Matthew Vaughn has only directed 6 features, 4 of which he also wrote the screenplay for. Prior to “The Golden Circle”, each of these had their own freshness to them, something unique that he brought to the screen. “The Golden Circle” marks the first time he’s written and directed a sequel to his own work, and sadly his attempt to top himself kills any novelty that was enjoyable in the first.
The film picks up shortly after the events of the previous chapter. Eggsy(Taron Egerton) has proven himself as a Kingsman and assumed the position held by the (allegedly) deceased Galahad (Colin Firth). In addition to saving the world, Eggsy got the girl and now lives with the backdoor beauty Princess Tilde (Hanna Alström) whom he came across during the climax of the last film. Merlin(Mark Strong) is still running everything, although apparently in charge of nothing. This day to day uniformity is shattered within the first 90 seconds of the film with the appearance of cyber-enhanced villain thought to have been dead.
Suddenly, the film is off on a whirlwind cartoonish-action-scene-car-chase that defies all logic, sensibility, and physics. It’s an aesthetic that worked well in the first movie, but it quickly becomes apparent that Vaughn is out to push extremes. Given the nature of the franchise, a lot of leeway should be granted by the audience. It’s supposed to be silly, over the top, and action-packed. But when it becomes too goofy, and there is both literally and figuratively no weight to the action, it soon becomes boring. This complete disregard for physics will have Newton spinning in his grave, which is ironic given the film’s obsession with spinning things. Sadly, this overindulgent style is used repeatedly throughout the film. Nearly every interaction between opposing characters ends up looking the same and it becomes tiresome, especially considering the nearly 2 ½ hour runtime.
The movie isn’t a total loss though. Julianne Moore is clearly having a blast in the role of “Poppy”, the world’s most successive female CEO. Her company? The world’s largest manufacturer and distributor of recreational drugs. Forced into reclusion, she’s built an incredibly charming 50’s style mini-town as her lair, located deep in the South American jungle. It’s what Fordlândia may have looked like if Henry Ford was on crack. (Yes, that’s a real thing) Poppy is stark raving mad and an absolute delight to watch. She also cooks one hell of a burger. It’s creative moments like these that shine through the dredge of overindulgence and lazy writing. Subtle and sharp-witted gags are sprinkled throughout, such as Emily Watson playing U.S. Chief of Staff Fox, but these are countered with plot holes, smart characters behaving stupidly and film tropes that are painful to watch. (Note to aspiring filmmakers: Mines detonate as soon as you step on them. That’s kinda the point.)
It’s a shame the filmmakers focused on making a sequel that was bigger and not better. It has its fun moments, but not enough to justify blowing nearly three hours at the theatre. Then again, how many other films assemble a cast consisting of five Oscar winners??