Audiences loved Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014), but its sequel, Kingsman: The Golden Circle (2017), was just a bit too much to be enjoyable. The latest film in the franchise, The King’s Man (2021)- a prequel narrating the birth of the secret service agency- has received subpar reviews.
The film has been dismissed as inconsistent, superfluous, a splurge of bad taste, and an unfunny farce, rarely receiving more than a two-star rating. I, however, loved it.
The King’s Man keeps the distinctive fight scenes with their comic-strip and ballet aesthetic, and the nerve-wracking lunacy of the first two films. However, it is set against the backdrop of the First World War. Thus, fancy high-tech gadgets are replaced by espionage and intrigue, giving it a more traditional spy film feel.
I liked the cast of the first Kingsman. But this film’s cast I enjoyed more – largely owing to Ralph Fiennes’ superb charisma and the humorous casting of Tom Hollander to play all three royal cousins- King George V, Kaiser Wilhelm, and Tsar Nicholas II. Besides, it is fun watching historical facts more or less turned upside down on-screen.
The King’s Man has been criticised for being a tonal mess. While this is true, in this case, it becomes a strength. The film whisks you through a whirlwind of cinematic colours, takes surprising turns, and never quite settles on one mood. If this were a novel, not a film, its polytonality would surely be praised, not disapproved of.
Overall, I found The King’s Man to be more emotionally gripping than the previous two films. It contains the brutal surreality, blood, gore, and absurdity one expects from this franchise, capturing all your senses and allowing you to escape the real world for two hours. But the utterly gruesome, orgy-like, and otherworldly finales of the other Kingsman films are thankfully omitted.
The King’s Man thus verges a little more on the edge of reality, making it more relatable and engrossing. Through the historical dimension, the European setting, and family history, the film entertains on more levels than that of pure action. Through its wide range of cinematic devices, The King’s Man offers full entertainment of the kind that drains you both mentally and emotionally, leaving you speechless for hours after.
Image courtesy of Dick Thomas Johnson via Flickr