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The King’s Man (2021) Review

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The King's Man

Time: 131 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence, sexual references & offensive language
Cast:
Ralph Fiennes as Orlando, Duke of Oxford
Gemma Arterton as Pollyanna “Polly” Wilkins
Rhys Ifans as Grigori Rasputin
Matthew Goode as Captain Morton
Tom Hollander as King George, Kaiser Wilhelm and Tsar Nicholas
Harris Dickinson as Conrad Oxford
Daniel Brühl as Erik Jan Hanussen
Djimon Hounsou as Shola
Charles Dance as Herbert Kitchener
Director: Matthew Vaughn

One man must race against time to stop history’s worst tyrants and criminal masterminds as they get together to plot a war that could wipe out millions of people and destroy humanity.

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The King’s Man was the upcoming prequel to the Kingsman movies which had been repeatedly pushed back. I really like Kingsman: The Secret Service, it was a lot of fun. The sequel titled The Golden Circle was not quite as good as the first movie, but I still enjoyed it. However, a prequel might’ve been what the franchise needed, with a very different setting and completely different characters. However with every delay of the movie, I felt less confident in it. It’s finally arrived and thankfully I actually ended up enjoying it, but its not without some issues and questionable decisions.

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The King’s Man takes place a century earlier prior to the first two movies, and while I do like this new film, I still don’t think it needed to exist. It didn’t really add anything to the Kingsman lore. I will say that it doesn’t heavily rely on the viewers having watched the first two movies. You might miss some of the appeal if you haven’t watched the first movie at least though. The pacing was very inconsistent. The first third of the runtime introduces everything, so it takes a while to get going. Even then, for much of the runtime, it feels like a film made up of events and sections rather than a continuous story. It isn’t clear where everything leads to, and there’s little to no flow to it. For what its worth though, the third act is consistently fun. I found myself only a little invested in the plot. From a writing and story perspective, The King’s Man seemed to lack the energy that the other two movies did, and part of that is the setting. Also, the characters weren’t that interesting. Rasputin was fun to watch, I also liked Ralph Fiennes and even his character’s son to a degree, their relationship is given enough attention that I was willing to care about it. However, I only liked some of the other characters because of the actors, nothing about the characters with how they’re written. Even the villains outside of Rasputin aren’t as entertaining, it’s a cliched conspiracy made up of select people around the world. Its certainly different to the Bond-esque villains of the last two movies but the execution here is rather average. Obviously with this being a Kingsman movie, it is not historically accurate, but there are some moments where it does attempt at a level of accuracy to WW1, which is beyond strange. It’s like Matthew Vaughn wanted a bonkers Kingsman movie set during WW1 but he felt obliged to be somewhat accurate. I can’t tell if that’s better or worse, because tying the two together make some of the darker scenes (and those based on true events) come across as tone deaf.

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One notable problem with the movie is that the tone is just all over the place and messy. The King’s Man definitely has its light-hearted, silly and fun moments, like with Rasputin and some of the action scenes. However, a lot of the situations are on the more on the serious side of the coin. That’s largely because Matthew Vaughn anchored the setting to World War 1. There’s real people involved in the plot with Rasputin and King George, and we even see Archduke Franz Ferdinand assassinated in this. There’s plenty of scenes featuring a lot serious political and military talk, which was quite misguided to me. There’s even also long sequences focusing on grimy war battlefields. By focusing on the horrors of war and being somewhat accurate to the setting, it damages the movie in some ways. The thing is that Vaughn actually does some of the handle the serious stuff quite well, the battle scenes are surprisingly well done and given the right amount of weight. The problem is that they don’t fit into this movie all that well. I am one of the people who enjoys The Golden Circle, even though I know of its faults very well. Honestly though, at least the over-the-top nature makes more sense compared to the serious take here. Making it too serious might’ve been misguided, but the worst part of all is how The King’s Man jumps between the two, the tones don’t work together. Rhys Ifans hamming it up as Rasputin really contrasts with the serious tone and the large battle scenes that feel like Matthew Vaughn is trying to make his own 1917. I will say that it is worth sticking around for the mid credits scene, because its one of, if not the most, insane credits scenes I’ve ever seen. Its honestly quite perplexing that it exists, you really just have to see it for yourself.

