It shouldn’t be a sequel but a prequel for the popular gentleman spies of the “Kingsman” secret service. In THE KING’S MAN – THE BEGINNING Franchise mastermind Matthew Vaughn explores the beginnings of the well-dressed investigators – and dares a tonal balancing act that doesn’t always go well. We reveal more about this in our review.
OT: The King’s Man (DE/UK/USA/FR/IT 2021)
The plot summary
The worst tyrants and criminal masterminds in human history come together to plan a war to wipe out millions of people worldwide. Only one man can stand against them in a race against time: the Duke of Oxford (Ralph Fiennes), who is about to introduce the young Conrad (Harris Dickinson) to the world of secret services. It is the origin story of the very first independent secret service, in which smart, stylish gentleman spies who can do every trick, no matter how unusual, set out to save the world.
Matthew Vaughn has already announced in several interviews that he already has ideas for several dozen “Kingsman” films in his kitty. And the fact that the action-comedy series based on a comic series, in which a group of elegantly dressed, well-versed agents take on various dark supervillains, provides the material for many a continuation, as the first two films “Kingsman: The Secret Service” have. and “Kingsman: The Golden Circle” have already been well proven. There are not already concrete plans for a spin-off about the Statesmen (the US counterpart to the British Kingsmen), but also for a very classic sequel that continues the escapades of Eggsy and his mentor Harry Hart. The fact that Matthew Vaughn is now expanding the saga with a prequel opens up completely different, especially temporal dimensions for the franchise. Because “The King’s Man – The Beginning” takes place during the First World War and, in a few short peripheral scenes, gives an insight into the fact that the events here could have such far-reaching consequences that the Kingsmen will come into contact with various other historical events in the future . But before that happens, it is first necessary to convince the audience with a tonal balancing act of various qualities that, on the one hand, often hinder each other, but sometimes also have a certain appeal…
Ralph Fiennes cuts an excellent figure as the Duke of Oxford.
In a sneak preview, i.e. a surprise premiere, in which the audience does not know which film they have just bought a cinema ticket for, “The King’s Man – The Beginning” would be an absolute hit. Not because it is predestined to inspire viewers; On the contrary. Hardly any production this year will be more divisive than this one. No, it’s more the surprise effect that you as a sneak visitor pay for at the checkout, which is fully redeemed here. In the first few minutes, no one would have the idea that this is actually a film from the series in which heads exploded in the colors of fireworks in the first part or in which Elton John himself was held prisoner by a crazy Julianne Moore in the second part. Instead, Vaughn, who is once again responsible for the script (together with “Oblivion” writer Karl Gajdusek) and direction, begins in distant Africa, where the wife of the British Duke Orlando of Oxford is murdered in cold blood while on duty for the Red Cross and thus leaves his only son Conrad to him. Not only is it all staged in a visually impressive, powerful way, but it also has a seriousness and sadness that makes you feel offended, especially as a fan: this is certainly not how you imagined the roots of the dazzling “Kingsman” films. Although the events in “The Beginning” at least make it clear where some of the seemingly absurd tests in “Kingsman” training actually have their origin.
“It’s all staged not only in a visually impressive, powerful way, but also with a seriousness and sadness that makes you feel offended, especially as a fan: this is certainly not how you imagined the roots of the dazzling ‘Kingsman’ films. “
Once the First World War breaks out on the Duke, narrative dimensions finally open up that make you wonder whether Matthew Vaughn can handle them in the (already generous) 130 minutes. The answer to this question is clearly: No! This is because in almost every scene you can feel how the filmmaker is, on the one hand, pursuing his very own, new (!) ideas for a “Kingsman” prequel, while on the other hand a voice seems to be telling him that The audience’s expectations arising from the first two films must somehow be taken into account. It is the much-vaunted balancing act; between harsh scenes on the war front, in which in the best moments you are reminded of the force and emotional intensity of a “1917”, and bizarre over-the-action scenes, including those with the cartoonishly eccentrically drawn Rasputin (brilliant: Rhys Ifans ), a spirit healer and seducer of women who seems to have come from a completely different film. But it is also the balancing act between noble world-saving plans of even nobler men and power-obsessed supervillains who could have come from the most dazzling “Bond” era, while in between a man fears for his son who has gone to war, breaks down mentally and then suddenly starts doing breakneck stunts again on a plane that one would expect to find in a “Fast & Furious” film rather than one in which the confrontation with loss and loneliness forms a thoughtful part of the plot.
Rhys Ifans aka Rasputin seems like he comes from another planet – or from another film.
You can see that Vaughn is actually delivering two films in one; And in doing so (accidentally?) continually undermines the audience’s expectations. There is not enough evidence to show that this happened consciously, that he took into account the snubbing or even the illustration that violence cannot be consumed, even if it is staged in the most outrageous way. But it also has its charm: in the first two films, Vaughn continued to go one step further in terms of narrative and staging almost every minute. Unless they were familiar with the original, the audience could never be sure what was actually possible in this “Kingsman” universe. From part two at the latest there was at least a loose framework – which Vaughn broke up again. In “The King’s Man” the cards are reshuffled, so that over the course of more than two hours you wonder several times where the film is going to go; And whether in the end the “typical ‘Kingsman’ coloring” or this new, rough, rough and quite serious direction wins the upper hand. Not everyone will like that and precisely because “The King’s Man” only meets fan expectations to a very limited extent, it is important to either scale them down or, ideally, put them all the way back. Nevertheless, “The King’s Man” also has elements that its predecessors already knew how to score points with.
“In ‘The King’s Man’ the cards are reshuffled, so that over the course of more than two hours you wonder several times where the film will take; And whether in the end the “typical ‘Kingsman’ coloring” or this new, rough, rough and quite serious direction wins the upper hand.
This time, the mentor role of Colin Firth, blessed with endless charisma, comes from Ralph Fiennes (“James Bond 007 – No Time to Die”) to. And not only does the numerous tailor-made suits look great on him, he also masters the film’s constant style clashes excellently. Harris Dickinson (“Maleficent: Forces of Darkness”) On the other hand, it doesn’t come close to the angular “street dog charm” of Taron Egerton. There aren’t too many overlaps in the figure drawing, let alone in the screen time. By Gemma Arterton (“My Zoe”) We would have liked to see more. A wish that could well come true in the course of her character development in “The King’s Man”; Keyword: spin-off. Her quick-wittedness (in the truest sense of the word!) comes into its own wonderfully, especially in her interaction with Fiennes. Meanwhile, the stylistically very different action scenes could hardly reflect the strengths and weaknesses of “The King’s Man – The Beginning” better. Very solidly choreographed and filmed hand-to-hand fights and shootings (cameraman: Ben Davis), in which every kick and blow really hurts, alternate with over-the-top moments enriched with off-the-wall CGI elements. “The King’s Man” thrives in both parts. But it doesn’t all form a unity.
Conclusion: As the first prequel within the “Kingsman” universe, “The King’s Man – The Beginning” sets completely new tonal accents in this series, which is actually known for its unusual action. Instead of fantasy weapons and exploding heads, war trauma and fights with dazzling villain caricatures go hand in hand. This makes the film unpredictable at all times, but also gives the impression that two scripts have been mixed into one, both of which would have been better directed separately. After all, the dimensions of what is possible for the future of the franchise are expanding many times over.
“The King’s Man – The Beginning” can be seen in USA cinemas from January 6, 2022.