So Kingsman – I guess this is sort of a film review, so spoiler alert! I understand that it’s based on a comic, but I haven’t read the comic so I’m only going to respond to the film and leave it to someone else to comment on how accurate to the comic it was and whether any of the observations I have track to print as well.
First, for some reason the violence in this film really took me by surprise. I knew it was an action picture and yet both the close up depictions and the implicit violence seemed way over the top to me. I’m not usually one to care for a having a kill count or statistics on what I’m watching, but this film made me want to know. Yes, it’s that violent. And yet but for it being a plot point for one of the characters, there’s very little blood, very little gore. I’m thinking of the first 10 minutes when a character is sliced in half from top to bottom and the two halves are each covered with a sheet, and yet there’s no blood pool or other obvious person bits lying on the floor between the two halves (and no it wasn’t a slice by a light saber, WRONG FILM!) So right there you get the message: live action cartoon.
The message that the violence in the film is going to be neat, denying the messiness of life and death, continues with the corrolary message that you only need to make a cursory attempt at diplomacy before resorting to violence, because well, it’s expected by all the characters involved that “we’re going to fight now” – which is admittedly not an exact quote, but
near enough to seem like it could be, from both of the pub fight scenes. This is a bit of self consciousness or meta self-aggrandizement that the film indulges in, but more shows up later when Colin Firths character and Samuel L. Jackson’s characters talk about the kinds of films they like such as James Bond spy movies etc. and this conversation later on gets two call backs in the dialog first when Colin Firth is killed by Samuel L. Jackson’s character (SLJ’s C) and then later on when he is killed by the young protagonist “Egsy”(sp?) with the last line before killing /dying is “but this isn’t one of those kinds of films.”
(Oh yeah, Colin Firth’s character dies, sorry about that! I would’ve preferred if he’d survived for 90 % of the film instead of only 75% but we knew he was going to die from the first peek, maybe even from the trailers, after all Mentors always die, - right? Obi Wan?)
Now, none of what I’ve commented on so far is all that surprising really, or novel for that matter. It’s not as if I haven’t seen live action cartoons before, or super meta self consciousness either, after all I love Cabin in the Woods for just that reason, but there’s another element of this film that is a little bit different. Here the self-consciousness extends to using violence as a plot point, not as in that a massive bomb is going to explode and kill millions, - no instead it’s along the lines of the supervillain making everyone go crazy and kill each other, unless they have the antidote chip installed in their heads. But why? Why do Supervillains usually do such things? No it’s none of those reasons. No he is a billionaire concerned with the environment, in particular the threat of climate change. He has decided that the only solution to the problem of climate change is to cut the population of earth down to thousands. His simile is that the planet has a cold and global warming is like the fever trying to fight off the virus – which is us, so humanity is a virus, which is as neat a sound bite as you could ask for, sort of reminds me of the Matrix and its you are a battery line of thought. Laughable! And yet. . .
(but numbere 8 and 17: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/JustForFun/WhyYouShouldDestroyThePlanetEarth?from=Main.WhyYouShouldDestroyThePlanetEarth)
Tons of folks won’t just suspend their disbelief as I did, but will actually think, hey maybe this is a valid solution to climate change, if a bit excessive! So, we have hero’s who don’t need to think or talk at all about things to justify going on to violence and killing as a solution, and the villain is down with that attitude on an epic level. And the film has many scenes where the sympathetic nature of the villain and his main hench lady are put on display such that you end up feeling sorry for their meta asses getting so thoroughly kicked by young protagonist TM.
Now we get into the really chewy part of what sticks with me from the movie. Right before Colin Firths’ character is killed by SLJ’s character we are subjected to a small demonstration of what the Supervillains super weapon does to people – turning them into unthinking killing machines (and in some cases axe wielding maniacs). In his investigation Colin Firths character learns that SLJ’s character has some connection to this one church and so he goes to attend one of the services, the very service when the supervillain is going to test his device of course, so we get to see a whole church full of people go ape shit murderous on each other, (plus a Kingsman of course because Colin Firths’ character is in there too), but before that the film very carefully sets the scene of a congregation full of haters. The sermon appears to be all about how horrible homosexuals and negros are, how bad abortion is and liberals are of satan etc. etc. It’s this framing that is supposed to sublimate or excuse in our minds all the violence out of hatred that happens as soon as SLJ’s character hits the button. Right before it happens Colin Firth’s character gets up to leave the haters sermon and is accosted by a woman on the way out, and he tells her this:
"I'm a Catholic whore, currently enjoying congress out of wedlock with my black Jewish boyfriend who works at a military abortion clinic. Hail Satan, and have a lovely afternoon madam."
