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MOVIES: The King's Man - Review

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The King’s Man is the latest entry in the franchise from Matthew Vaughn, acting as a prequel to the 2014 film and its sequel, The Golden Circle. It adopts a classic Bond movie set up but moves the action back in time to World War One where it can serve as a prequel, exploring how the Kingsman organisation came to be. It’s a good idea and not the first comic book movie that has explored World War One setting as of late, but it does so in a way that’s so painfully tone-deaf and so painfully misguided. At every turn, The King’s Man somehow makes the wrong choice when the easiest of way outs is presented to it, the blunt-edged need to be as offensive as possible lets the movies down with a tongue in cheek vibe where the characters all seem to know what’s happening when by rights they shouldn’t - the film boasts an awkward anachronistic feel to it that leads to it being entirely unconvincing as a period piece. The Golden Circle and the 2014 film both had this sort of disquiet nature about them, but unfortunately, Matthew Vaughn’s film only doubles down on the Elton John being a major character in the franchise and mixing in real people without a care in the world for how they should be portrayed.

The first thirty minutes are purely exposition-fuelled garbage set to clumsy action sequences that stay clumsy and get clumsier. The World War One set-up has been told over and over again yet Vaughn demonstrates it with all the knowledge and the lack of judgement of a substitute History teacher who would rather stick on a movie and hope for the best, approaching it far too seriously to be taken with a sense of fun.

Yes, Kingsman has always had a tongue-in-cheekiness to it but that has always been a problem, often completely unnecessary at the best of times, and this means that as a result any sensibility is lost – it feels like two different movies happening at once, in one of them, a parable, well-meaning commentary on war – especially the first world war, and generals sending young men to their deaths, but in the other, it wants to be a spy story – a cool action film that isn’t afraid to basically undo its message at every turn. Nothing sticks – nothing stays – it’s a film that lacks the thrills of the first film and even the second, with laboured action set-pieces that feel more of a chore than actually enjoyable to watch.

Vaughn not being able to stop his absurd touches almost feels ironic given that the reigned in nature of Kick-Ass toned down on the more obnoxious Mark Millar elements and he’s worked his magic in the past with films like Stardust, but the shadow of Millar lingering over The King’s Man just doesn’t feel welcomed. The political humour here is entirely problematic and uncomfortable at the best of times – with a post credits scene that is just one of the most atrociously bad things to come out of the franchise yet – there’s no kind of respect or care here which would have been very much appreciated and could very well have been achieved with a more guided hand.

The film doesn’t know a good thing when it has it – Harris Dickinson is great, but underutilised, Ralph Fiennes has a commanding, smoothing voice of authority that always makes him for a strong lead – but the movie sacrifices Rhys Ifans’ bonkers Rasputin for a much more boring antagonist when it would have been more interesting and more bonkers if he was the main villain of the piece – the film never goes into the details of exploring Rasputin’s strange abilities, he just feels like a villain that’s there to look cool because he’s Rasputin and not much else. It’s again the entirely tone-deafness of it all that makes Vaughn think he can get away with something as offputting as what the film does to key people in history – the most problematic moment of it all can’t be mentioned here because of spoilers, but the credits scene is borderline unforgivable. Daniel Brühl, to the surprise of nobody, is completely wasted and would have been better off not being there at all.

The action sequences are clumsy and awkward and lack the thrills of the memorable church fight sequence from the 2014 film, they’re more straightforward here. The scenes in the dark – as is a growing trend with most Hollywood blockbusters – are poorly lit and even more poorly edited. The whole thing just left a bitter, uncomfortable taste in my mouth where everyone involved should have almost certainly known better, yet for some reason decided to progress on with the film anyway. Instead of being the franchise that could potentially topple Bond one day with its own clever spin on 007, it’s only taken three (arguably two) movies for the Kingsman franchise to fade out with a whimper rather than a bang, leading me to preferring even the most poorly-rated Bond films like Die Another Day over this colossal waste of time.

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