REVIEW: Despite Ralph Fiennes, Rasputin and some goofy history lessons, ‘The King’s Man’ is not a must-see
Dec 22, 2021, 7:47 AM
SALT LAKE CITY, UT — Not all comic book movies are created equal. But not all comic book movies–or even comic books themselves–appeal to the same audience demographics, either. The King’s Man, starring Ralph Fiennes and a prequel to a pair of comic book-based movies from 2014 and 2017, will definitely not have the cross-generational appeal as the OTHER comic book movie currently tearing up the box office.
But though it won’t break pandemic records in ticket sales, it does have a few quirky charms for those who have a taste for this kind movie.
The King’s Man tells the origin story of the fictional Kingsman intelligence agency (and is based on the comic book “The Secret Service” by Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons). In World War I-era England, 17-year old Conrad Oxford has a taste for adventure and a desire to join his countrymen in battle. But his father Orlando, the Duke of Oxford (Fiennes) and a known pacifist, is trying his best to fulfill a promise he made to his late wife to keep Conrad from harm.
When Oxford and Conrad initially prevent the assassination of the Archduke Ferdinand of Austria, they stumble into a global conspiracy that involves some of history’s most notorious characters from the first half of the 20th century: Gavrilo Princip, Mata Hari, and Rasputin, all led by the mysterious Shepherd.
The father and son team of Oxford and Conrad, along with Oxford’s bodyguard Shola (Djimon Hounsou) and his housekeeper Polly (Gemma Arterton), will have to get to the bottom of who is manipulating the rulers of Europe, cousins King George of England, Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany and Tsar Nicholas of Russia (and all played by Tom Hollander) into war with each other, and why.
THINGS I LIKED
While I didn’t really like the first two entries in the Kingsman movie series, and this one didn’t swing me over to being a fan, The King’s Man did have some things I enjoyed.
The main strength it had going for it, in my opinion, was Ralph Fiennes in the lead. The man oozes cool, aristocratic charm while also looking more than capable in the action scenes. Though he played the role of James Bond’s agency head M in the Bond movies, this film shows he perhaps could have made a convincing 007 himself.
Another thing I liked was some creative cinematography from director Matthew Vaughn and director of photography Ben Davis. From cameras that look down the blade of a sword in a sword fight, to some dizzying aerial shots as Oxford tries to jump out of a crashing biplane, little of The King’s Man was visually boring.
There was also a goofy undercurrent running throughout that (barely) kept it from falling completely into melodrama. All the characters were certainly over-the-top, but no one more so than Rasputin (Rhys Ifans)–an oddly charismatic ballet-dancing, food-gorging, womanizing monster and monk who has the Tsar of Russia and his family under his control. I found myself laughing during his big fight, but I wasn’t sure if that’s what director Matthew Vaughn was going for in that scene.
Finally, the movie was also weirdly historically accurate. While Oxford, his crew and the main villain the Shepherd are certainly fictional, most of the other characters in the movie are actual figures from history, and the things that happen to these historical characters in the story, while dramatized for an action movie, also mostly happened in real life. I actually looked up some of it after seeing the film and was surprised at how
The King’s Man is deservedly rated R for strong and bloody violence, language and some sexual material. The run time is 2 hours and 11 minutes. The movie is also wildly uneven at times, switching from goofy to serious and back again almost at random. There are some unexpected plot twists, but some of them are also unwelcome, including the villain, Shepherd. I thought he was very mysterious and actually pretty cool the way he worked behind the scenes until the big reveal and his ultimate fate.
Ultimately, the cool action moments and goofy fun were just not enough for me to recommend The King’s Man to anyone who’s not already a fan of the series. The wildly uneven tone, creepy factor of some of the characters and gory violence were enough to make this a one-time viewing for me. While it was less vulgar and gross than the first two movies, it was only marginally less so.
I give it TWO out of FOUR stars.
WHERE TO WATCH
Hopefully you & your family found this review helpful! Andy Farnsworth does a weekly “What To Watch” segment for the KSL 5 Today morning news show and also hosts the Fan Effect podcast for KSL NewsRadio. Check out his other in-depth reviews of movies and streaming TV series on KSLTV.com.