somehow figured out a way to basically solve death.
So death is rendered meaningless, but the death of Roxy, the Kingsman, even JB (yes, they kill the dog), is treated as a major plot point. Harry shoots Agent Whiskey (Pedro Pascal) in the head, and he's fine (we'll come back to that plot in a moment). A few minutes later, Merlin (Mark Strong) sacrifices himself so Eggsy and Harry can save the day. It's this jarring back-and-forth in a world where death matters, and then it really doesn't. You don't get to have both and expect to end up with an effective film. Also, no, "They got blown up, so the Statesman technology doesn't work," is not an excuse.
Finally, let's touch on the villain. Not Julianne Moore's Poppy — she's fantastic — but the twist ending other villain. Poppy's plan is that she's laced drugs with a time-release virus and is basically holding them hostage unless drugs are legalized. The president wants to just let all the infected people die, regardless of whether or not they're junkies. It turns out that Agent Whiskey is on board for that plan. He shows up at the last minute to keep Eggsy and Harry from distributing the antidote. We find out that his late high school sweetheart was a casualty of two fighting meth heads, so there's a big fight and Whiskey ends up in a meat grinder Fargo-style.
We see two Statesman agents go into the field — Pascal's Whiskey and Channing Tatum's Tequila. Tequila gets taken out early because of the virus, but he lives because they can freeze him like he's Captain America, so Whiskey is the agent we spend more time with. The fact that the one non-white Statesman agent (aside from Halle Berry, but she's playing the Q role) turns out to be bad is a little iffy. It would have been infinitely more interesting if Tequila ended up being the bad guy, because no one would have suspected they'd make Tatum a villain. Instead, they went with a boring choice that comes across as borderline racist if you think about it for more than two minutes.
Also, the whole "putting a tracker in a woman's vagina" thing is just impractical. There is no need for that. There had to be another way.
Kingsman: The Golden Circle is not bad, but it seems to have lost the things that made the first one great. There were some awesome characters that were ignored in favor of killing them off. They make some baffling decisions that take away from the story itself. There was a ton of potential here, and it just seems wasted.