These past months there have been an abundance of films particularly those a part of huge franchises such as Spider-Man: No Way Home and Matrix Resurrections that have been dropping in order to continue the stories that we have all come to love. One title that has managed to catch our eye as well due to its impeccable and eerie trailer, as well as its seemingly different approach to the franchise, is King’s Man a prequel to Kingsman: The Secret Service and Kingsman: The Golden Circle.
The Kingsman franchise is actually based on a comic book series by Mark Millar who is also known for his works on Wanted, Jupiter’s Legacy, and Kick-Ass, all of which have had their film or TV series adaptations as well. Director Matthew Vaughn returns for this film as he did with the last two films this time around working with stars such as Ralph Fiennes, Gemma Arterton, Rhys Ifans, and Djimon Hounsou, to name a few. The Kingsman franchise has had a great reception so far due to its unique take on a spy movie by interjecting humor and grandeur of seemingly odd phenomenon and events. Furthermore, The Kingsman has also been able to produce maniacal and well-casted villains that have added so much personality to the films. The newest addition to the franchise seeks to bring out the fun and excitement that fans have come to adore with the Kingsman franchise while introducing us to the beginnings of the agency through brand new and interesting characters.
King’s Man Overview
King’s Man takes place decades before the first film and is set around the time of World War I. It follows the beginnings of the Kingsman Agency as it centers on the Duke of Oxford, Orlando, and his son, Conrad. After the death of Orlando’s wife and Conrad’s mother, the former decides that the world needs someone to head off various conflicts, just like the one his wife had suffered from before they occur. He then recruits two of his servants, Shola and Polly, as together they embark on perilous journeys to prevent world leaders from going into an all-out war with each other. Throughout the film, we witness the group pull out all the stops by facing villains such as Grigori Rasputin as well as ploys of governments and organizations who seek world domination.
We were honored to be invited to a special screening of Kingsman organized by Disney Philippines back on December 15, 2021, at the PowerPlant Cinemas in Rockwell before it officially dropped in cinemas for the public to see. This review, for the most part, will be free from spoilers however some of the details from the previous Kingman movies may be mentioned so we highly recommend that you must have at least seen the last two films before proceeding any further.
A Historical Period Piece
King’s Man takes a more interesting shift in its story compared to its predecessors by reinventing history through the addition of fictional spy plot points. The World War I backdrop is a delicate and interesting addition to the entire franchise as it also enables history buffs to get involved in all the mishaps and adventures of this British agency. Not only do we get a bigger picture of the early years of Kingsman but the entire setting of the film opens the door for reinvigorating and fresh take on the grandiosity of the franchise. In other words unlike any other film in the Kingsman franchise, this prequel sticks a little closer to reality as it excludes the ridiculousness and grandeur of exploding microchips and alcohol-producing Westerns.
The fictionalized nature of the story and how it integrates historical information is well done. It tried to keep everything as historically accurate as possible while simultaneously providing creative freedom for the story to truly take a hold of its own. The balance of creating a truly inspired piece of work such as this shows the marks of great and precise storytellers by utilizing story elements not to completely rewrite historical events but rather to complement them.
The visuals and huge set pieces in King’s Man also aid in transporting us to the immersive world of this era which in turn help to create a very realistic look to the story. This is also creatively achieved through the color grading that the shots are filmed in as well as the true-to-the-time period costumes, hairstyles, and make-up. It is pretty much evident that this installment understood the task and committed to the task at hand to recreate and reinvent historical moments in order for their creative story to take center stage.
The Familiar Meets Uncharted Territories
The newest installment in the King’s Man franchise brings an aspect that is new to the table diving into not just a more historical landscape but as well as an overall more serious tonality to the film. The success of the past two films lies in the injected humor and light-hearted notes that come with an almost too far-fetched version of a British spy movie. This prequel doesn’t necessarily disregard these elements as it still tries to keep the movie overall as light as possible but it is also evident that the producers were trying to encapsulate a different approach to the mood and tone altogether.
This was however done to the point that it didn’t feel like a completely out-of-left-field film from the franchise as we still get a sense of the shared universe that these characters share. You get a sense that in the very different direction and themes of this film, there is still a bigger picture that is being painted that ties the past films together which is a very difficult feat to achieve in retrospect when creating a prequel. In some ways as a viewer, we get to witness the earlier days of an organization that we have already come to know but we also come to realize that there is a bigger story at play. This is what King’s Man deserves credit for as it is able to completely dictate for itself an entire brand new and fresh story with endless possibilities while still paving the way for the grand scheme of things that would hopefully give more depth to the first two films.
