The new Kingsman film goes in a drastically different direction, in a bold move for the franchise that I believe pays in dividends. This is The King’s Man, set during the First World War, which explores the origins of the Kingsman organization amongst the tragedies the war brings. Six years after the franchise’s inception but only two movies in, I’m glad that they’re switching it up this soon. It’s a good sign that the creatives behind it (including returning director Matthew Vaughn) aren’t afraid to take risks and introduce brand-new characters in a very different world, with little connection to the other films in the series.
So, yes, The King’s Man is also full of some brilliant historical in-jokes, which is a side benefit for this kind of film playing in the period sandbox. One of the best of these, in my opinion, is that Tom Hollander plays all three major European leaders during the war — King George, Kaiser Wilhelm and Tsar Nicholas — seeing as they were all cousins in real life. His distinction between his three performances (even though we mostly see him as King George) is quite good, even though it’s just one of many increasingly crazy historical references we get throughout the film.
Even though most of it was fun, there were parts of The King’s Man that had me internally cheering, and there were parts where my brain wanted to fall asleep. I adored the visuals and the action is fantastic, but even though The King’s Man is far more fun than I expected, like its fellow franchise films, it’s not sure which lane to pick when it comes to the feelings it wants you to feel. I think I enjoy this franchise more than most, but sometimes The King’s Man has difficulty world-building while telling an exciting and ridiculously awesome story. There’s a bit of both here, but not enough to define the rest of the movie. [Grade: B]
Director: Matthew Vaughn
Writers: Matthew Vaughn, Karl Gajdusek
Starring: Ralph Fiennes, Gemma Arterton, Djimon Hounsou, Tom Hollander, Harris Dickinson
Rated: R for sequences of strong/bloody violence, language, and some sexual material