The sequel to 2015’s Kingsman: The Secret Service, Kingsman: The Golden Circle picks up about a year or so after its predecessor. Eggsy (Taron Egerton) is a seasoned Kingsman agent now, but that doesn’t stop a former Kingsman candidate from teaming up with a formidable drug cartel leader, Poppy (Julianne Moore), to take over the world. Poppy’s plan is to eliminate the Kingsman and then infect humans worldwide with a deadly virus via recreational and illegal drugs. With their resources depleted, Eggsy and Merlin (Mark Strong) travel to America to find Statesman, the American version of Kingsman.
So we’ve got the basic spy movie plot down: if the agents don’t succeed, there will be global consequences. We’ve also got a team-up of British and American agents, impeccably tailored outfits, cool gadgets, and an extended cameo from one of the greatest recording artists of all time. Overall, Kingsman: The Golden Circle is the fun sequel you’d expect from this franchise, with only one major issue.
The Panty Problem
Spy films have a long history of men exhibiting rapey behavior towards women. Watching older James Bond movies as a feminist, you have to remind yourself that this was accepted as the cultural norm at the time. Kingsman is marketed as the “fun” spy film that doesn’t take itself too seriously. However, there’s still no reason to have a tracking device be implanted in a woman by the main character fingering her. It’s not even alluded to: the angle of the camera is nearly pornographic. These panties. Were projected. 50 feet tall on the movie screen.
I’m not a prude, but I felt like my eyeballs were being unwillingly fingered during this scene. I don’t imagine any women were comfortable watching this, knowing that she was being used so graphically. The character, Clara (Poppy Delevingne), gives consent – in fact, she downright seduces him – yet it’s indicative of an overall problem with this film’s female characters. Frankly, they’re either panty-clad or underdeveloped.
Halle Berry plays a Statesman agent, Ginger, who serves as behind-the-scenes help, and though Berry’s played a superhero before, her character was flatter than the Great Plains. Also, the villain of the film was an over-exaggerated 50s housewife, which isn’t doing female representation in action movies any favors. The Kingsman franchise is overall a boy’s club, which is typical of spy films, but I was hoping for further experimentation, especially from a franchise that was already taking a playful approach to the genre.
The Fun Bits
Panties aside, the Kingsman sequel was entertaining. One bit that was particularly cathartic was the character of the President of the United States being an actual evil person. There wasn’t an orange wig, but he had a red tie on and used recognizable hand gestures as he was talking about locking up and killing all the infected drug users. It was kind of nice to not be wondering what the President would do because this President was explicitly nefarious. Personally, I like my evil where I can see it: on-screen and fictional.
Also on-screen with significantly more of a presence than I was expecting was Sir Elton John. You truly have not lived until you’ve seen Elton John in a rainbow feathered outfit jump kicking a man. The camera loves him, and it’s clear the writers and director loved him too. Serious Elton fans can spot many Easter eggs for them on Poppy’s base.
The most enjoyable part of watching this film was watching British and American stereotypes collide in the Kingsman / Statesman team-up to save the world. Channing Tatum was the perfect casting choice for a Statesman, though he had less screen time than one would expect. Most of the Statesman action came from the character Whiskey (Pedro Pascal), who fights with a whip and a lasso, like your Western fantasy come to life. The scenes with the Statesman and Kingsman fighting alongside one another were the highlights of the film. You will actually believe that lassos and umbrellas could be effective weapons even in snowy terrain.
I would be very interested in a Statesman spin-off, especially if it addresses the panty problem. I’d want Halle Berry’s character to be more developed to match the development of male agents in this story. And, for equality’s sake, perhaps a brief-clad Channing Tatum could get fondled for espionage purposes. You know, because that’s how plots get driven forward, right? I will not rest until there is bulge projected 50 feet tall on a movie screen in a spy film.
Image courtesy of 20th Century Fox