Last night, I was at the premiere of Kingsman 2. Having never been to such a circus before, I was fairly amused by the glitz and glam of the whole thing. We took our seats at 6:15pm because there’s nothing really to do after you’ve been shuffled across the carpet, getting in front of people’s cameras as they attempt to lure celebrities over to take a selfie.
It was all just a tad surreal.
Anyway, the film was supposed to start at 7:15pm but it was nearer to 8pm when it finally got going. Inside the cinema we were fed a constant stream of interviews with all the stars from just outside the cinema. So we were treated to tidbits about how wonderful it was to work with everyone, how there was real character development and all the stuff people would say when promoting a film.
While watching the film, I was fairly entertained. There were some genuinely funny scenes and I left the cinema broadly thinking positive things. But in the harsh light of day, when continually asked about it at work the next day, I started to think of the plot like wet tissue paper. Fine at the time when sitting still, but as soon as you move it or try to view it from other angles, it rips and tears and turns into a wet pile of mush.
The first thing that I started to think about, like I do with most books, was were there good women characters. And at first glance, there are a couple – Julianne Moore’s character is a decent villain and Halle Berry’s character Ginger Ale is smart and capable. However, there are several things that undermine them. First, at the point where Poppy (Julianne Moore) reveals her dastardly plan, there is a short media montage about a mental health issue that forced her from business. There is a rather entertaining clip about her qualities – good for a CEO…or a sociopath (or psychopath, can’t remember which). That joke would have been hilarious, if they hadn’t first undermined it with some mental health jabs. Like, why would you undermine your own joke?
But also, Halle Berry’s character was basically the only other woman who had a major part. Halle Berry is the support for the Statesmen, the US equivalent of the Kingsmen. In a scene that clearly needed more context that was possibly cut, she said that she was stopped from being a Statesmen (or had other decisions vetoed) by one of the other Statesmen – Whiskey. And while Whiskey turns out to be a baddie, my only thought upon reflection is ‘why would they let a sexist/racist dude into the Statesmen’? Do they have more lax psychological testing than the Kingsmen? What was his motivation for not letting her become a Statesmen? With only that line – what do you have to fall back on other than he was a terrible human being. Why didn’t any of the other Statesmen be like ‘hey Whiskey, what is your motivation here?’
But even then, its not like the Kingsmen are any better. There’s only one female Kingsman (as far as we know) – and spoiler, she gets a missile sent into her house. But given that Colin Firth’s character was shot through the eye and survives, who knows who will return for the inevitable Kingsmen 3.
There is a tangible feeling of really not giving a shit about women at all when it comes to films and it’s obvious in even the background scenes and minor characters. In the scenes where there are holographic representations of Kingsmen and Statesmen, they are basically almost all white dudes. For ‘independent intelligence agencies’ dedicated to holding up the peace, they are also very good at upholding the patriarchy. Even Poppy only has a female bodied robot and all her other henchmen are men.
The minor women characters are also there to be a girlfriend or to have Eggsy literally get into their pants. Even that scene where Eggsy has to implant a tracker betrays the superficiality of the plot. In the interviews beforehand, Jane Goldman describes the process of writing of her and Matthew Vaughn trying to out do each other with over-the-top antics. And it really shows when you think about it – at the expense of a coherent plot and character development. There was literally no reason why an intelligence agency would develop a tracking delivery system the way Whiskey did. It has too high chance of failure. What if you can’t get into the target’s pants? So the entire method of delivery was there for an over the top, silly scene. If this was a book, I’d be annoyed by pointless sub-plot or scene.
And speaking of pointless sub-plot: Channing Tatum. There was literally no reason for him to be in this film. He’s there for one scene and then spends the rest of the film on ice (literally, he gets put in cryogenic-freezing, or some such, to save him from the effects of Poppy’s scheme). The entrance of the Kingsmen to the Statesmen’s base could have been handled with another character and reduced the amount of people we had to give a shit about/keep track of by one. You could have said the same thing as Clara’s character – they could have found another way to find Poppy’s distribution centre or whatever (I mean, they manage to find her actual base MUCH easier with just a stupid name). POINTLESS SUBPLOTS AND CHARACTERS ARE NO WORSE IN A FILM.
So all this time is spent on pointless characters, that could have been spent on holding the plot together with more than just spectacle. And in the end, that’s what they rely on too heavily in this film. There are too many characters and too much exposition instead of showing the plot develop.
And this doesn’t even get to just the terrible set ups for other things. In one scene there’s a mine-detector that in retrospect was a pretty terrible mine detector (as it can’t detect something literally a foot away from its detection radius). Which does lead to one of my favourite scenes in the film – Mark Strong’s singing solo. But when you spend two seconds thinking about it – couldn’t they have done it another way instead of making the whole show and tell about the mine detector? Also even though we know there’s mines, I can’t remember how they know there are mines. It makes sense at the time you’re watching it but not so much after.
And there were some genuinely funny scenes – like fucking anything with Elton John in it (he’s been kidnapped by Poppy). The scenes with him actually had a point. They provided some useful set up and call back that was genuinely good comedy set up. There should have been more of this but sadly, he remains the high point of the film.
There are more things that annoy me the more I think about it, but I think you get the point. I don’t think this is the type of film that the makers want you to think about much after. Like popcorn, it does the job at the time but you’re left hungry for something more satisfying after. In some of the interviews with the cast they called it a ‘gourmet popcorn’ film, but I think that is over-selling it.
And perhaps the argument is that its disposable and not the thing you should worry about. But like books, we’ll only get better films if we stop watching stuff like Kingsmen 2. Luckily I didn’t pay for my ticket.