Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Reserved Seating: KINGSMAN: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE

by Rob DiCristino and Adam Riske
We spy with our little eyes many assholes.

Rob: Welcome to Reserved Seating. I’m Rob DiCristino.

Adam: And I’m Adam Riske.

Rob: The world’s best-dressed spy agency is back in Kingsman: The Golden Circle. One year after the events of The Secret Service, Eggsy (Taron Egerton) has settled into life as Agent Galahad (and into a relationship with Hanna Alström as Crown Princess Tilde of Sweden), working closely alongside tech guy Merlin (Mark Strong) and Roxy/Agent Lancelot (Sophie Crookson). But the shit starts a-brewin’ when eccentric drug kingpin Poppy Adams (Julianne Moore) takes out Kingsman HQ as part of a dastardly scheme to poison millions of recreational drug users around the world. Adams hopes that by forcing the president of the United States to legalize drugs in exchange for an antidote, she can drive up her wholesale price and achieve the global fame she’s sought her whole life. Regrouping, the remaining Kingsman join forces with Statesman, their American cousins. Champagne (Jeff Bridges), Whiskey (Pedro Pascal), Ginger (Halle Berry), and Tequila (Channing Tatum) give the Brits the tools and muscle they need to take down Adams’ plot for good. Not only that, but they’ve got a secret up their sleeves: Harry Hart (Colin Firth) is alive, though amnesic, and in their care.
Adam: Look, I’m a fan of the first Kingsman, but this sequel is the type of movie the cast & crew will apologize when they try to get people to care about a third entry. They’ll say how they learned from all the mistakes of the sequel (too much CGI, too big, too many subplots and side characters, too long) and are going back to the basics of what made the original work. I didn’t hate Kingsman: The Golden Circle entirely, but it’s a slog and there are so many things in this movie that are big f-yous to the fans of the original, including (only mentioning this one and not others because it’s been spoiled in the ads) that Colin Firth’s character is not dead (which makes his demise in the first irrelevant and not powerful at all) and has amnesia. Has amnesia ever worked in a movie? Ever? What did you think of the movie, Rob?

Rob: I’m in essentially the same boat. I like The Secret Service, but The Golden Circle is one of those sequels that doubles down on what audiences seemed to like from the original (stylized violence, mean-spirited humor, etc.) to such an extent that loses the novelty. The opening sequence in the car had so much of that CGI-augmented-jump-cutty-snap-zoom fight stuff that it stopped being interesting. It reminded me of the Burly Brawl from The Matrix Reloaded and really spelled trouble for the rest of the movie.
That said, The Golden Circle mostly reminded me of a Roger Moore-era (era) Bond entry. For as much as I didn’t like the film, I didn’t see anything that wouldn’t feel totally appropriate in Moonraker or The Man with the Golden Gun. I’ve seen that comparison made in other places, that this is essentially the Die Another Day to the first film’s Goldfinger, and that’s about right. It’s over-the-top, silly, and convoluted. I get why it thinks it needs to be this way, but it kind of spoiled a lot of my goodwill toward the first film and killed my interest in a third.

Adam: I’m glad you mentioned that opening action sequence, because that was when I started to have my doubts about the movie. It is so false looking that I just sat there wanting it to be over. I think the Burly Brawl looked better than the car chase in Kingsman: The Golden Circle. If we’re doing Bond comparisons, I would say this is The World is Not Enough if it were made by the people behind Fox’s Married…with Children. It has that pitch. So much of the humor of the movie is already self-impressed so it alienated me and I really had a problem with how the movie treats the character of Roxy. She has been done such dirt in this series. She is the most qualified recruit in Kingsman: The Secret Service and then they shoot her to the moon to sideline her for the climax of that film; here she’s even more offensively pushed aside so this can be a boys adventure.
If I’m to be positive at all about the movie, it’s a couple of the performances. I liked what Julianne Moore was doing as the villain of the film. She’s having fun (she’s much better, in a similar role, than Charlize Theron in The Fate of the Furious). I wish her character wasn’t so underwritten, but some of the stuff with her hideout in the first act was interesting. I also thought Mark Strong was likable and sort of emerged as the series' MVP by the end of this second feature. If you’ve seen the movie, you’ll know that they mishandle his character as well. I also had a real problem with the ugliness of this movie. It feels very retrograde and old-fashioned in a bad way. The first movie certainly had moments of that, but the idea had a novelty and sense of fun that allowed me to ignore those attitudes somewhat (for better or probably worse). I’m not sure if they’re more prevalent in the sequel; I’m just more aware of that stuff or I’m honed in on it because the movie didn’t work for me. Maybe it’s all three. I’m done with this franchise. I’ve seen what I need to see.

