Review by Sean Boelman
The Kingsman series was unexpectedly popular, so much so that in lieu of a traditional third entry, filmmaker Matthew Vaughn decided to go with a prequel to continue the property. However, in making The King’s Man, he seems to have taken things a bit too seriously, causing the film to struggle to live up to its predecessors.
The movie tells the story of a powerful Duke who sets out to foil a criminal mastermind wanting to start a global war, forming the independent intelligence organization that would come to be known as Kingsman in the process. It’s a generic criminal organization storyline, much like the first two films, but the WWI setting does make it feel slightly unique.
For much of the first act, Vaughn and his co-writers are just setting up the bread crumbs for the Kingsman to be founded, which is disappointingly slow. There are two great action sequences in the second act, and an overall fun finale, but it doesn’t lean into the wacky and exaggerated nature of the action as frequently as the other two did.
There are some questions posed in the movie about the ethics of war, but these are ultimately very straightforward. An opening scene immediately makes it clear what the film is going for on an emotional level, and the movie leans on this too heavily until it picks up some emotional stakes of its own.
As before, the most memorable character in this film is not the protagonist, but an antagonist. Rhys Ifans’s Russian witch-doctor-turned-political-advisor is perhaps the most enjoyable character in any of the three movies, having some absolutely bonkers dialogue and a committed performance from Ifans.
On the heroic side, the film does seem like it’s setting this up to be a concurrent franchise to the modern-day agency’s story, but it’s not entirely successful in doing so. There are a lot of small bit parts in the movie that seem to exist for little reason other than planting seeds for the future, and this becomes frustrating after the first few.
The film is perhaps a bit more polished than the rest of the series given the fact that it is trying to be a war movie in addition to a stylish action flick. There is one sequence of the movie set on the front lines of the battlefield, and it is gorgeous in every way. And the action choreography, for the most part, is plenty creative.
The King’s Man isn’t anywhere as good as the first two entries in the franchise, but there’s still enough to recommend it. In a way, most of it almost feels like it was directed by someone else other than Vaughn, as only a few moments have his usual flair.
The King’s Man hits theaters on December 22.