If you want to write a story like Kingsman, there are many ways you could do it. But, no matter your approach, you’d still have to do some specific things well. What I think Kingsman: The Golden Circle does well, that is very present throughout the film, is as follows:
When Harry finally wakes up and realizes once more he’s a Kingsman, they take him to a bar. A couple men mess with him and he starts to lock the bar up saying, “Manners maketh man.” Just when you think you’re going to see the same scene recycled once more into the second film, Harry hooks the glass and it doesn’t hit the man in the head. He’s confused and starts getting his ass kicked. Whiskey has to step in and take over.
Not only does this scene remind us of the first movie without shoving it down our throats, it also gives us a chance to see Whiskey in action. Considering he becomes a pseudo-villain, it’s important to see his strengths.
Innovating scenes is a great way to keep the audience on their toes and ties closely with the next point.
I don’t know about you, but I fully expected to see Harry kicking those men’s asses once more in Golden Circle. It came as a surprise, and a delightful one at that, when Whiskey had to take over. Not only were my expectations thrown for a loop (pun intended), but I was still seeing a fighting scene that excited me.
Something Kingsman does well is set up a particular kind of scene and turn it on it’s head at the last second. Another example is when Whiskey, Harry, and Eggsy are in a cabin in the woods surrounded by the enemy. They don’t have enough ammo. Both Whiskey and Eggsy are yelling at Harry to let Whiskey have his weapons. Just when you think Harry is going to do something to help them, he shoots Whiskey in the head. Now, not only are they low on ammo, but Harry seems crazy, and Eggsy is pissed at him.
Upping the stakes
Raising the stakes is important to build tension and keep your audience waiting for what comes next. Kingsman does this well. We know from the first movie that the Kingsman are a force to be reckoned with. They have immense resources and a network of people around the globe fighting for them. The very first thing Poppy does is take them all down. The stakes are higher than they were in the first movie because Eggsy and Merlin are now on their own.
In the cabin example, the stakes are raised by Harry. We know he’s suffering from something, but we don’t know by how much. When he shoots Whiskey, we assume he’s too far gone to be helped. Then, he proceeds to save him and Eggsy from the situation they’re in. Now, we don’t know what to think about him.
Throughout the movie, more and more people are inflicted with the poison. The stakes are raised when Eggsy finds out that Tilde is one of those people. He can no longer keep going hoping they will find another antidote. He’s got to take action.
Once more, raising the stakes builds tension. Those progressive complications are what pushes your characters further and further along on their journey. If the same thing keeps happening to them (or a different thing at the same level of discomfort), they will never reach an irreversible decision. They will not change, and stories are about change. What you have won’t work.
One thing this movie (and the one before it) does well is play with humor. Maybe it’s just my kind of humor, but I find so many parts of this movie hilarious. Especially Elton John playing such a large role. When you have death as an ever-present threat in a movie like this (and a death that is painful and happening to the protagonist’s close friends and loved ones), it’s easy to get caught up in the drama. Kingsman decided to not only make the death weirdly sexy once again, but took scenes that surrounded the death and destruction and sandwiched them between humorous events.
How can you make it work in your story?
Take something you love and break it down into its component parts. Seriously digest it. Look at the thing scene by scene. Figure out what you love about it, what you hate about it, what makes it work, and/or why it doesn’t. Take the bare-bones of that thing you love and attach to it other ideas that you love.
So you like action movies? How about make and action movie that’s aware of other James Bond-type films and makes that fact well known throughout the story? Superheroes are you thing? Take a super hero and change everything about them until they don’t resemble who they originally were.
Keep doing this until your original scaffolding (the story you started analyzing) no longer looks like itself. The necessary scenes (conventions) are all there, but they look completely different than they once were. They are now a product only you could create. Once that’s done, look at the scenes you have and the order you have them in and mix things up until the expectations you start out with are completely blown away by the thing you actually create.
Still need help?
Eggsy was taught to keep his working life private and that he could never have love. By the end, he’s married. So, think of a character. What is the one thing they never want to have to deal with? The one way they never want to change? Get them to that new point by the end of your story.
A Word of Warning
I’d be remiss if I didn’t include this critique. Writers please, for the love of all that is good, include more women and people of color in your work. Representation is important. It’s not about checking boxes. It’s about crafting an authentic story that is true to the world we live in. I say that welcoming any pushback. I like this movie. But liking something doesn’t give it a free pass from any criticism.