69 / 100
Watchable Minutes: Clocking in at just under two and a half hours, The King’s Man is a long affair. Shaving off about 25 minutes would have been a favorable move by the editors. There’s a lot of fluff that could have been eliminated to make the movie a little bit tighter.
Movie or Film : Like many comic book movies, The King’s Man explores universal principles and has an interesting story with different character arcs compared to the previous movies, but is ultimately a simple movie.
- Run time : 2 hours 11 minutes
- Studio : Marv Films
- Director : Matthew Vaughn
- Where to Watch : In Theaters
The dawn of World War I saw many countries dragged into a war of attrition after the assassination of a high ranking aristocrat in Austria. With his son desperate to enlist in what he deems to be a pointless war, Duke Orlando of Oxford assembles a team of home grown espionage agents that gather information about their foes. When it is discovered that all the aggressors in the war are linked in some fashion to a secret organization called The Flock, The Duke must do everything he can to end the war and get his son back.
After an exceptionally difficult few years filled with many delays and setbacks, The King’s Man has finally been released in theaters. Refusing to even consider the possibility of being released as VOD, Matthew Vaughn’s prequel to the original 2015 entry is starkly different in tone and is substantially less enjoyable than its predecessors. Vaughn teams up with Ralph Fiennes, Djimon Honsou, and Gemma Arterton to create the Secret Service framework that would provide the origin story for the rest of the franchise.
While many of the things that made the original Kingsman movies enjoyable are relatively simple to recreate (cc: The Golden Circle), that doesn’t automatically make for an enjoyable movie (again, cc: The Golden Circle). The King’s Man brings similar humor and graphic action with the cliche slow-motion moments but ultimately feels like not enough was done to make this movie feel special. Prequels can be tricky to make (and make well) without being overly cheeky and The King’s Man suffers greatly from an over-reliance on goodwill from the audience. Franky, the story is not interesting enough to warrant a prequel movie at all. The dialogue and story beats feel shlocky and inconsequential. The only real surprise about the movie was *SPOILER* when Harris Dickinson’s Conard Oxford is killed in combat about 3/4s of the way through the movie. It creates an interesting motivation for Orlando Oxford (Ralph Fiennes) but literally stops the movie in its tracks at the same time. This is now the third loss that he has suffered during the exceedingly long run time. His wife was killed in the first 30 minutes and then his long-time friend Lord Kitchener (Charles Dance) is killed a little while later. Neither of these deaths seems to slow him down at all, but after his son is killed, he has to be motivated from the ground up. It’s accomplished through Polly (Gemma Arterton) threatening to leave his service if he doesn’t pull himself together. This also sparks some sort of unnecessary romance that was supposedly lurking just beneath the surface the entire time. This is followed by a miniature montage that shows Oxford getting ready to become “the man his son was supposed to be”, which is a confusing message. Why not make it something more like “I’ll create the world he would have wanted to see” or something a little less destructive to the character? Oxford completely throws everything he held sacred out the window, including his vow of pacifism, and kills an entire enemy encampment in the final act of the movie. This is the type of mindset that a less mature character would have had after a loss, not one so devoted to peace like Oxford was initially. The movie is filled with head-scratchers like this and it creates that shlocky atmosphere that cheapens the entire movie.
In contrast to the sloppy story, Ralph Fiennes and most of the cast do an exceptional job with their individual roles. They are the most enjoyable part of the movie, without a doubt. Fiennes has an incredibly likable personality, regardless of all the awful character decisions he was forced to make. Djimon Honsou is once again relegated to the support role as Shola. While his character is relatively weak on paper with not much personality, Honsou brings his all as he does with all his roles. Shola is portrayed as loyal, smart, and brave – which are all the characteristics that Orlando needs in a sidekick to succeed. The same goes for Gemma Arterton’s Polly. She’s got wit and charm but is sucker-punched by cheap dialogue and throw-away lines. The big three seem to mesh well on screen and I would not mind seeing them together again, but with less origin story getting in the way. The rest of the cast is very mediocre in casting and delivery – Harris Dickinson is as bland and boring as a bag of frozen broccoli, spouting off Captain America (Captain Britain?) -isms to his dying breath, Rhys Ifans is entirely forgettable as Rasputin, Matthew Goode does almost nothing besides abuse his followers in a bad Scottish accent, and Charles Dance is wasted by being used as a side character (albeit for a sizable payday I’m sure).
The King’s Man is packed with large set pieces, CGI-riddled fight scenes, and the trademark slow-motion action sequences that the franchise has become known for. The set design was excellent throughout, especially because it looked entirely practical. Each mansion looked large and felt large when the characters were inside. There are some good-looking action scenes, like the no man’s land sequence with Conrad. And the sequence with Fiennes struggling to release his parachute over the enemy encampment looked very solid as well. However, following each one of these moments was a mushy and shockingly poor backdrop that looked like it was from 2010. The biggest disappointment in this movie was the scenes that took place in the enemy’s base. The large mountain looked completely fake and almost rubbery and the background was blurry to the point where I couldn’t really tell what I was looking at.
The Kingsmen franchise has a lot of work to do in order to make me care about any future entries. This prequel doesn’t quite measure up to the ridiculousness of the original and fails to really justify why it exists. The decently stacked cast has enough chemistry to create a decent movie, but it was held back by shoddy writing and its relationship to the franchise.