Anthony Stokes on why Kingsman is the perfect pairing between Matthew Vaughn and Mark Millar…
I want to start out by saying I love Kick-Ass. It’s in my top 5 favorite comic book movies and it along with Scott Pilgrim vs. the World are two of the most underrated movies of the last five years. I also want to say I think it’s a better movie in my mind than Kingsman: The Secret Service; however, I feel that Kingsman showed a lot of growth in both Matthew Vaughn and Mark Millar, and managed to improve on the formula.
Let me say what works about Kingsman: It’s funny, self-aware, and manages to make fun of goofy spy movies whilst also managing to become one of the better ones. This has to be one of the few spy movies where I can follow the plot and the bad guy’s schemes very clearly without it seeming too straight forward. As much as I love Skyfall and Casino Royale, Skyfall’s plot is too convoluted and Casino Royale’s is almost so simple that it undermines itself. Kingsman finds the right balance between the two. The acting is good, the direction is good, and everything it needed to get right, it does.
What works about Kick-Ass is also very similar. It’s self-aware but it knows when to avoid tropes or when to power through them and make them interesting. One of my favorite departures from the comics was to have Dave get the girl in the middle of the movie. Given the context of the film, it makes sense they’d end up together and it also gives the movie dramatic weight and made me more invested in Dave’s well-being. It also had great performances and never lets its foot off the break, always giving a scene that’s hysterical, insightful about the characters, and sometimes tense and heartbreaking.
Where Kingsman and Kick-Ass parallel is that they are telling two satirical stories about a genre and know when to lean on that genre and tell a satisfying story, or when to completely abandon it and let go of conventional story telling. I don’t like it when movies go completely against the grain whenever possible, because they can easily come off as if they’re trying too hard. Structure is there because it works and it’s a good tool to use. They also have two great villains who aren’t exactly sympathetic, but are relatable and hilarious, along with unconventional leads and father figures. There’s a lot of similarities between the two movies, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
The main difference between the two is that Kingsman starts off slow and then finds itself in the last act, where as Kick-Ass is great for most of the movie and then suddenly loses its identity and becomes the very thing its satirizing, and doesn’t do it very well. Kingsman and Kick-Ass basically have the same exact ending. Vaughn loosens up his cufflinks, throws caution to the wind and makes a crazy climax. But where Kingsman’s climax is set up, earned, and is well directed, Kick-Ass’ is a lot more sloppy. Had Hit-Girl’s action scene been as good as Eggsy’s, I might have forgiven it more, but it was too standard to let go of how tonally off it was from the rest of the movie.
Kick-Ass the comic book isn’t a great comic. It has some real juvenile humor, which sometimes is literally just a cuss word or a reference to Spider-Man. Matthew Vaughn took it and made it into something really good, but it doesn’t closely reflect the comic other than in terms of the premise. Kingsman on the other hand is as if Millar co-wrote it with Vaughn. There was a scene featuring an important political figure which kind of offended me ever so slightly. But then I smiled and thought ‘good, I should be shaken up a bit, this is really edgy and cool’. The cameos worked. The commentary here isn’t pretentious or biased and has one of the funniest and best scenes in the movie, which deals with a Southern church. It fits the story and makes fun of both sides of the argument. This truly brought out the best of Mark Millar and I can’t help but think it’s because Millar possibly wrote The Secret Service with a view to it being adapted into a movie.
Kingsman: The Secret Service to me is the perfect pairing between Vaughn’s style and Millar’s. Millar gets a lot of warranted hate from comic book fans and I myself am a cautious fan of his. But I would love to see Millar and Vaughn team up more in the future, maybe even co-writing a movie together. This is my favorite movie of the year so far and I don’t think it’ll be knocked from that position anytime soon. and this is a perfect pairing with Kick-Ass and hopefully the continuance of a wonderful partnership.
Anthony Stokes is a blogger and independent filmmaker.