The Kingsman franchise has been a bit of an anomaly to me. While the first film, 2015’s Kingsman: The Secret Service, felt like a breath of fresh air for the spy genre, 2017’s Kingsman: The Golden Circle felt like a tired retread of both better parodies and action films we’ve seen before. For the third film in the franchise, director Matthew Vaughn decides to go back to the very beginning to the formation of the Kingsman organization. The film follows Orlando Oxford (Ralph Fiennes) and shows his journey to not only forming the agency but how they became integral to politics and wars in this cinematic universe. The King’s Man has the backdrop of World War 1 opposed to a modern day setting, giving the film an endless amount of potential to feel tonally and stylistically different from the other two films in the franchise.
While there are certainly moments in The King’s Man that feel like they are branching out to new depths and tones that the other entries haven’t scratched the surface of, the film ultimately feels simultaneously hollow and sporadic in equal measure. The first two acts of this film consist of awkwardly placed humor that never feel like they gel with these particular characters and this specific story. This is especially disappointing because the previous entries, at the very least, excelled in getting a cheap laugh out of you with a vulgar joke at the height of intense situations. And when the film isn’t trying to get you to laugh, it feels weirdly comfortable with going through the very tired motions of placing these characters through real-life events that occur with World War 1. Matthew Vaughn doesn’t necessarily always knock it out of the park, but his direction with The King’s Man feels like he’s on autopilot.
However, the weirdest element of the film is that the third act spontaneously becomes a ton of fun? Right when you least expect it, the film hits you with a genuine emotional moment that is both completely surprising in terms of narrative but also a boost of energy that the film truly needs to get you ready for the finale. While this inclusion came in way too late for me to give the film a positive review, it at least helps it rival The Golden Circle as the second-ranking Kingsman film on my list opposed to the clear last choice.
I hesitate to even recommend The King’s Man for people who are simply looking for mindless fun, because so much of this film feels like a drag to get through. The plot is supremely uninteresting and there isn’t nearly enough action in the first two acts of the film to justify how painfully boring everything surrounding it is. Ralph Fiennes, as always, turns in a more than serviceable performance and the fight choreography and visual style of the film are up to the same standard as the other two films – but it isn’t enough to make me recommend this to anyone, or really have any interest in a potential fourth installment in the franchise.