Review by Logan
Comic book movies have quickly become the new craze. After long failing with catastrophes like Batman & Robin, Ghost Rider, and Superman Returns, the industry seems to have finally found a way to successfully adapt comics to the big screen. That has opened the door for comic books beyond the superhero fare to gain their shot at the big-time, with Neil Gaiman’s Sandman being given the green light for an adaptation and, of course, Kingsman: The Secret Service.
Kingsman is an international spy organization dedicated to, well, your pretty typical defeat evil and keep the peace by shooting up the bad guys kind of thing. When Lancelot, one of these agents, is killed in the line of duty, a new spot opens up. As a result, Eggsy, a troublemaker with a wretched family life, is picked up as a candidate and begins his training, along with several other candidates picked by the other agents. Meanwhile, the film’s villain Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson) cooks up a rather animated world destruction/domination/whatever-d-word-you-like plan, using his status as a celebrity to gain a foothold on the world.
While it works as a fun spy film, the film has a little more going on beneath the surface. It explores the relationship of Eggsy with his newfound mentor in Galahad (Colin Firth), really presenting him as more of a father figure than anything. Eggsy’s father died a brave man when he was a small child, and his mother has since taken to an extremely domineering and abusive coward of a man. He responds to his life circumstances by acting out, sometimes in very drastic ways. Ironically, in a world where Hollywood films champion self-sufficiency, this one presents a nod to the dangers of father absenteeism, or in this case, the need for a father figure when one’s father has died. That can be easily lost among the blood-spattering violence and flood of f-bombs, but it is there nonetheless.
But this isn’t a drama; it’s an action flick. And even at a very casual glance, it’s hard not to find something to like about this film. It was directed by Matthew Vaughn, the same man that directed X-Men: First Class, and the writer of the original comic, Mark Millar, also wrote the infamous Marvel comic Civil War. The cast is stellar and consists of talent like Samuel L. Jackson, Michael Caine, Colin Firth, and even Mark Hamill. The action is stylish and fun. The suits are snazzy. The gadgets are cool enough that they could have come straight from an 80’s Bond flick. And indeed, that is what the film is going for: from Samuel L. Jackson’s lisp to the exaggerated gentleman theme, this movie is paradoxically a spy parody that also takes itself relatively seriously. So it’s fun, funny, and glamorous, but in so doing it pushes the envelope a little far in a couple of areas in particular, and so earns its R rating.
An R rating is not necessarily an automatic outcast, nor is it even necessarily a bad thing (see Nate’s rant here for more on that), but there’s a lot to wade through here for what is essentially a fun spy film. It boasts a smattering of 100 f-words, and is apparently the word of choice for every character in every scenario. There’s also short cut-out style sex scene that, while not featuring what rating advisories call “graphic nudity” is certainly unnecessarily to the film and absolutely reduces a female character introduced early in the film to nothing more than a sex object. So much for the gentleman theme.
The good news is that if you watch the film with ClearPlay, all of these elements are eliminated without the film seeming awkward or like pieces are missing. If anything, that adds credibility to the argument that these elements are completely unnecessary to the story. But even with that admission, there’s still a scene that, as a Christian, causes me no small amount of conflict.
During one scene of the film, there’s a reference to what is called a “hate group” in Kentucky. What it turns out to be, in reality, is a caricature of Christianity. It takes place in a small church building that looks not unlike many I visited growing up, and presents the decrying of abortion and the Biblical condemnation of homosexuality as extreme and radicalized teachings of raving madmen and rioters (this is also, I might add, where the film’s most graphic and extended scene of violence occurs).
And so, I bring this review to you as somewhat a mixed bag. This caricature of Christianity is not the main point of the film, and I hesitate to give a broad condemnation of it for fear of being unnecessarily inflammatory. I believe Christians who refuse to watch a film on account of one element that goes against some teaching of Christianity are being a bit unfair, not unlike someone who refuses to read a book which contains ideas with which they could disagree.
But this is not simply a disagreement or a message that teaches something different; it is mockery. Add to that the graphic violence that is presented in a somewhat comical way, as opposed to the dark result of sinful people, and I cannot fully recommend it. It has fun parts, and as a whole I enjoyed watching it, but there is a good bit about it that troubles me also. It’s not always sound to force a worldview on a film that is, at its core, just trying to be funny, but for Kingsman, it’s apparently a world where gentlemen save the world, and do so through gory violence, and Christians just happen to be hateful in the backdrop. Whether that backdrop is enough out of focus to warrant being overlooked, I will let you be the judge. But it’s certainly enough to keep the film from being part of my permanent collection.