Warning: Spoilers for The King’s Man.
After a disappointing sequel in Kingsman: The Golden Circle, The King’s Man has established itself as the best film in the franchise no matter what the critics say. The Kingsman series of films is based on the comic book series of the same name. Starting with 2014’s Kingsman: The Secret Service, it was followed by the direct sequel Kingsman: The Golden Circle, and now the prequel film, The King’s Man.
The first two Kingsman movies contained campy good fun for action movie fans. Samuel L. Jackson and Julianne Moore shined as the villains in their respective films, and Taron Egerton gave decent performances in his role as Eggsy. But several critics commented that for all of their gory action, these films fell short of delivering anything of cinematic substance.
The King’s Man is the best film in the series for several reasons. Instead of relying too heavily on lowbrow humor and slapstick gags, The King’s Man excels at dry British wit; the Duke of Oxford (Ralph Fiennes) has many clever lines reminiscent of British comedian Stephen Fry. Another improvement in this film over the others is the clarity of cinematography in the fight scenes compared to the rather awkward scene-stitching and blurry CGI found in the previous installments. Despite that, the fight scenes still retain the inventiveness for which the previous installments were known. Rasputin is shown to be a formidable villain through his incorporation of Russian dance into his combat skills. The Rasputin dance-fight is a masterclass in tonal balance between drama, comedy, and action and Rhys Ifans is simply a joy to watch. At one moment, tension builds as one of the heroes is entranced and interrogated, but at the next moment, a wild ballet of swords and bullets graces the screen.
What’s more, action comedies tend to be fairly predictable, but The King’s Man story subverts expectations by killing off the main character before the final act. This is unprecedented in modern action films, especially given that the marketing gave zero indication of this event. The death of Conrad (Harris Dickinson) introduces some serious emotional weight into the drama and allows the rest of The King’s Man cast to show off their extraordinary range. The fact that Conrad’s death comes so suddenly and unceremoniously is a true surprise, something lacking in the other films. And the fact that it occurred because of a communication breakdown just after a heroic montage is truly heartbreaking. A single death demonstrates the horror of war in a major turning point for the film.
Many critics wrote that The King’s Man isn’t as playful or colorful as its predecessors, but that’s actually a good thing. When crafting historical fiction – as opposed to straightforward action blockbusters – screenwriters and producers must take reality into account when they hang plot elements onto events that actually happened. The latest installment is more grounded in reality precisely because the Kingsman prequel is a World War I drama. Suffice to say this genre presents a unique challenge, but one that Matthew Vaughn executed beautifully in The King’s Man, elevating it above the other two movies in the series.
More: Everything We Know About The King’s Man 2
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