By way of its setting and time period, The King’s Man is a bit unlike the previous two Kingsman films. It tells the origins of the illustrious spy agency but also distances itself, just a bit, from the proceedings of those first two films. The action and writing are all top-notch, but along the way, it seems like it loses a bit of what makes Kingsman special. Throughout the story, there are a couple of characters that need to be around more and a couple that didn’t need to be there in the first place.
Matthew Vaughn directs a script written by himself and Karl Gajdusek. It stars Ralph Fiennes, Gemma Arterton, Rhys Ifans, Harris Dickinson, and Djimon Hounsou. There are fundamental issues with The King’s Man that hamper it from being the best in the series, but there are also some genuinely breathtaking action scenes in the film. Matthew Vaughn has a distinct style that is on full display here. The film follows Orlando Oxford (Fiennes), his son Conrad, and Orlando’s two friends Shola (Hounsou) and Polly (Arterton). Conrad wants so badly to join the army in the First World War, but Orlando is firmly against any sort of violence.
The opening scene sets up why Orlando is so against Conrad fighting, and other scenes later in the film shows why he’s so against violence and war in general. Through the course of the film, we get basically what amounts to the Historical Avengers cameos. It’ll be a fun ride if you’re a history buff from this time period. The film has a couple of glaring issues with certain characters, though.
A Villain That’s Subpar And A Character That Isn’t Really Needed
The main villain of the film is very weak. They’re shrouded in darkness and only revealed at the film’s end in a surprise twist. The side-villain for the first half of the film, Rasputin, played perfectly by Rhys Ifans, should really have been the overall villain of the film. His performance carries the entire first half of the film. The King’s Man is lucky for that because it takes quite a while to get going. Once it does, though, the scenes with Rasputin are amazing and make you think just how a movie with him as the villain would have gone.
The villain has a cabal of henchmen and women that Oxford, Polly, and Shola have to deal with, but they don’t end up catching attention as Rasputin does. Without spoiling anything, the film’s main villain is a big reveal, and it really doesn’t land super well. The film handles it well, though, because the final fight scene between Oxford and the villain might be one of the most well shot and well-choreographed fights in Vaughn’s directing career. One shot, in particular, involves a film projector and swords that’s absolutely exquisite.
Oxford’s son, Conrad, ends up being pretty wasted and unnecessary besides plot points and motivation. The story of Oxford not allowing Conrad to fight in the war is key to the first half of the film. Conrad is a plot device. He’s part of one breathtaking scene in No Man’s Land, but other than that isn’t a necessary part of the film.
The Great Characters Pick Up The Slack
Polly and Shola are fantastic and deserve more scenes than the ones they get. Djimon Hounsou provides an excellent foil to Rasputin during their ballet-inspired fight scene near the middle of the film. Polly is an excellently written character that gives the film an edge that it sorely needs. The Kingsman films have lacked strong female characters, and Polly is a great way to remedy that.
The nods to the future in Kingsman are also a nice touch. There are some fantastic cameos and even a funny one that is a casting “could-have-been” for the first film. It’s always fun to see sort of revisionist or alternate takes on historical figures. The film gives us those in spades with the different figures throughout history shown.
Fiennes as Oxford is the highlight of the entire film, though. It’s sort of an old-school spy lost in this era of James Bond and Mission Impossible. He handles his own throughout, and in the tensest scenes of the film, he’s an absolute rock.
These Issues Don’t Hamper The King’s Man Too Much
The King’s Man isn’t a bad film; it just has some issues that stop it from rising to the very top of the series. It has an uneven tone, where it wants to be more emotional and weighty, unlike previous entries in the series. That tonal difference makes for a jarring experience at points. However, the action in the film does overcome that, and the scenes with the heaviest action elements here are the best ones.
You’ll end up satisfied with the performances of most of the characters in the film. It just leaves a lot to be desired when the best villain in the movie isn’t in the film for the entire time. The King’s Man also sets up the future (past?) of the Kingsmen agency with a post-credits scene that clearly leads to another film in this line.
It might be hard for the series to go over the top of the first film, but The King’s Man does an admirable job of giving the agency’s origins.
The King’s Man releases in theaters on December 22nd, 2021.
For more movie reviews or any other general pop culture, stay tuned to That Hashtag Show.