Despite poor reviews from critics, audiences love The King’s Man. It’s a surprisingly good war drama. Here’s why it’s the best movie in the series.
Warning: Spoilers for The king’s man.
After a disappointing sequel to Kingsman: The Golden Circle, The king’s man has established itself as the best film in the franchise, no matter what the critics say. the Kingsman film series is based on the comic book series of the same name. From 2014 Kingsman: The Secret Service, it was followed by the direct sequel Kingsman: The Golden Circle, and now the previous movie, The king’s man.
The first two Kingsman the movies contained campy fun for action movie fans. Samuel L. Jackson and Julianne Moore shone as villains in their respective movies, and Taron Egerton gave decent performances as Eggsy. But several critics pointed out that for all their bloody action, these films delivered nothing of cinematic substance.
The king’s man is the best film in the series for several reasons. Instead of relying too heavily on lowbrow humor and slapstick gags, The king’s man excels in dry British spirit; the Duke of Oxford (Ralph Fiennes) has many clever lines reminiscent of British comedian Stephen Fry. Another improvement of this film over the others is the clarity of the cinematography in the fight scenes compared to the rather clunky scene stitching and blurry CGI found in earlier installments. Despite this, the fight scenes still retain the inventiveness that previous installments were known for. Rasputin proves to be a formidable villain thanks to his incorporation of Russian dancing into his fighting skills. The Rasputin Dance Fight is a masterclass in the tonal balance between drama, comedy and action and Rhys Ifans is simply a delight to watch. At one point the tension mounts as one of the heroes is mesmerized and questioned, but the next moment a wild ballet of swords and bullets graces the screen.
Also, action comedies tend to be pretty predictable, but The king’s man the story subverts expectations by killing off the main character before the final act. This is unprecedented in modern action films, especially since the marketing gave no indication of this event. The death of Conrad (Harris Dickinson) introduces serious emotional weight to the drama and allows the rest to The king’s man launch to show off their extraordinary range. The fact that Conrad’s death comes so suddenly and unceremoniously comes as a real surprise, something missing in the other films. And the fact that it happened because of a comms blackout right after a heroic edit is truly heartbreaking. A single death demonstrates the horror of war in a major turning point for the film.
Many critics have written that The king’s man isn’t as playful or colorful as its predecessors, but that’s actually a good thing. When crafting historical fiction – as opposed to straightforward action blockbusters – writers and producers must consider reality when hooking plot elements to events that actually happened. The final episode is more grounded in reality precisely because the Kingsman prequel is a World War I drama. Suffice it to say, this genre presents a unique challenge, but one that Matthew Vaughn executed beautifully in The king’s man, elevating it above the other two films in the series.
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