It’s interesting to see that after a questionable sequel, the Kingsman movie creators believed the natural solution to be an even more questionable prequel with The King’s Man.
The King’s Man is a confusing and utterly repulsive prequel to an already shaky series. Built on the respect of being a ‘true gentleman’, the film builds upon the prestige of being a man, landing on a misguided representation of privilege.
In an attempt to explore how The Kingsman agency was founded, the film takes a somewhat backwards approach in creating a semi-autobiographical narrative that trivialises and glosses over some of the very real stakes of World War One. Pegging England as an innocent bystander in cousin-rivalry, the film actively promotes the British government and colonisation as a utopia, criticising other European nations.
The issues with this film stem much further than a single component. It is a muddled, reckless, and at times grotesque re-imagination of worldly tensions leading up to World War One, where each world leader (excluding England’s, of course) is a caricature built on gross stereotypes that the film continues to exploit in never-ending ways. The figurehead for this criticism stems from the film’s representation of Rasputin (Rhys Ifans), who is shockingly vile. Depicting him as a gay paedophile (and setting gay representation back an eon), the film creates an unsettling character who finds sexual gratification in preying on vulnerable young men. Not only is this scene incredibly uncomfortable to view, but its absurdity takes you out of the film as the overt licking, wound touching, and sexual tension aren’t easy on the eyes.
The disjointed nature of The King’s Man only takes off from there. As the film dances through a semi-reimagined history, the plot points glossed over are incredibly humorous at times. As the film centres around the German Enigma code, rewriting Alan Turing’s miraculous and revolutionary feat to be a Kingsman operation, the simplicity in approaching the manner is comical at best. Confounded with The Duke of Oxford’s son’s grotesque obsession with War, a naïve tone wavers throughout the film; undermining important historical contributions and conflating his son’s desire to kill with ‘an honorary act’ seems ignorant. No matter how much the film attempts to cling to ‘honour’ and ‘manners’, it just comes across as unawareness hidden behind class and privilege.
Standing on an already shaky ground from the series’ questionable sequel, The King’s Man seems to pull the foundation out from the franchise. The film is built on celebrating privilege, discarding those who expand the confines of white, upper-class English men. Manner may maketh man, but oxfords and well-fitted suits don’t make The King’s Man a worthwhile film.
The film’s working title was “The Great Game”. This term was given to a political face-off between England and Russia in the 19th century.