I was forced to watch Kingsman for the fist time. Admittedly, if it didn’t feature Taron Egerton shirtless, I might have argued a bit more for something else. Surprisingly, it wasn’t what I expected. In fact, I enjoyed the punchy humor and special effects that somehow disgusted and made death sexy all in one.
I wasn’t surprised that it was made into a sequel. Equal parts I wanted to see it and didn’t have high expectations due to something I’m calling Sequel Syndrome. Movies we love, that are unexpected and hit all the right plot points, don’t always tend to work well the second time around. It’s not that I didn’t like Pitch Perfect 2, it’s that it didn’t quite surprise and excite me in the same way.
I thought Kingsman: The Golden Circle would be more of the same. That I’d know how it would end and see the same scenes that I loved the first time around recycled and replayed in an attempt to keep the hype going. But, I was surprised. That’s not to say it’s perfect, though. It does one thing well: using what worked in the first movie and amping it up to another level entirely.
This three part deconstruction focuses on why the sequel actually works, how it innovates and surprises audiences, and how to include that in your own writing.
Here’s your warning: Spoilers Ahead. Proceed with caution.
1. What is the Global Genre?
Kingsman The Golden Circle is a long form, arch-plot, mostly realism with some science fiction elements, drama that turns on life and death.
The external content genre is action adventure and the internal genre is worldview maturation. Eggsy’s overall arch is a shift from naïveté to worldliness and the stakes hinge on life and death. The overall action story creates the feeling of excitement the audience gets sitting in front of the screen. At the same time, once Eggsy finishes his training and saves the world, there’s a sense of relief and satisfaction the audience feels as well from his maturation and gained experience.
In part, this feels like what Shawn Coyne calls a Ransom Plot, or one with a deadline imposed by the villain. Poppy obviously needs to release the antidote in time to save the majority of the population or they will die from the disease she created in her drugs. That sense of urgency is built up with the tension Eggsy feels when people who are important to him are infected.
2. What are the Conventions and Obligatory Scenes?
An inciting attack by the villain. Poppy uses Charlie to get access into the Kingsman’s database. Eggsy doesn’t understand what Charlie is really after.
Hero sidesteps responsibility to take action. Eggsy and Merlin go to the vault to find the Doomsday protocol and drink away their sorrows. Considering everyone they worked with is dead, that’s standard behavior. I’d say this shirking of responsibility was more present in the first movie when it took Eggsy a while to take responsibility for himself and stop acting like there was a chip on his shoulder.
Hero lashes out. Once more, I think this was stronger in the first movie. However, Eggsy does lash out against Harry when he doesn’t understand what’s going on in his head.
Discovering the antagonist’s object of desire. Poppy sends out a video to the entire world about how she’s poisoned the drugs she’s producing. In it, she lets people know what’s in store for them and that she’ll release the antidote provided the president gives her legal amnesty and legalizes the drug trade.
Hero’s initial strategy against the villain fails. Eggsy originally tries to get the antidote so that they can attempt to replicate it in the lab. That fails when it’s broken and then the whole building housing the antidote is blown up by Charlie.
The All is Lost moment. When Eggsy realizes that his girlfriend has been poisoned and he can no longer go on hoping to get lucky with finding access to the cure, especially when the president refuses to help those who are sick.
The hero’s sacrifice is rewarded. Eggsy sacrificed his relationship to save the world (something that is later fixed) and Merlin sacrificed his life which is rewarded when Eggsy and Harry get the codes and release the cure.
A Hero, Victim, and Villain. Eggsy is the hero along with Merlin and Harry, though at times both Harry and Merlin are the victims. The villain is Poppy. Might I say she’s a little too 50’s housewife? I know that was the point, but perhaps she was too mustache-twirling-villain and not enough real human.
Hero wants to stop the villain and save the victim. Not only does Eggsy want to save the world, but he’s got personal investment in the matter when his girlfriend is poisoned and he has to save her before she dies.
The power divide between the hero and the villain is very large. So, yes, Eggsy does theoretically have the power of the Kingsman behind him with all the tools and resources he could ever dream of. However, Poppy does blow up everyone in the Kingsman except Eggsy and Merlin, making her resources vastly stronger. It can also be said that Eggsy and Merlin then have access to Statesman and their resources, but Poppy still has people’s lives in her hands. That makes her more powerful without even taking into account her robot dogs.
A Speech in Praise of the Villain. The news actually provides this convention. They talk about how smart Poppy is. They mention that she graduated from Harvard Business School but had mental issues.
Hero at the Mercy of the Villain. The dogs provide an exciting hero at the mercy of the villain scene considering Poppy isn’t much of a fighter. As does Charlie. And, Whiskey once it’s revealed that he doesn’t want to release the antidote.
3. What it the POV/Narrative Device?
The movie flips between shots following Eggsy and Merlin to those following Poppy. Additionally, the story is told from Harry, the president of the United States, Charlie, Elton John, Tilde, and Eggsy’s friends’s perspectives at times.
4. What are the Objects of Desire?
Eggsy wants to save the world and his girlfriend. He needs to prove his love to her and make a commitment because his life will be meaningless without love and connection in it.
5. What is the Controlling Idea/Theme?
Life is preserved when the protagonist outwits his antagonists. Basically, heroes save the world when they outsmart their enemies and can beat them in a fight.
6. What is the Beginning Hook, Middle Build, and Ending Payoff?
An unknown villain that Charlie now works for takes out all of the Kingsman except Eggsy and Merlin, who have to go to America to use the resources of Statesman in order to take said enemy down.
Poppy tells the world about the poisoned drugs, meanwhile Eggsy must decide what he is willing to do to get his hands on the antidote while dealing with Harry being alive.
Merlin, Eggsy, and Harry confront Poppy in Cambodia and use their resources to get her to release the codes.