What King’s Man is able to achieve however is the unique culmination of creating a film that feels new and different in all the positive definitions of the words while still following the overarching themes, motifs, and tones that make The Kingsman so enticing to watch. Those who have followed the film franchise will be able to witness a sense of familiarity with the flow of the story as there are many similarities with the format of events from the last two films. It felt at times as if The Kingsman stories thus far have followed a templated storyline but despite this, King’s Man still manages to create a new name and branding for itself.
A Slow Burn To Fast-Paced Action
One of the downfalls however with King’s Man is the lengthy nature of its story. With a running time of 131 minutes, the film tends to prolong the agony of the incredible action sequences that the film provides. The exposition although being quite intriguing and crucial to the plot was sluggish in pace. As mentioned, the story truly picks up towards the second half of the film and therefore it was a slow burn to actually get to the gripping and intense portions of King’s Man. The setup for the characters and the political back and forth narration prevented the film from truly standout like those before it with every scene and minute being so engaging and captivating from start to finish. It felt like King’s Man as a different entry altogether privatized itself in making moments shine while simultaneously in the process creating parts that were a tad bit forgettable.
The fight sequences however were where the film truly stood out from the pack. The choreography and detail to both fist to fist combat and all-out war footage were amazingly done. This is where both the film and characters truly shined. There was just an amount of effort and a keen eye for detail in providing heart-racing and visually captivating fight scenes which is admittedly worth the price of admission for those looking for a worthy action flick.
The Ups And Downs From An All-Star Cast
With a cast as big as that of King’s Man it would be but natural to have some solid stand-out performances which in my honest opinion belongs to Djimon Hounsou, Gemma Arterton, and Rhys Ifans. Both Hounsou and Arterton took centerstage to deliver amazing performances as The Duke’s servants who serve as the brawns and brains respectively behind the operation. Arterton had resemblances of portraying a Mary Poppins-like character with several added doses of attitude and spunk. Hounsou also paradoxically delivered a standout performance despite becoming a more quiet and level-headed right-hand man to Orlando who is also able to step into another level of brilliance with his well-mannered lines and full-on athleticism. The true standout however in my most humble opinion is Rhys Ifans who brilliantly portrays the eerie, sadistic, and mentally unstable villain, Grigori Rasputin. Despite not being the central villain at play in this film, what Ifans manages to do within the limited time that he appears in the film is nothing short of spectacular. It’s wacky and strange at times but also manages to mix its accuracy in every line and movement to the point that as a viewer, I could feel his total dedication to the role.
If only the film capitalized on Gregori Rasputin or Ifans more throughout the film which would be in my most honest opinion the one element that would elevate the film to an even higher level than any film in the franchise. The central villain unlike Rasputin was eerie and mysterious for the first part of the film but by the big reveal became a rather underwhelming experience. This was also sadly the case for Harris Dickinson who portrayed Conrad, Orlando’s son, as his performance despite being the one that carries the most emotional weight in the film was a bit lackluster and bland and therefore didn’t really achieve the bigger role that the character was to play.
Ralph Fiennes as the star of the show held his own however and through his tandem with Arterton and Hounsou was able to carry the show in its entirety. Fiennes proved why he is an incredible and professional actor by giving his all in this film and although it wasn’t the best or a complete stand-out performance it was enough to tie the film neatly together. His portrayal of the aristocratic Duke was done well by depicting attributes of chivalry and nobility which are equally matched by his skills and charm.
King’s Man Review Verdict
If you are looking for an action-packed and well made historically centered story, we definitely recommend that you take the time to watch King’s Man. It may have a few ups and downs along the way including a slow burn of a pace but the well-crafted action scenes and standout performances make up for it all. It may also not be the best so far from all the Kingsman films but its more serious and unique tones and take on historical events make it an enjoyable and exhilarating ride. This addition to the franchise is even more interesting due to the endless possibilities and repercussions that it may have for more films to come together with the upcoming sequel to the main storyline entitled Kingsman: The Blue Blood which is scheduled for release in 2023.
The King’s Man will hit theatres in the Philippines on January 19.
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