The new Kingsman isn’t a particularly good movie. It plays like the sequel to a movie that was released 20-something years ago, didn’t do too well at the time, and slowly gathered enough of a following on home video to get some studio executive to attempt a cash-in long after the sell-by date. It’s obsessed with recreating events from the first movie as if you may have forgotten them, or if it thinks the only way you won’t walk out of the theater is if you get exactly the same experience as last time. The “Manners Maketh Man” scene is recreated nearly beat-for-beat, simply replacing London scum with the redneck Kentucky equivalent. Remember the scene where characters were forced to “shoot” their dog? Remember when people were jolted from their sleep by their room rapidly flooding? Remember the anal sex joke? Golden Circle remembers all of that, and makes sure you get to relive all the greatest hits from… three years ago? The nostalgia wagon comes around quicker every year.
Thing is, I think the movie’s trying to engage in some discussion about nostalgia, but it’s at odds with itself because it’s just as much a product of said remembrance game as it is an object seeking to create a discussion about said topic. In that sense it reminds me of the first movie, The Secret Service, since we had Samuel L Jackson’s character telling us it wasn’t “that kind of movie” when he refused to give away his plan in a monologue, only to do exactly that towards the end of the movie. Both movies are aware of the conceptual wonkiness of their given genre, but don’t seem to be aware that they’re actively engaging in the very thing on which they wanna riff. It makes for the bad kind of perplexed afterthought where the more I think about it the more it kinda drowns out whatever was cool about the movie.
Funny enough, all of this is personified in the movie’s villain, Julianne Moore’s Poppy. Yeah, she’s some evil drug lord who holds the world’s users hostage with virus-laced product in order to blackmail the President of the USA to legalize all banned substances, but she’s also big on 50s nostalgia. But not the actual nostalgia of someone who lived through those years. She outright tells us she’s a child of the 70s who grew up with that decade’s 50s nostalgia boom. She’s that fan who grew up taking in and loving her parents’ childhood– she’s all about Happy Days and American Graffiti and Grease.
She’s at least one step removed from the actual memory of her cherished era, and that level of distace makes for a weird sort of fandom.
She didn’t live through these memories, she lived through someone else’s recollection and synthesis of those memories, and she’s in turn processed them into something wholly different. And she’s done that by taking over some ancient ruins in Cambodia no one has “discovered” and turned it into a 50s themed theme park.
That’s kinda what both Kingsman movies are when you get down to it. They’re someone synthesizing the cool vibe of James Bond and other 60s spy flicks, except both Kingsman movies are riffing more on later Bond movies– they’re more Moore and Brosnan than they are Connery. So the Kingsman movies are that same sort of weird fandom synthesis that’s removed from the source material’s origins and steeped in the memories passed down by those original fans.
It looks to me that this removal creates a certain lack of self-awareness when it comes to tackling the subject matter at hand, at least in the case of these Kingsman movies. They’re aware of the archetypes and patterns, since they’ve learned them from the fans who originally cataloged them, but they aren’t quite aware (or just don’t care maybe?) when they become the very thing they want to be “above.”
It’s a weird game of telephone where you can’t help but make a mistake when it’s your turn to blurt out something. You know what you heard, but it comes out all wrong anyway. Or some feedback loop where it starts to sound like the original noise. I don’t know, it’s some weird shit that starts feeding on itself. Like when Poppy forces new henchmen to eat burgers made out of henchmen who disobey her.
Fandom is a cannibal burger, and we all love how it taste. Yeah. I like that. Golden Circle is a Cannibal Burger. It’s damn tasty, but the guilt and the grease weighs you down and keeps you from enjoying it.
Also, they kill off way too many characters in dumb, not-at-all cool ways. So that’s like getting soggy fries with your Cannibal Burger.
But then you see Elton John do a Jumping Fierce Kick to a henchman, so it’s like getting a decent slice of cake as dessert.
But you still ate a damn Cannibal Burger you sick sicko.
After-Post Stinger Self Indulgence Digression Here: I saw Golden Circle with an long time friend of mine. He and I used to work at the pizza joint at Six Flags Fiesta Texas. Said pizza joint is in the Rockville portion of the park, which is pretty much exactly the same thing as Poppy Land in this movie, except Fiesta Texas was build in an old cement quarry in San Antonio rather than ruins in Cambodia. We were both amused by this.