The most misguided prequel since Star Wars

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In 2014, As the Marvel Cinematic Universe moved toward supremacy, Matthew Vaughn tried something different. Based on the comic Secret service by Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons, Kingsman is in a way both a perfect parody and a loving tribute to classic James Bond films.

A sequel, set in the same world where an expensive men’s costume store served as the cover for a super spy organization, followed in 2017 with a little less enthusiasm. Now, in 2021, Vaughn is back with a third film set in the Kingsman Universe, but the king’s man is about as far as you can get from a suite.

Instead, Vaughn offers a prequel during World War I and leading to the creation of the titular Secret Service of the franchise. Sadly, The king’s man strays so far from the original it’s barely recognizable, and what you get instead is a muddled mess that’s a fun distraction at best and a chore at worst. Despite remarkable performance and impressive scenery, the king’s man is much less than the sum of its parts.

The premise of the king’s man is boring complex, but I will try to explain. Set before and during World War I, the film focuses on a secret conspiracy that starts the conflict, with a group of Britons determined to stop it. On the one hand, we have Ralph Fiennes as a pacifist duke who is surprisingly skilled with a sword, Gemma Arterton as a maid / code-cracker, Djimon Hounsou as a trusted advisor, and Harris Dickinson as her son. On the other side are Rasputin (Rhys Ifans), Daniel Brühl (aka Baron Zemo in the Marvel movies) and a mysterious Scottish leader called “The Shepherd” who staged a world conflict to take revenge on England. . After the failure of diplomacy, it is up to Fiennes and his crew to stop him by any means necessary.

Sandwiched between two spy jokes is the bloodstained heart of the film, a dramatic re-enactment of WWI trench warfare in which Harris Dickinson’s character walks to the front lines and witnesses the horrors of the battle by itself. Dickinson crawls and kills his way through the trenches with minimal plot impact. It’s a powerful streak that unfortunately has no place in the king’s man, serving only to lengthen the execution time and complicate the already heavy plot (it turns out that not only Rasputin, but also Lenin, are involved in this conspiracy).

Rhys Ifans steals the show as Rasputin.20th century

I recently had the chance to speak with Matthew Vaughn, and when I asked him why he chose to turn the Kingsman franchise into a WWI-era prequel, he honestly replied that it was the only way to realize his passion project. Inspired by the technicolor classic, The man who wanted to be king, Vaughn decided to make his own version: The man who would be king (s).

In other words, it’s Vaughn’s Joker, an unsaleable passion project hidden in a lucrative franchise. But unlike Todd Phillip’s Joker, which had a clear vision, Vaughn’s film is a muddled mix of spy capers, WWI epic, and historical thriller with nothing to hold back it all.

Harris Dickinson plays a soldier in World War I.20th century

The film’s only saving grace is its distribution. Despite the absurd premise and questionable execution, almost everyone on screen seems to understand why they’re here. Ralph Fiennes, in particular, shines in this middle-aged spy role – is it too late to give his M an action-packed James Bond spin-off?

Meanwhile, Ifans achieves something almost indescribable as Rasputin, bringing the mythical historical figure to life in a whirlwind of Russian dances, sword fights and opium. Despite minimal screen time, Ifans is the undeniable star of The king’s man.

Djimon Hounsou and Gemma Arterton do their best in a confusing prequel that no one asked for.20th century fox

But that’s not enough to save this movie or make it worth watching. The king’s man looks like the kind of movie that slipped through the cracks of the Disney-Fox merger. You can almost hear the board discussion: A Kingsman sequel? Great! Oh, is that a prequel? Located during World War I? Sure okay whatever, just give Vaughn $ 100million and move on, we’ve got some Marvel movies to do.

Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on your point of view), The king’s man is not the end of the Kingsman franchise. A more traditional sequel is also in the works, as is a spin-off Statesmen film about American spies. And if Vaughn gets what he wants, we’ll be seeing those prequel characters again.

And then, after this film, who knows how many chances he will have.

The king’s man hits theaters on December 22.

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