Matthew Vaughn’s second British spy romp heads to the States, but it fails to impress critics.
If Kingsman: The Secret Service surprised viewers with its shameless, over-the-top take on James Bond tropes and comic book storytelling — the 2014 Matthew Vaughn movie was adapted from a comic by Mark Millar and Watchmen artist Dave Gibbons — then it might be heartening to know that Kingsman: The Golden Circle offers more of the same, and yet, somehow, delivered less for a lot of critics.
Hours after the reviews published, the Kingsman sequel claimed a 75 percent freshness rating on Rotten Tomatoes and generally left reviewers content about the movie but generally unimpressed.
The Hollywood Reporter‘s Todd McCarthy seemed to enjoy the pic, writing that — despite an overlong running time — “this fleet-footed, glibly imaginative international romp stays on its toes and keeps its wits about it most of the time, with entertaining and pointedly U.S.-friendly cast additions that should provide an uptick from the $414 million raked in worldwide by Kingsman: The Secret Service.”
The key to the movie’s agility, McCarthy asserts, is the work done by director Vaughn and writer Jane Goldman. “Unlike some other directors of big franchise extravaganzas, Vaughn actually seems to prefer character, dialogue and humor to chases and explosion,” he argues, “and he makes mostly very good use of his almost invariably well-chosen actors by identifying their appeal and drawing out their humor.”
Not everyone agrees, however; IndieWire‘s Kate Erbland complains that the helmer isn’t nearly focused enough on character and dialogue. “Vaughn has more than enough time to tighten up the basic elements of the film’s storyline, but instead chooses to lavish his attention on high-energy fight scenes that ably blend humor and eye-popping action,” she writes. “The Golden Circle boasts some of Vaughn’s most ambitious action-centric filmmaking yet, from the lasso-snapping joys of a bar fight to a mountain-centric set piece that will shred nerves and engender tremendous cheers. The story? Secondary.”
The Playlist‘s Kimber Myers was similarly unimpressed by the spectacle, no matter how spectacular it was. “Despite all the beauty, elegance and energy seen on screen, The Golden Circle has all the endurance of an Instagram post,” she writes. “Like fireworks, they’re awe-inspiring while you’re watching, but there’s little left to marvel at after the show’s over.”
This is a recurring theme in reviews for the movie — that it may be fun while you’re watching it, but it’s unlikely to offer any long-term enjoyment. “All of the ingredients are there … but the resulting dish lacks the excitement and freshness of its predecessor,” writes Film Journal International‘s Rebecca Pahle. “With Kingsman: The Golden Circle, we’re looking at a franchise that’s entertaining enough while still being subject to the law of diminishing returns.”
ScreenCrush‘s Matt Singer agrees: “The new characters and concepts don’t add a whole lot to a film [that] is way too long and plodding in its middle act, but the returning heroes and giddily vulgar comedy and action are still good for some solid laughs and thrills,” he writes, ending his review with, “This isn’t quite solid-gold filmmaking. But it might be gold-plated.”
Even those who disliked the first installment found the sequel to be somehow lacking. “The garish violence is still there, as is the profanity,” wrote The Village Voice‘s Bilge Ebiri. “Gone, however, is much of the creativity, the unpredictable, see-what-sticks depravity. The movie has its moments, but the bloat and the blandness take their toll.”
Ultimately, the appeal for The Golden Circle might lie in the film’s set pieces and the affection audiences have for the original pic. Although, as The Nerdist‘s Kyle Anderson puts it, perhaps that won’t be enough. “The success the original Kingsman, especially in America, has necessitated the inclusion of Statesman, evidently, and while we add in doing so, we also lose what I and many other people liked about the first film, which was its inherent Britishness,” he writes. “If the first Kingsman left you going “Wow!” this one leaves you saying ‘Hmm…cool.’ And while it doesn’t reach the same hyperbolic heights as the first film, there are certainly worse things than being entertained for two hours.”
Kingsman: The Golden Circle, then, is (at least to critics) a film that will entertain for two hours (and maybe outstay its welcome for the remaining 21 minutes), but offer few long-term thrills. After a summer of high-concept movies that failed to find enough of an audience, the question is: Could that be exactly what people want right now?
Kingsman: The Golden Circle opens in theaters Friday.