The King’s Man made it theatrical debut in December 2021. However, due to ongoing Covid-19 restrictions, cinema goers in the UK were only offered a limited number of screenings. So the film has made the jump to Disney+ in record time, and available to watch now. But does it do justice to a series that’s become quite warmly regarded? Frankly, no.
The King’s Man is a Prequel
Despite the slight difference in title, The King’s Man is a prequel to the two Kingsman films. The original Kingsman: The Secret Service was a deceptively interesting take on a typical Hollywood trope: introducing a young ne’er-do-well into a spy service and watching him flourish. It was essentially a British themed Men in Black, though considerably more adult themed. The King’s Man however, is a much more serious affair.
The King’s Man follows the typical Hollywood action movie formula to the letter. We meet the protagonist, learn his motivation, see a little of his background then it’s off to meet the bad guy. Nothing about the structure this film will surprise you. Unlike the original title however, there’s very little in the way of humour.
As a series famed for it’s comedic (and somewhat violent) British spy shenanigans, The King’s Man is surprisingly light on both comedy and spying. A much grittier tone means that sequences such as Rasputin’s dance-fight and the crack shot nanny’s efforts feel entirely out of place. Yet, the dryness of the rest of the film isn’t close enough to drama to hold any weight on it’s own. Ultimately, it feels like The King’s Man simply isn’t sure what kind of film it wants to be. And ends decidedly muddled in the process.
Kingsman: A Franchise in Need of New Life
Kingsman: The Secret Service was a pleasantly enjoyable surprise back in 2014. The sequel, Kingsman: The Golden Circle arrived in 2017 and developed the characters in a reasonable, yet predictable fashion. It was obvious at this point that something fresh had to be done to prevent the series from going stale. Writer Matthew Vaughn has already confirmed that a third title, Kingsman: The Blue Blood, is currently in production. This will conclude the story arc of series main character, Gary “Eggsy” Unwin (Taron Egerton). So, was The King’s Man actually needed?
This prequel offers little to convince that the story of the spy agency holds any weight beyond the characters that have already been created. As much as Ralph Fiennes does his best to walk a line between The Grand Budapest Hotel‘s Monsieur Gustave and The Duchess‘ Duke of Devonshire, the plot given to him results in a character that is both less interesting and relevant than either. And that’s a hard pill to swallow for an injured war veteran-turned covert spy organisation leader.
Ultimately, The King’s Man is an odd sideshow that simply wasn’t needed. It’s a taste of exploration for a world that is too shallow to be explored. Hopes remain high for Kingsman: The Blue Blood, but only if it can avoid getting bogged down in trivial matters like reality.