Kingsman will always hold a special place in Bleeding Cool's heart. Eight and a half years ago, on Bleeding Cool's first day, it was our first big scoop, that Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons were working on a new comic book together. It would be called The Secret Service and then renamed Kingsman as the film by Matthew Vaughn and Jane Goldman. And less than a decade after those first rumours, it has spawned a sequel.
The first film was very much a surprise smash, the Deadpool of its day, that outperformed everything anyone involved had worked on before and leaving everyone shellshocked at its success. So where there is such success, there is a sequel.
I went to the Kingsman 2: The Golden Circle movie premiere tonight at the London Leicester Square premiere, and luckily found myself in the IMAX Cineworld empire of the two cinemas, as showing it tonight. Matthew Vaughn seemed definitely of the opinion we were getting the superior experience. Though I have to say from seats 4B and 4C, we did have an interesting angle on the situation.
Th first film is probably best known for the church scene, the pub scene and the butthole scene. And all three are reprived for Kingsmen 2. Indeed, it begins with a taxi chase that uses some of the techniques from that church scene in portraying everything that has to happen in a short period of time. The pub scene is reprised but goes in a different direction. And we'll get to the butthole later.
The first film had class at its centre, a spy film built around British snobbery, class relations, caricatured out into extremes. You can see those themes continue in the new comic books out this month. But Kingsman 2 pays that merely the lippiest of lip service. Eggsy is a normal guy who happens to be a super spy and dating a European princess. Any voice it has about talking about the privilege of class is gone, there's just a little awkwardness and embarrassment
Instead, this is a film that plays on the struggle within the Special Relationship. The relationship between the UK and the USA, Brits and Americans, the division by a common language. There's a belief that somehow we must be the same, there's a shared history and a shared language and then something that happens that shows it up to be the biggest lie.
And so the Kingsmen in distress turn to their American cousins who have already rescued Harry by magic science and, with the big bad who destroyed the Kingsmen continuing her worldwide campaign of terror, try and get their act together to take her down.
The portrayal of the President of the United States is in no way an impression of Donald Trump. But a callous approach to being blackmailed smacks of the Art Of The Deal, turning the tables on negotiations and playing them off against themselves. And unequivocally the biggest bad guy for taking advantage of a situation from a position where one has the ability to do much good, and instead collaborate in committing mass murder in the most human fortune. Which also leads to a scene which is bound to be memed – this is a Twentieth Century Fox movie, so all the media references are Fox, namely the Sun newspaper and Fox News. Which means we get a Fox News headline at one point saying "President Of The USA Impeached". Not sure Trump will like that one. The President of the USA is much a bag guy as Poppy, while Winston Churchill was a Kingsman.
And yes, the drugs. Poppy, the bad guy played against type by Julianne Moore, has somehow got herself in control of all illegal drugs supplies in the world. And has poisoned them and hold the antidote. And runs this double drugs'n'blackmail operation from a recreated 1950s America town complete with diner, burger bar, salon and the look and attitude of Poppy herself, smack bang in the middle of Cambodia. Oh, and for some reason Elton John. We'll get to him. It writes to the heart of the ideals of the American dream being fake, false, nothing but nostalgia and hiding the deep dark secrets of America.
It may certainly be the most pro-illegal drugs action-adventure film I've seen, even though it has a genocidal madman dealing all drugs in the world, drugs that will send people into mania, then turn them into zombies, then kill them like some even-more-insane Reefer Madness movie. But despite all that, the arguments as to the legalisation of narcotics, albeit it made from the worst of sources, are very reasonable. Far more than in the first Kingsman movie, the Villain has a point, Even if she is a little handy with her miner and robot dogs. And even if the President takes the completely different lesson to that being made.
And yes, Elton John. When we see him, he is clearly being used as the butt of a joke, the famous person they could get along to play themselves, and be mercilessly abused for their privilege. He is played as an amusing cameo, suffering repeat indignities, forced to play music and to deal with the horrors that go on in this place. But rather than the in-and-out that Keith Allen gets, Elton John keeps on going and going, getting scene after scene after scene that, basically, with utterly transfork the way we see him.
Because, yes the cast of Kingsman return, even if some get fridged nice and quick, and we get a whole host of new folk over at the Statesmen, as well, as the bad guys and a new President. Harry is back played by Colin Firth, through magic science, but they don;t let his return come easy and the consequence of it drag through the film. Halle Berre's Ginger Ale finds a tech soulmate in Mark Strong's Merlin – and indeed Halle talked about a love scene between the two of them being cut from the film and maybe returning to DVD extra. Channing Tatum, Pedro Pascal, and Jeff Bridges chewing mahogany furniture but also providing a common cause between the British upper class and the Southern gentlemen, something that Netflix was able to take advantage of when turning House Of Cards into an American remake. And Gary Unwin continues to straddle two worlds, never coming up to anyone's expectations until it really matters…
But it is Elton John that the movie keeps going back to with increasing frequency. You could have called this film Elton John Vs Reefer Madness and no one would have argued with you.
Okay and I am going to get a little spoilery now. There has been discussion as to whether there is a scene to match the princess offering up her bottom to Eggsy as a reward for saving the world. That offer is made again, by the same person, but they are now a committed couple, with wedding bells in the air, so those who found outrage in that scene in the first film bay grumble but will probably be placated. And there is a great callout to that scene towards the end from Elton John which is blatantly hilarious in context.
But that's okay, because they have that entire scene where a Kingsman and a Stataesman compete to woo a young woman at Glastonbury with the aim of bugging her, by inserting a tracker inside her. With their fingers. And we get to see that very scene occur, in close up, filling the IMAX screen as the tracker slips under and placed internally, the agent literally fingering his mark, in a scene which makes me think Matthew Vaughn may at least have watched The Day Today.
What may be even more offensive to the eyes is the huge amount of sponsorship and product placement in this film. A lot. The clothes, the watches, the cars, the everything. But the nicest may be the appearance of Berry Bros wine merchants and the setting up off a new Kingsman office there – because that's exactly what they've done in real life to promote the movie. They get namechecked and everything, and people have gone to such an effort, I'll give them that.
The movie remains ridiculous, even more so now that it has a ski resort chase with patriotic parachutes, a taxi chase through the streets of London made by someone who knows how London fits together and topped off with a proper bad guy evil lair, full of its robot dogs, cyborg arms, drones, mincers and molten gold circles. And the big ridiculous fight scenes happening amidst the all, and if you like that in the first film, you simply must see this on the big screen.
Kingsman: The Golden Circle is released on September 22nd in the US and the 20th in the UK.
And no, no post or mid credit scenes…