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There is a good cast involved, though not all of them are used to their fullest potential. Ralph Fiennes is one of the best parts of the movie and he absolutely delivers in the lead role. He more than proves himself a great action star, much like Colin Firth did in the first two movies. He adds so much to his character, probably even more than he needed to. He’s fun in the action and comedy scenes, but he also brings the emotion. Harris Dickinson plays his son, he does a good job and I like the relationship that the two have. Gemma Arteton and Djimon Hounsou are decent in their parts, even if their characters aren’t that memorable or great. Tom Hollander also plays Tsar Nicholas, Kaiser Wilhelm and King George, and is very entertaining in those parts. The most marketed villain of the movie is that of Rasputin, played by a wonderfully scene chewing Rhys Ifans. One could say that he might be doing too much, but I love how much he goes for it. It’s just a shame that we don’t get to see him as much I would’ve liked, and he is nothing more than a notable henchman. He certainly had better screen presence than the other villains, who are just surface level caricatures. The villains are a convoluted and conspiracy consisting of a group of people led by a shadowy leader called The Shephard. His goal is for the entire world to go to war. While the villain is over the top to a degree, he’s not at the level of Samuel L. Jackson or Julianne Moore from the previous movies. He is a moustache twirling madman that shouts a lot, but is still rather bland and cliched. I know that Julianne Moore’s villain in the last movie wasn’t exactly the best, but The Shephard is worse if only because of how much the film tries to hide his identity for the sake of the twist. As a result it doesn’t let you connect with the character in any way, and giving him a face and more dialogue would’ve helped the story and the character. They rely on the ultimate reveal at the end, it doesn’t even pay off and it isn’t surprising.

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Matthew Vaughn’s stylised direction is present once again, very much to the film’s benefit. His trademark brand of over-the-top hyper action is on full display here, and its where the film is at its best. It has great choreography, its very well shot, full of energy, and they are well depicted. Its not as great as some of the action from the first movie or even the second, but I did like them. The war moments are intense and well crafted, there are actually a lot of scenes that work as a serious war drama, and deliver on hard hitting emotion.

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I enjoyed The King’s Man, I liked the performance of Ralph Fiennes and Rhys Ifans, and the action was very entertaining. However it is definitely a mess, especially with the writing and tone. Honestly I can’t tell whether this or The Golden Circle is better, I certainly feel more inclined to rewatch the latter. Matthew Vaughn would be well advised to not make a sequel to this movie and just stick to making Kingsman movies set in the present day. On top of already playing with real life material from WW1 in this movie and shouldn’t be pushing it further (that credit scene is rather daunting), its just not the right setting for this franchise.

Quantum of Solace (2008) Review

Time: 106 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Daniel Craig as James Bond
Olga Kurylenko as Camille Montes
Mathieu Amalric as Dominic Greene
Judi Dench as M
Gemma Arterton as Strawberry Fields
Jeffrey Wright as Felix Leiter
Director: Marc Forster

Following the death of Vesper Lynd, James Bond (Daniel Craig) makes his next mission personal. The hunt for those who blackmailed his lover leads him to ruthless businessman Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric), a key player in the organization which coerced Vesper. Bond learns that Greene is plotting to gain total control of a vital natural resource, and he must navigate a minefield of danger and treachery to foil the plan.

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I had been meaning to re-watch Quantum of Solace for some time, with Daniel Craig’s last James Bond movie coming out next year (or at least it was before it was delayed). Some people really hated the movie, and I didn’t really know why. Many years ago I did watch Quantum of Solace but I don’t remember much of the movie, so I decided to rewatch it to see how I would find it. While I don’t think it’s terrible, I can see why a lot of people don’t really like it. Quantum of Solace has some high points but his significantly held back by an average script and action scenes with bad editing.

