The King’s Man
The King’s Man Cast: Ralph Fiennes, Djimon Hounsou, Rhys Ifans, Gemma Arterton
The King’s Man Director: Matthew Vaughn
The King’s Man Stars: 2.5 / 5
To mean it The King’s Man was originally scheduled to be released in 2019, and the final release in theaters now seems unreal. The film has been delayed several times in the midst of the pandemic, and most recently its release was pushed to January 2022 in India due to the other major releases, i.a. Spider-Man: No Way Home which dominated December. The film finally finds its way to cinemas, and after showing big chunks of its history in the many trailers and promos released over the past three years, it is not a film that audiences are eagerly awaiting.
In the prequel to The Kingsman films, director Matthew Vaughn tries to make a film rich in history, action and drama, and it’s a daunting task as he chases the story that takes place in the era of the First World War. Although the film is markedly different from its predecessors, it may not be the best for the film. Despite having a star star cast at hand with people like Ralph Fiennes, Rhys Ifans, Tom Hollander among others in the lead role, Vaughn’s prequel does not stand out as much as one would have expected.
The film is mainly about Ralph Fiennes’ Orlando Oxford, an aristocrat who is a self-proclaimed pacifist. The widower, after seeing his wife die in his arms during the Boers’ sniper attack, becomes an overprotective father to his son Conrad (Harris Dickinson) as he tries to prevent him from enlisting in the army after his son comes of age . Seen against the backdrop of World War I, Oxford finds out he’s learning about an impending global catastrophe being planned by history’s worst villains, and to stop the same, he must put together an elite network to uncover the brain behind the plan.
Among those planning to bring the world to an end is also one of history’s most infamous figures, Rasputin (Rhys Ifans). With the help of his staff of Shola (Djimon Hounsou) and Polly (Gemma Arterton), Oxford (Fiennes) tries to entice the Russian priest to tell the truth about the plan that could wipe out millions and the name of the real brain behind it. it all, even though it is only in the last minutes of the film that we finally meet a real antagonist.
For The Kingsman franchise, what worked in favor of the first two films was its witty writing. Both films had a sharp dialogue that blended well with its action, and unfortunately for The King’s Man, this is exactly what seems to be missing. While a story of origin for the organization of the intelligence service seems like a good idea, the wrapping of historical events along with an emotionally charged father-son narrative seems like a strange combination. Vaughn tries to add too much to this film, and therefore everything from Rasputin’s pie-eating and vomiting poison seems to come out of his body to Ralph Fiennes’ character being hit in the head by a highland goat. Not to mention the strange genre jump that the film does when it moves from being an action drama to a war story to finally reminding us that it’s all about the formation of an intelligence service organization.
One of the biggest setbacks for The King’s Man is that it has tonality issues. The film seems scattered and does not make smooth transitions from one emotion to another as it goes from being a war drama that tries to comment on the cost of life to later being an action drama that shows sword fights and more deadly things. Although Vaughn seems most comfortable while directing the action sequences, the same cannot be said about the emotionally charged bits in the film that seem harsh. The film often shifts gears to a melodramatic space that deters us from authentically enjoying any emotion that it seeks to convey.
Compared to The Secret Service and The Golden Circle, the prequel is very different, and for fans of the latter, The King’s Man may not prove to be as much entertaining as it tries to differentiate itself from the other two film quality in order to remain entertaining without trying to take themselves too seriously. With the new one, it seems that Vaughn is trying hard to come up with a point, healthy preacher and in turn ends up becoming an unnecessary hotchpotch of way too many ideas.
Among the most entertaining pieces of the films, however, is an extensive action sequence involving Djimon Hounsous ‘Shola and Rhys Ifans’ Rasputin. It’s a pleasure to see Ifans bring a theatrical quality to his Rasputin, enough to make him funny and scary at the same time. While Rasputin and Shola indulge in a duel, it is nothing short of a well-choreographed dance sequence that seems to have been a nightmare to shoot, but which is certainly a pleasure to watch.
ALSO READ: The King’s Man: Final trailer introduces the evil legends of the prequel movie; Watch
Another highlight of this film is its performance, and if not for these actors, the film could not have been half as seen as it turns out to be. Ralph Fiennes is an actor who could read a line from a children’s book and make it sound like Shakespeare, and it is probably this quality of his that helps us stay invested in Fiennes’ story as Orlando Oxford. Another great performance in the film comes from Rhys Ifans, who portrays Rasputin with the right amount of crazy and cool. Any story you’ve heard of the Russian monk will seem real if you look at Ifans’ eccentric view of him. Djimon Hounsou and Gemma Arterton also get impressive roles that have the potential to be further developed if the franchise continues. Tom Hollander also does a fantastic job as he plays not one but three roles as the cousins, King George, Emperor Wilhelm and Tsar Nicholas.
Overall, The King’s Man does not offer anything amazing. The film loses its grip on several points thanks to its genre-jumping story, and even the suspense hidden to the great climax does not make you gasp as much as the creators want. For The Kingsman fans, this may not be the prequel they were waiting for.