by Mary Haines

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Starring Taron Egerton, Julianne Moore and Colin Firth, Kingsman: The Golden Circle is rated R for sequences of strong violence, drug content, language throughout and some sexual material. It’s directed by Matthew Vaughn who helmed the first Kingsman movie and is known for quirky action films.
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Let’s get a few things out of the way first. I loved Kingsman: Secret Service. I’ve seen it 5 or 6 times. I love Colin Firth, and I love fun action movies. I did not love this movie. There are more reasons why than we will go into in this column because that’s not what we’re here for. What we’re here for is to talk about how Kingsman deals with female characters.

ROXYKingsman writers don’t seem to be able to handle more than one female agent at a time, but when they write them, they do it well, I’ll give them that.  Roxy was one of my favorite characters from the first movie. She was strong, she was sensible, she was sure of herself and her abilities. She was also highly skilled and extremely competent.  This makes it all the more disappointing that she was barely in The Golden Circle.
GINGER: Probably the reason that Roxy was written out of the sequel, Halle Berry plays American tech support (Merlin’s counterpart), Ginger Ale. At first, she comes off as a bit of a shy nerd stereotype, but over the course of the movie, you realize that she’s intelligent, competent, and very confident with who she is.  She knows what she wants and keeps going after it, even in the face of unwarranted opposition. I just wish that the writing team could handle more than one female agent at a time because when they do them, they do them well.
TILDE: One of the most controversial parts of the original Kingsman came in the form of an anal sex joke at the end of the movie. I’m not going to pretend to be impartial, I thought it was tacky and tasteless and was “off” from the tone of the rest of the movie. It felt like an instance of using a female character solely as a sex object and that disappointed me.  I was pleasantly surprised, therefore, when Princess Tilde showed up in the sequel as what promised to be a fully formed character. And she was …. for a while.  Then she took a hard right turn into “girlfriend who wants a proposal out of nowhere” that flowed into “girlfriend who leaves boyfriend without a word over one semi-fight.”  Which, naturally, then dwindled into a damsel in distress and she spent the rest of the movie needing to be rescued — again.

CLARA: Speaking of using a female character solely as a sex object … I present Clara. She exists to be a bad guy’s girlfriend, a prop for the main character’s relationship problems, and the personification of this edition’s sleazy sex joke. She was usable, disposable, and entirely expendable.

POPPY: Julianne Moore as Harvard businesswoman/domestic goddess/drug queenpin was probably the best thing about The Golden Circle and is responsible for one full star added onto this movie’s score.  Kingsman had a cool female henchwoman in the first movie. You couldn’t call Gazelle a fully developed character, but she definitely had style.  Poppy has style and substance. She built her own little world and commands it with a sinister charm and absolute authority.  Julianne Moore plays her with a scenery-chewing sense of fun that really brings the character alive and makes her outrageously memorable. That said, it’s interesting to note that none of Poppy’s guards or gang are women — thus cementing the theory that the Kingsman writers and/or producers can only handle one female character of any particular type per movie.

The Golden Circle is certainly not in the category of worst movies I’ve ever seen, but you can’t come close to beating the Bechdel test when none of your female characters ever interact with each other. If you have twenty front-line characters and only three of them are female, you have an issue. The Kingsman movies really do a wonderful job at depicting deep freindships and loving relationships between men — now they just need to extend that range to the other fifty percent of the human population and they might be getting somewhere.