One of the biggest flaws with Quantum of Solace is the script by Paul Haggis, Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, which really isn’t good. From what I can tell, director Mark Forster wanted to make the political circumstances in the story to be more realistic. That is why the film focussed on the global issue of the environment. While that concept might work for a political thriller, I’m not quite sure if it would quite work for Bond, and I’m someone who’s in favour for the Bond franchise to do new things in order to keep things fresh. I will give credit to them however for trying something new instead of having another Generic Evil Mastermind tries to take over world and instead trying to further set it into reality. It might’ve actually worked but taking a huge risk like this with a character and franchise like James Bond, it needs to be done in the right way to make it work, but the way it’s done here just falls flat. Odd direction of story aside, the main reason that the script has so many problems was the writer’s strike. Apparently at the time, they had a bare bones of a script and they couldn’t hire writers to finish it because of the writer’s strike, so Daniel Craig and Marc Forster had to work on it and do rewrites themselves during filming. Even Craig said that the film shouldn’t have started filming until the script was completed. Knowing all that after watching Quantum of Solace, everything makes sense now. As previously mentioned, the story is not that interesting, you don’t really care much about the characters or the story. The characters are particularly underdeveloped, the initial ideas of the characters were a good starting point but not good characters in the final product. It’s also not entirely easy to follow either, Bond films are almost always easy to follow but I got lost many times. In the end I just gave up on trying to figure out what entirely is going on. The film does bring up and ties up the Vesper and boyfriend storyline from Casino Royale (until Spectre brought it back up yet again) but it really didn’t feel necessary bringing that plotline back in the first place. The first movie seemingly tied up the plotline but most of all, that plotline is only slightly relevant to the plot in Quantum of Solace, like the main plot wasn’t going to bring up Vesper and all that as much originally but they added it in later on (with all the rewrites that’s entirely possible). This movie is actually short for a Daniel Craig Bond film, at about an hour 40 minutes long but it feels about 2 hours long. The length isn’t really an issue though, the writing itself was more the issue.

The best part about the movie is Daniel Craig, who once again gives it his all as James Bond, whether that be with the action scenes or the acting. With that said, there are some aspects of Bond here which feel lacking as a character (writing related). That can be said for pretty much all the characters. Olga Kuryenlko plays the “Bond Girl” in the movie and was decent enough in her role. She has a plotline about getting revenge on another character (which clearly parallels what’s happening with Bond after the events of Casino Royale) that works fine enough but wasn’t anything great. The villain Dominic Greene played by Mathieu Amalric is rather weak and not that good. Well, nothing about him is bad per se. It’s just that he’s not menacing, he’s not interesting, he’s not threatening, but most of all he’s forgettable. Even if he was annoying at least he would’ve been somewhat memorable, but you don’t really have any emotional feeling towards him at all. His plot and him as a character isn’t terrible but it feels like he’s a character from a different film that somehow ended up in a Bond film. Amalric does at least try his best with his role and out of all the main Daniel Craig Bond villains, he’s the only one so far who does physically take him on. Aside from that, there’s not much about Greene that works as a villain in a James Bond film. I think if he at least had a henchman who was an actual threat to Bond, that would’ve made up for it. With all that being said, rewatching the movie recently however, he does actually feel like a real character and while he wasn’t the best villain for Bond to be paired with, he was alright, albeit underwhelming. Amalric also does put everything he can into his role. Maybe it’s just rewatching Spectre that makes me appreciate Greene a lot more. Returning actors Judi Dench, Giancarlo Giannini and Jeffrey Wright are pretty good in their returning roles, though Wright as Felix Leiter does seem out of place as he doesn’t really do much (apparently early in the script he was meant to have a much bigger role but the re-writes cut down his role immensely). Other actors like Gemma Arteton and David Harbour are fine in their roles but they don’t really get to do much.

Marc Forster is a solid director, giving us movies like Monster’s Ball and The Kite Runner, and with Quantum of Solace… the outcome was quite mixed. A lot of the movie is well filmed, it looks good, the locations are great and the setups to the action sequences look good. Interesting side note is that it really ups the violence, making it one of the most violent movies in the franchise (it’s between this and Licence to Kill). With all that potential, it would’ve been even better if we could’ve actually properly seen these action sequences. However, the hyperactive editing absolutely ruins these scenes, making some sequences that would otherwise be great, at times unwatchable. The only action scene not affected by this is a plane action sequence, which had the perfect editing for that scene and wasn’t jarring in the slightest. With a lot of the action scenes however, I couldn’t watch it for too long because sometimes it literally hurt to try to watch it. You just couldn’t tell what was happening a lot of the time. While the writer’s strike definitely affected the movie negatively, I’m not sure what happened with the editing. The editing for the rest of the movie was fine.

Quantum of Solace is a very mixed bag. On one hand, the setups to the action scenes are good, some of the story had some potential, some scenes are good and Daniel Craig is still great as James Bond. On the other hand, the action scenes don’t pay off because of the bad editing and the script is lacklustre and doesn’t feel complete. They really shouldn’t have gone ahead with filming until they absolutely nailed down the script beforehand. It’s disappointing that this movie didn’t turn out as well as it should’ve, it’s just not that memorable unfortunately. Still, I don’t think it’s bad but it’s not really a movie I will be revisiting (or remembering for that matter) any time soon.