The Kingsman are teaming up with the Statesmen and just like in America, they made everything bigger. Not necessarily better. 

It’s hard to live up to expectations when the first time around, there were none. Kingsman: The Secret Service was the sleeper hit of 2015, as no one really knew what to expect from the movie going in. While doing press for that film, writer and director Matthew Vaughn kept saying that he had great ideas for a sequel and to build upon the characters we knew in the first one, and just needed the public to like the first one enough to get it made. Flash forward to 2017, with Kingsman: The Golden Circle now in theaters and fans asking themselves, “So where’s that movie?”

It’s been a year since Valentine was defeated by Eggsy (Taron Egerton) and Merlin (Mark Strong), and Eggsy has settled nicely into his role as Galahad. When a familiar face reappears, the entirety of Kingsman is wiped out, forcing Galahad and Merlin to go into “Doomsday protocol” and team up with the Statesmen, their American cousins. There, Agents Whiskey (Pedro Pascal), Tequila (Channing Tatum), Ginger Ale (Hallie Berry) and Champagne (Jeff Bridges) offer their assistance and resources to the remaining Kingsman agents (and a “surprise” appearance by the original Galahad, Harry Hart (Colin Firth))  to stop the Golden Circle, headed by Poppy (Julianne Moore).

Egerton is once again a driving force in the film, giving audiences the same charm, emotion, and humor that won them over in the first film. Eggsy’s journey to become a Kingsman hasn’t ended yet, as he struggles to hide his emotional response and step into the shoes of a true gentleman spy. But by the end, it’s clear that even his mentor sees his emotion as a strength, not a weakness. Though cliche, it’s a nice touch considering how much Eggsy has changed from the punk he once was, and how Egerton has built such a complex character.

One unexpected positive was the increase of Mark Strong’s role. Merlin was simply a helping hand in the first film, but he feels more like a co-worker in this one. Strong’s chemistry with the other Kingsman agents was great before and becomes stronger as his chemistry is mostly with Eggsy now. With Harry gone for the first half of the film, Merlin fulfills the role of his mentor, and Strong slips into it like he was playing Harry. It was a touching arc for a character that became bigger as the film went on.

Harry Hart’s return was not a surprise to anyone, as they revealed his return with a custom poster back in April 2016. The excuse for the return is just as unoriginal as the idea of bringing back an actor killed off (Think something as ridiculous as the super blood from Star Trek: Into Darkness). Outside of his reappearance, Firth’s return to the role is better than the last time. Eggsy failed to get closure with Harry before his untimely death, and the film recognizes this. There’s a touching conversation between Harry and Eggsy that shows Harry has a little more compassion this time around. If their relationship felt like a father-son relationship before, it even more like that this time around.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle

It’s hard to rate anyone else’s performance in this film because these actors had little to work with in terms of a script. Though the original Kingsman agents got their own arcs and grew, the Statesmen agents were given the leftovers. The only character trait we really get for Tatum’s Agent Tequila is he’s the agency’s “resident bad boy” as stated by Ginger Ale in the film. Agent Whiskey just feels like a modernized version of Pascal’s character in Game of Thrones and Jeff Bridges as Champagne is just straight up wasted. Even supporting characters like Arthur, Roxy and Charlie from the first film got more characterization than any of the Statesmen. There are so many new additions to the cast that it becomes impossible to flesh out all of these characters properly.

Even though many of the film’s key points were revealed through the various promotional materials, a decision that Vaughn himself criticized, there was still plenty of action and twists to keep audiences entertained. The film chooses to take the favorite pieces of the first film and make them greater, which many critics have been panning. The violence, crude humor, and alcoholism have all been kicked up to a new level, and whether you like it or not, it fits inside the film’s branding. It makes the film fun, whether it gets praised or panned by critics. The film does feel extremely bloated though, with many plot line that seems like they’re starting, but get quickly smashed and forgotten about. According to Vaughn, the film’s first cut was over 3 hours long, so that explains a lot.

The term “sequel fatigue” has been thrown around while talking about the summer box office a lot these past few weeks. Kingsman: The Golden Circle doesn’t avoid this, but it’s the least affected by this curse. It manages to pull a few new punches and offer up a good amount of fun at the theater. The film isn’t original or breaking barriers, but it doesn’t have to. In a summer full of superheroes, animals, bachelorette parties and stunt drivers, it’s good to see the gentlemen spies taking it home.

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