The King’s Man (2021)

The King’s Man
Director: Matthew Vaughn
Writer: Matthew Vaughn, Karl Gajdusek
Based on: Mark Millar’s and Dave Gibbons’ comic
Prequel to: Kingsman: The Secret Service, Kingsman: The Golden Circle
Cast: Ralph Fiennes, Harris Dickinson, Gemma Arterton, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Djimon Hounsou, Matthew Goode, Charles Dance, Alexandra Maria Lara, Rhys Ifans, Daniel Brühl, August Diehl, Tom Hollander, Stanley Tucci, David Kross
Seen on: 14.1.2022

Orlando Oxford (Ralph Fiennes) is an important advisor to King George (Tom Hollander). When his wife Emily (Alexandra Maria Lara) is killed while they are inspecting whether rumors of concentration camps in South Africa were real, he promises her that he would keep their son Conrad (Harris Dickinson) away from violence. In the years since Emily’s death, Orlando has worked to establish a spy network with Shola (Djimon Hounsou) and Polly (Gemma Arterton), trying their best to avoid violence with their work. But now Conrad is grown, and war is coming to Europe – a war Conrad is desperate to join and Orlando is desperate to keep him from.

Oh boy, The King’s Man is one hell of a mess, constantly standing in its own way. It really doesn’t seem to know what it’s doing or what story it’s telling and squanders any potential of finding back to the good roots of the Kingsman franchise.

The film poster showing the main characters of the movie, most with some weapon.

There are a couple of things that the film does very right, apart from assembling a really astounding cast (and surprising me with Aaron Taylor-Johnson who I hadn’t realized was in this film). There’s a plot twist that I really didn’t expect and that I found very interesting narratively. And when it allows itself to be silly – like with Rasputin (Rhys Ifans) and the fight with him – it does call back to the brilliant first film.

But then the film doesn’t really seem to know what kind of movie it it. Starting in a concentration camp is a, let’s say courageous move for a film that will also feature an extended fight with a mountain goat, and it’s very indicative of the biggest problem of the film: it tries to marry hard political observations with silly action. Which is not per se doomed to fail, but becomes really farcical when it draws the weirdest conclusions from its accurate observations.

Conrad (Harris Dickinson) carrying a fellow soldier as bombs explode behind them.

So, we get a scene where nobility is basically described as murdering your way to the top. And the take-away is not that nobility is made up of the biggest and most ruthless murderers and should probably therefore not exist, but that it’s kind of awesome and somehow some kind of moral obligation comes from this to keep the power? I don’t know, the argumentation didn’t make much sense in the minute they said it and has only grown hazier and less comprehensible for me since. And that’s not the only thing that had me scratching my head.

Nothing left me as irritated as the film’s utter refusal to make Polly into a character. In tune with the other films of the series, female characters are few and far between, and you have Polly has all the chances to be a remarkable woman, and she’s played by Gemma Arterton to boot. But the film constantly sidelines her and refuses to let her become a person in her own right.

Then again, pretty much the entire cast – except maybe Rhys Ifans who had one hell of a time – is squandered. It might have been wise to include fewer well-known faces and concentrate on those. Just as it would have been wise to think about what kind of film one is making.

Orlando (Ralph Fiennes) giving Conrad (Harris Dickinson) a gun.

Summarizing: A mess of a film.


  1. I liked this a little more than you (and the second one), but you’re right, tonally, this definitely was a mess. The more serious and the completely ridiculous elements didn’t really make a good mix. That’s something that Matthew Vaughn definitely managed better in the past (like with “Kick-Ass”, for example).

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