In that moment he is our hero for sure! Certain and true our hero highlights the hate and demagoguery and tries to just leave instead of shouting something disrespectful first, as many might be inclined to do. (And it’s the first time that violence seems to really be the second, or third choice of action. ) The woman is stumped of course because she’s an American with a tiny vocabulary and has to think about what he means by “congress” so he almost gets out in time. Almost.
Then we are subjected to a scene of crazy violence that looks like it’s all one or two camera shots with only cut aways to the supervillain and blades for feet henchlady who are watching through video feed, – though I doubt it was just one or two shots, it is an exquisite example of editing and choreography working together for the effect of thoroughly shocking the audience and bringing home the diabolical nature of the supervillains plan. The only way it would have been worse, was if there were children being killed – but frankly I’m glad they didn’t choose to go there as it was bad enough without. (It’s also interesting to note that later on in the film they highlight that lack by putting the young protagonists younger sibling at risk of the same thing from his mum.)
(kill count: http://9gag.com/gag/aOb7RLR/kill-count-for-the-church-scene-in-kingsman)
(kill count: http://9gag.com/gag/aOb7RLR/kill-count-for-the-church-scene-in-kingsman)
This scene in the church marks the ¾ point in the film where we’re supposed to have accepted that the Kingsman are not perhaps perfect people, but still are all basically good guys trying to do good. The young protagonist has been watching his mentor fight in the church through his google glasses, and then get shot outside by Samuel L. motherfuckin! Jackson’s character and the torch couldn’t be more clearly passed even if Egsy has failed to prove to be cold hearted enough to shoot a dog and succeed in being selected for the spot in the Kingsman after a rigorous interview process . . . and so the subplot of recently trained young protagonist TM.takes over as the main plot.
Then begins the assault on the icy mountain top supervillain lair – http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/ElaborateUndergroundBase. The remaining Scooby gang of Kingsman which are the newly raised recruit love interest for a sequel, and Egsy, the one who didn’t quite pass, get together with their teacher Merlin, to concoct a hair brained plan to take out the satellites sending the murder voices into everyone’s heads and then they go in pretending to be one of the supervillain’s buddies looking for safe haven during our techie supervillain’s Apocalypse 2.0
So Eggsie runs in and does his thing and gets out, but if at first you don’t succeed? Apocalypse 2.2! so he has to run back in and by then, well things are more difficult. How do you keep from being captured by a supervillain’s armed security force? Turn the implanted chips that protect them from murderous rages, against them instead, - and explode their heads! but we’re not tech savvy enough to just target the security guards so everyone who had a chip goes kaboom! Cut to scenes all over the world, including a boardroom with what is obviously meant to be the US president, with heads exploding in mini mushroom clouds of the many shades of Fanta soda.
At this point I feel like my mind is blown too, and don’t even get me started on the ramifications of Swedish princesses promising to “do it in the asshole” to the young protagonist as a reward for saving the world. Fact is, there’s a lot of smart decisions in film and writing here, but in the end I’m still left feeling very dirty. It’s as if I as a liberal leaning atheist had just received a mental BJ from a seemingly attractive Harry Potter cosplayer who forgot to tell me they’d had huge meal of stilton and pinot noir the hour before.
The sad truth is as much as I complain, I did have a good time, but they killed off all my favorite characters, including Colin Firth who seemed to be doing an impression of Michael Caine (who was also in the picture!) most of the time, Samuel L. Call it Snakes on a Plane Goddamit! Jackson, and even his hench lady managed to add a really strong note of sympathy and depth for a hench and not just because she was supposedly disabled, - no all the best characters got off’d. In the paradigm of the movie, -yeah it was one of those kinds of films.