In the last two weeks I’ve seen Kingsman: The Secret Service twice. I’ve also written roughly five drafts of reviews for it, too. Why so many, and why has only one ever made it on to the site? Well, because Kingsman is a GD overload.
Every time I sit down to write about the experience my brain begins to snowball. As one thing that I enjoyed is remembered and as I start to write about it, I’ve already moved on to the next thing, and then the next and the next, so on and so forth. It gets to a point where I kind of just shut down. A visual for my state of mind trying to recollect everything that I love about Kingsman is someone just slumped back in a chair with their mouth agape, tongue hung out the side of their face, drooling all over themselves while their eyes go completely blank and roll back into their skull.
Seriously, I haven’t walked out of a film this happy since The Lego Movie.
Let’s start from the ground up. Allow me to explain why I was originally excited about the idea of this movie: Matthew Vaughn and Mark Millar are my favorite pairing since Dick Grayson became Batman and Damien Wayne assumed the mantle of Robin.
Their cinematic history comprises not only some of my all-time favourite comic-book works, but some of the most fun and faithful adaptations of comic properties to ever be screened. Kick-Ass, Wanted, X-Men: First Class, Kick-Ass 2, great films all (and yes, I do think Wanted was a fun film, even if it deviated from the original story pretty dramatically).
When I read Kingsman (the graphic novel version, of course) I enjoyed it immensely. Like Superior before it, Mark Millar had crafted a love letter to the cinema from his childhood that felt all together new and unique… however, I had some issues with the story telling. It felt a little “less great” then I was used to from Millar’s comics. My first thought, considering his history, was “this will make a fantastic film.” Then, gloriously, Matthew Vaughn was brought on, fresh off his (in my opinion) best work, X-Men: First Class.
Enough background, though – let’s dive into the film itself.
Matthew Vaughn has, in my opinion, solidified himself as one of the best directors around. He might not win any awards with his work seeing as it is primarily comic-book-based and we’re not quite to a point where those can win awards, but he’s solid in his niche. Kingsman feels like a kind of resume of his previous works, taking in the style and scope of X-Men: First Class, melding it with the gritty thriller intelligence of Layer Cake, and blending it all together with a heaping helping of splendid ultra-violence a la Kick-Ass 1 and 2.
Kingsman has not one, but two “cold opens,” each of which sets the pace and tone of the story without stepping on the other’s toes. To say that the story starts with a “bang” would be an understatement. It’s a visual rock-show backlit by actual rock music, which bleeds into the ultra-cool, ultra-slick introduction of the gentleman spy-agency, known as the Kingsman, with a sort of “one-off” style adventure to give you a taste of the ridiculous levels of camp to come.
From there it’s a non-stop onslaught of awesome. Beginning to end, the film is self-aware, referential, hilarious, and constantly, paying homage to the spy-thrillers of yesterday that paved the way for the modern era (chiefly James Bond, of course). There are subtle references, and overt references throughout to remind the viewers of EXACTLY what Millar and Vaughn were going for. At one point, the film even takes a break to address it directly, with statements like “I miss those old spy movies” and “Give me a far-fetched theatrical ploy for global domination any day.”
There are a great many things that I want to talk about. Scenes that I’d love to dissect, quotes I want to crib, and just references and jokes that I want to make… but every little piece of this movie that is shared in advance of actually watching it feels like a disservice to our readers.
I understand that I’ve already suggested Whiplash as a movie to just watch under the guise of “trust me on this one,” so now I have to think of a way to sell this to you, with something a bit more.
If you were a fan of the old James Bond movies, if you’re someone that appreciates what Craig has done but still kind of misses the toys and the camp, or if you are willing to just have a whole lot of fun with a movie filled to the brim with humour and ultra-violence, then you absolutely NEED to see Kingsman.
Start to finish it was one of the best rides of the last few years, and the only way I can think (after two weeks, multiple viewings, and several written drafts of a review) to summarize it accurately is that Kingsman: The Secret Service is to James Bond (and the Spy-movie genre) what Saints Row became to Grand Theft Auto (and “sandbox” gaming). It takes absolutely everything you love about the established genre, then flips a middle finger at convention, says “let’s have some fun,” and then fulfils your wildest fantasies, alerts you to some you didn’t even know you had, and turns the crazy/camp knob all the way up to 11.
There simply are not enough good things I can say about this movie, and I pray to God that this somehow becomes as long-lasting a franchise as the modern era (Daniel Craig) Bond films so that we can have that beautiful compare and contrast-ability all the way through.