Contains major spoilers for Kingsman: The Golden Circle; don’t read if you haven’t seen the movie yet.
I’ve just got back from seeing the Kingsman sequel, and it’s thoroughly enjoyable, though a touch absurd in places (Robot dogs? Really?), but generally speaking a decent sequel to the game-changing original. I’d probably give the film 8 out of 10.
End of review. What follows is – in essence – me moaning about why they didn’t get the other 2 out of 10.
They [email protected]%$ing killed Roxy.
When the trailer was released last year, she wasn’t in it, and I said on facebook, “If they’ve killed off Roxy, I’ll riot.”
“But Tom,” I hear you say, “you’re not rioting; you’re writing an articulate, analytical repudiation.”
True, and the reason for that is this – they left the tiniest of doors open for her to return. Unlike the other Kingsman agents, Roxy sees the missile coming, and dives off her bed – I’m assuming any sensible Kingsman agent has a panic room/bunker in the house, so there’s a small chance that she could have survived.
General rule of cinema: If you don’t see the body, they might not be dead.
Kingsman rule of cinema: Even if you do see the body (and it’s been shot in the head), they still might not be dead.
They’ll regret that choice, by the way – the ability to resurrect an agent who’s been shot in the face is a hugely problematic deus ex machina, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the ability to do so is destroyed early in the next movie. I’d compare it to the Time Turners in Harry Potter – Rowling knew she’d created something for the third book that could fix any future problem/death, and as a result, she had to destroy them all in the fifth book to take that option off the table. You’ve got to have stakes. You’ve got to have consequences. If death means nothing to your characters – especially characters who are spies – then nothing matters.
So now consider what would have happened if they hadn’t resurrected Harry Hart (also, while you’re at it, imagine that they hadn’t ruined that reveal in the trailers), and Roxy had lived.
For me, the dynamic between Eggsy & Roxy is everything. The dinner scene near the beginning of the film was short, but showed the chemistry between them – Roxy helps Eggsy impress his girlfriend’s parents, because she’s got his back; they’re best friends now, and they look after each other, even when it’s not on a mission.
By contrast, Colin Firth appears throughout the movie, and yet still feels like the third wheel to Eggsy & Merlin/Eggsy & Agent Whiskey. Colin Firth is a passenger here! How in the world did that happen?!
As I wrote in a previous blog, I didn’t want him to be resurrected in the first place, so to bring him back only to be underused seems a massive waste, and, worse, creates a hero problem: Who’s the focus here? Eggsy or Harry? Who’s the superior Galahad, and whichever one it is, why do we need the other? I honestly think Eggsy’s character would’ve been better served by Harry staying dead, both in terms of the emotional cost, and in terms of being the film's focal point.
So, I’d have liked to have had the whole movie be Eggsy & Roxy – Galahad & Lancelot – as the two surviving Kingsmen left to save the world. Throw Merlin into that mix, and you’ve got a really interesting trio; the two young agents who were trained together, support each other, and can seamlessly fight side-by-side, and their mentor who knows their specific strengths & weaknesses, and can quarter-back their operation.
Imagine the whole movie over, but with Roxy in place of Harry. You could get rid of the whole amnesia/“is Harry field-ready” bits (one of the plot’s many moving parts that could’ve been spared), and you gain the chemistry between Egerton & Cookson, which wasn’t given enough room to breathe in the original film.
Plus, consider Merlin’s sacrifice in the third act, if Roxy was there instead of Harry; her emotional investment in Merlin’s death would’ve been equal to Eggsy’s. Harry’s seen comrades die before – he’s sad to be losing a friend and ally, yes, but he’s better prepared for it than Roxy would’ve been. Had Eggsy & Roxy then attacked Poppy Land together, we’d have got to see a female agent kicking ass alongside the male one, proving them to be equals (or even her being better than him – she did actually get the original job after all), with Eggsy taking on Charlie, and Roxy securing the briefcase from Poppy.
By the way, as I’ve mentioned him, I will say this – having Charlie as the henchman was genius. How often do you get that level of emotional investment in the tertiary villain? Virtually never, but by having a character that Eggsy already has a personal reason to dislike, the character becomes so much more important.
And that leads me to my other problem with the lack of Roxy: Eggsy’s love life.
I read an article earlier today that said the one saving grace of Roxy’s portrayal is that she wasn’t just Eggsy’s love interest; she’s a real character, who’s actually better at her job than he is, and is sent to destroy an orbiting satellite, even though it involves her overcoming a near-paralyzing fear of heights (and remember, she only got that job because they needed Eggsy to impersonate Chester King – from a narrative perspective, the patriarchy is tremendously useful here). I agree, it’s excellent that she’s more than just the love interest, but it’s for that reason that I wish she was ALSO the love interest. I wanted to see Roxy & Eggsy develop as a partnership on all levels.
Instead, we get Princess Tilde, who as far as I can tell, is just the love interest. Think about it, what do you know about her – she’s a princess (desirable stereotype, and vaguest job description in the world), if you save the world she’s down for butt-stuff, and... What else? Basically nothing.
Roxy’s an equal match for Eggsy, and they could’ve let their romance develop across the series as a slow burn. Imagine if Eggsy had called Roxy to say “I think I’m going to have to sleep with the target”. The conflict would’ve been more nuanced for Roxy – as a fellow spy, she’d have understood that seduction is part of the job, but as a partner, it would’ve been difficult to swallow. With that tension between them, it could’ve led to a similar argument in the mountain cabin as Eggsy & Harry have, while Agent Whiskey fights the soldiers outside, before Roxy kills Whiskey, having identified his betrayal.
Instead, Eggsy marries into Swedish royalty, which, as he even acknowledges, is hardly convenient in terms of keeping his cover intact. I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if Tilde gets killed in the next movie.
So, bring Roxy back for the next film – she’s such an interesting character, and has a lot more to offer. Merlin & Harry died at the right time; neither of their characters had any room left to grow, so – from a narrative stand point – it was right that they died, leaving Eggsy to face the danger alone. Roxy’s not done. Roxy must return. I’m starting the campaign now: #RoxyLives
Reminder: I did enjoy the film – there were just several frustrating choices in it.
P.S. I literally couldn’t care less about Channing Tatum joining Kingsman; he was barely in this film that focused on the Statesmen – why should I care about him going forward?!