Not Quite: The Almost-Powerful Impact of Kingsman, The Golden Circle

Hi, everyone, and welcome to the penultimate week of "Things You Never Noticed You Noticed!" This past weekend I had the great fun of watching the second Kingsman movie. Much like the original, it's a ridiculous and fun romp through a story that feels like it's half Bond movie and half fantasy sprinkled with wonderfully over-the-top fight scenes and punctuated by genuine humor and surprisingly cutting social commentary that's well worth watching. The one thing that held the movie back, though, was its lack of an emotional center. The first Kingsman movie, with its coming-of-age main thrust, complimented well by the dynamic of the working-class Eggsy confronting the upper-class, snobbish world of espionage he's joinging, had genuine emotional impact. It's sequel comes frustratingly close to finding a similar emotional core in the moment I'll discuss here, but never quite gets there.

Early on in the movie, we get a quick glimpse of Eggsy's study, a glimpse that gives us just a moment to take in three tabloid covers hanging on his wall, all announcing remarkably banal headlines. It's an odd choice of wall decoration at first glance, but people who remember the first Kingsman movie will recognize this as a habit of Eggsy's mentor Harry, who was killed in the first movie. In that movie, Harry explains that these tabloid headlines were all published on mornings right after he'd saved the world, and placed on his wall to remind himself of the how important and thankless his job can be. The short shot of Eggsy's own wall reminds us of this practice subtly, and The Golden Circle will refocus on these tabloid covers later in a quick exchange between Merlin and Harry in which they discuss which missions certain tabloid covers on his walls corresponded to. The movie wants us to recognize this tiny touch, and for good reason.

This miniscule moment is actually incredibly important, as it establishes what could have been the movie's main emotional thrust: Harry's influence on Eggsy and Eggsy's struggle to live up to his mentor's life and reputation. This would have formed the perfect counterpoint to the original Kingsman film's emotional core: Eggsy's journey from boyhood to manhood under the guidance of father-figure Harry. Especially considering that Harry dies near the end of the first movie, its sequel had the perfect opportunity to be a powerful reflection on how we often miss the guidance of our parents when we become adults or they leave our lives, and how eventually we need to trust ourselves to live up to the examples they set for us. The small detail introduced early in the movie gives us a glimpse of the writers' thought process, letting us see that the filmmakers were aware that this could be a possible theme.

Of course, the film ruins this potential emotional message by resurrecting Harry's character, and allowing the two characters to remain working at Kingsman together and completely destroying any chance for the film to discuss these issues. However, we can get a glimpse into both the writer's mindsets and the film industry itself. It's clear that, on some level, the creators of the story recognized that Eggsy's relationship with Harry formed a solid emotional core for the movie. It's possible, perhaps, that while they noticed that this core existed, they never noticed that they noticed it, and thus never took the steps to consciously develop it. It's also possible (and perhaps more likely) that they simply resurrected Harry to keep Colin Firth and his inevitable audience draw in the movie. Whatever the reason, we can come to understand more about the film if we not only notice subtle moments like the tabloid covers adorning Eggsy's wall, but notice we notice them, and actively interrogate them.

With excitement and optimism,

Alex