Rob: Poor, poor Roxy. That they felt the need to bring Colin Firth back (to do nothing anyone else couldn’t have) and short-change other memorable characters is such garbage. Even Merlin, while in the movie a lot, doesn’t actually have that much to do that is unique to his skill set. I would have gladly traded the Harry storyline for more time with Roxy or the Statesman team. It would have been nice to see the stuffy British spies have to adjust to the free-spirited, cocky Americans in their time of need. But aside from Pascal and Berry, they’re essentially relegated to cameos. I agree that Julianne Moore knows what movie she’s in and is having fun, but she plays the Bond villain thing straighter than Samuel L. Jackson did in the first film, which is where I started to lose the thread in terms of affectionate parody. That’s the kind of thing The Secret Service handled better. It was good about being the thing and also deconstructing the thing. This movie is just...the thing, in the worst ways. It’s loud and stupid. Remember the “Freebird” fight scene? Let’s do that six more times! How about that finger condom bit? Wasn’t that clever? We get to CGI the inside of a vagina! I get that we’re sending-up Bond, but at a certain point, we’re really not. We’re just being assholes. This movie is an asshole.

Adam: This movie makes me want to take a shower. It’s dressed in tailored suits but with the mind of someone who wears a dirty undershirt outside. I am sort of baffled by Matthew Vaughn as a filmmaker. I didn’t love Layer Cake (though I may just need to give it a second chance), but I like Stardust, X-Men: First Class, etc. In the Kingsman movies and in Kick-Ass, he gets credit for being subversive and satirical, but then he has so many moments where he seems to be reveling in the thing he’s commenting on where I’m not sure he was ever doing anything but reveling in that thing. Or, at the very least, he’s confused. Like he wants to be above the ugliness morally but his id is showing that he is also turned on by all of it. It’s very weird.

That vagina tracker implant scene was just odd and went on forever. Every scene in this movie feels like it goes on forever. Also, why are there so many supporting characters in this? Besides the Kingsman, the Statesman, the villain, and the princess, we also have the President of the United States and his beleaguered staff, Eggsy’s friends, the King and Queen of Sweden...ugh! Another aspect that actively annoyed me during The Golden Circle is the political game they’re playing. Remember when it used to just be that Fox News was on as the news stand-in in a Fox movie and you were like “oh, ok,” but now it has so much baggage to it and they keep going back to these fair and balanced news reports by Fox News (which, not even being political, anyone who has seen Fox News knows is not accurate...I should add CNN and MSNBC are also agenda-driven and sensationalistic) that are also pro-drug and anti-President??? It’s like, “WTF am I watching?” Those moments made me feel like I was through the looking glass’s looking glass. Also, the Elton John cameo. Stop, movie, stop. It’s not as funny as you think it is. The more I think about Kingsman: The Golden Circle, the more I dislike it. It’s like if a “30 Ways to be a Man” article in Maxim Magazine came to life, you followed the advice and then you wound up in prison for a DUI and felony assault. This movie feels like a giant DUI.
Rob: I like what you said about Vaughn’s sense of superiority over the subject matter being overtaken by his boyish indulgence in it. That’s the major issue here. That line was so, so thin in the first movie (which made the indulgent moments work better), but it’s non-existent in this one. As for the politics, I feel like the movie thinks it’s making a statement about the importance of nuance, empathy, and cooperation without actually following through on any of them. The President says drug dealers/users are essentially bad people, while his chief of staff lady (as well as Eggsy’s friends and girlfriend) show that it’s more complex than that. This creates an ethical challenge for both the government and the heroes. But the movie basically gives up on that without answering the question. This is where more cooperation between the two spy agencies might have been good. The contrast between them (and the common ground they eventually find) could act as a commentary on spy movie tropes as well as a solution to the larger plot issues. In fact, Pedro Pascal’s character arc seemed to be set up to serve that specific purpose. But the movie is more interested in Elton John jokes and robot dogs. I just can’t tell when or if the film wants to be read into or taken seriously. I have no idea what it wants to say.

