Director Matthew Vaughn isn’t normally one for a sequel.
The follow-up movies that continue the story of Kick Ass and X-Men: First Class were both helmed by different directors. Vaughn, instead, likes to keep moving forward, finding new projects, and doing something different each time.
It’s strange, then, that the director has returned for Kingsman: The Golden Circle, his first attempt at a sequel, and a hotly anticipated movie in large part because audiences will get to see more of Vaughn’s unique directorial style with a group of established characters.
Also, people are looking forward to this movie because the original was great. That doesn’t hurt things at all.
There is a problem, though, even with sequels that keep the same director, and especially with comic book sequels, that a movie ends up stagnating. Audiences attend wanting more of the same, are given exactly what they’re hoping for, and still leave feeling let down.
Iron Man 2 involves killing a couple of hours on whatever nonsense Jon Favreau can come up with in order to keep the character fresh in people’s minds for Avengers. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 is just Guardians the First with more Daddy issues.
The problem with comic book sequels is that often, all the really innovative ideas get thrown into the first movie, and there’s nowhere to go with the sequel expect to rehash what fans have already seen – comics are, after all, designed as a long form episodic storytelling medium where not much changes in each episode.
This is why The Dark Knight works so well – Christopher Nolan limited himself in Batman Begins, focusing on Batman’s training rather than showing the character in his prime, meaning that there was room for a movie that’s purely about Batman saving Gotham City from a big, clown-themed disaster.
It’s also why The Dark Knight Rises doesn’t receive the same love. The Dark Knight essentially serves as the first full Batman movie (rather than simply a Bruce Wayne prequel), and Rises uses more of the same formula without bringing anything new to the table.
Kingsman is a little different in that its comic book roots are more obscure, and, to a certain extent, this means that Matthew Vaughn is free to make stuff up as he pleases rather than sticking to a familiar storyline from the printed page.
This is how we get the Statesman, with the logic being that in order to make The Golden Circle different to the first film, we need a lot of new characters and aesthetics that help to give the movie a unique voice. Vaughn has built this story around deliberately showing us something new.
It does seem as if the focus here is on making things exciting rather than simply telling another identical story within the established framework. According to co-writer Jane Goldman:
“I think the challenge is just wanting to do more of the same, but wanting to keep what made Kingsman feel fresh and interesting. Kingsman can, with its history, surprising and consistently go in directions you didn’t expect, both in terms of the characters’ emotional journeys and in terms of the kind of outrageous, absurd, or surprising kind of action that you see.”
At the same time, though, it seems that Vaughn can’t escape the allure of the Agent J retroactive return. Just as the Men in Black franchise brought back Tommy Lee Jones’ character under the assumption that he’s an important part of the formula (despite having been written out at the end of the first movie), Kingsman is bringing back Colin Firth’s Harry Hart.
This is (spoiler alert for the first movie) tricky because of Harry’s untimely demise at the end of the second act in the original Kingsman. It’s a difficult pill to swallow – coming back from being shot in the head is challenging from a story perspective.
This is especially concerning when you factor in all the new characters in the sequel, any of which could have filled the mentor role and allowed the movie to continue on without unnecessarily resurrecting the dead.
Let’s just hope that the return of Colin Firth’s character isn’t a sign of the film’s obsession with reliving past hits rather than moving on to provide a new, fresh experience.