Adam: Dammit, I blocked out the Transformers dogs. Now I have to remember there’s two of them and a robot arm that hacks the Kingsman database. I just vomited on my laptop. I used to see all the movies. I hope you all will forgive me if I stop doing that. I can’t take much more of this shit. This movie feels like it was made to fill in as the fourth movie in an “Asshole Spies” DVD 4-Pack with the first Kingsman and both entries in the Agent Cody Banks series. Mark Off for Kingsman: The Golden Circle.

Rob: Mark Off from me, as well. Kingsman 3 has been downgraded from a theatrical trip to a Redbox pickup.

Adam: I should have stayed home and watched First Kill. Until next time…

Rob: These seats are reserved.

11 comments:

  1. I agree with you in that I didn't entirely hate the movie while watching it, but it only gets worse in my mind as time goes on.

    I've seen a lot of people on other movie sites admit the movie is inferior to the first but give it a pass for being fun. That is definitely going to wear off and this movie will be seen as a franchise killer. I highly doubt a third one gets made.

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  2. Great point about Matthew Vaughn - I find it hard to revisit his movies for that very reason, though I'd never actually put my finger on it.

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  3. My most hated movie of the year. I found Julianne Moore (the performance and the character) to be so stupid it actually made my stomach upset.

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    1. ...and I mean everyone else too. *wanking hand motion

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  4. that's too bad, but i was kind of expecting it. it's the sequel syndrome. it can't ever be as good as, or better than the first one. and everything that was cool in the first, is redone twice as much and twice as long in the sequel

    i'll go rewatch The Secret Service then

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  5. I've yet to see it but I'm pretty confident in knowing I don't need to give it a chance. There was a spark of something good in the first one but I think Vaughn is much too satisfied with himself when he doesn't really have a grasp on what he's doing. The church fight scene in the first one was perfectly executed but is entirely emblematic of the core issue the series has. We as viewers are meant to bask in the skill of the choreography and laugh it all off because Firth is slaughtering redneck hicks. I'm perfectly fine if he wants to use rednecks as dumb cannon fodder. The problem is that none of these people, in the context of the movie, are making their own choices. Firth is being forced to slaughter them and they are being forced to swarm after him. I have a very hard time reconciling these aspects of this universe. This same issue is writ large in the world take over scene at the end. We cannot at once know innocent people are forced to do horrific things and also laugh it off because of the shiny veneer on it. It would seem to me that Vaughn and Millar (who wrote the Kingsmen and Kick Ass comics) are cut from the same cloth. They share the same nihilism and try to couch it in pizazz and pseudo whitty comedy.

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  6. I hated this movie coming out of the theater, but I still agree that it gets worse the more I think about. There is not one single thing I liked about it. I spent the better part of a day seething about letting myself be fooled into going to see this when I already have a strong opinion about the work of Mark Millar and by extension someone who repeatedly works with him. I've seen nothing of Vaughn's other Millar adaptations to lead me to believe I wouldn't hate them. Why would I let myself believe this would be different?

    Adding to my anger was how well this played during the showing. The crowd was into this bullshit. Me and the guy next to me shared a few confused looks when the audience actually applauded. Mid-movie. Multiple times. Where the hell was I?

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  7. Glad I went to see Wonder Woman in theaters instead of this. Also, I love Adam's extended metaphor rant.

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  8. Regarding amnesia in movies (or tv shows), I find it to be an annoyance when it is used to reset to a preferred status quo with respect to character relationships (e.g. Lois Lane learning Superman's secret identity in "Superman II"), or when it is used to have a particular actor play dual roles in the same movie, or play a different role than the one played in previous movies (e.g. Michelle Rodriguez as Letty in "Fast & Furious 6"). However, when amnesia is a key plot element in an original story, it can be effective (in varying degrees). Examples: "The Bourne Identity", "Memento", "Total Recall", "Dark City", "Dead Again", and others. Amnesia can even be an effective plot element when it's fake amnesia. Example: "36 Hours" (1965) - starring James Garner, Eva Marie Saint, and Rod Taylor. A variation of the plot for this one was also used in the third episode of the tv show "Mission: Impossible" in 1966.

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  9. If you've never thought you needed to hear a sped-up electronic country dance version of "Word Up" you're right, you don't.

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    1. I thought "this is terrible" when that moment happened

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