Kingsman: The Secret Service (UK/USA, 2015)

movies-kingsman-the-secret-service-posterDirected by: Matthew Vaughn. Phew, so where do I start with this one? First, it’s nice to see that Matthew Vaughn is still going, after being acquainted with him from the audio commentary between him and Guy Ritchie in the Snatch DVD, and seeing him find his feet with Layer Cake (which was a pretty okay movie if I remember), and even though they’re probably exactly the same, I’ll still definitely check out Guy’s new Man From UNCLE movie, not because it’ll be amazing or anything, but just because.

But, as for this movie, I feel like it just confirms all the stuff that an old Prof of mine used to say about postmodern irony, Tarantino, the strains of nihilism that you can detect when all cultural products are echoes of previous cultural products and it’s nigh-impossible to express any kind of meaning or emotion or intent without surrounding that expression with overbearing and loudly-announced quotation marks. And of course, what’s on my mind after seeing Spectre is weighing just how much distance there really is between this, ostensibly a parody of the genre so largely laid down by the James Bond mythology, and that originating mythology itself. Of course, this one is much more self-conscious, goofy, and playful: it has that luxury, not being weighed down with 40+ years of institutional baggage and global/cultural/financial expectations like Bond does. So on the surface level, at least, for all of my tribal affiliation to the robust pedigree (is that a bit much?) of the Bond brand, it’s pretty darn satisfying to see a fresh (based on a comic book, but that doesn’t count, let’s face it) spin on this stodgy, 20th (and 19th) century milieu, even if it wears its old-fashioned wardrobe and decorum as conspicuously as its over-the-top violence and special effects. In this movie, we get a beautiful henchwoman with deadly prosthetic legs, graphically cutting people in half, we get Mark Hamill in a walk-on role (which is instantly postmodern itself, sorry Mark), we get Samuel L. Jackson in a parody of a Bond villain (but whose character and evil plot are still more believable than Christoph’s in Spectre), we get a rags-to-riches, prince-and-the-pauper story laid overtop of a spy narrative, we get Colin Firth in a parody of a refined spy gentleman that is simultaneously, thanks to Firth’s considerable talent, a genuine refined spy gentleman: in short, we get a cartoonishly exaggerated version of Bond that, compared with this last Bond at least, is in some respects no more cartoonish, and arguably even more serious and straightforward, than the real thing. It’s obvious to me by now that, as much as voices like Robert Ray’s, or my old film Prof’s, or my own, can declare these post-postmodern expressions of self-conscious expression-making to be evidence of our culture’s loss of steam, loss of mythological forms, and make a case for a corresponding death of imagination, death of symbolic space, loss of identity, etc, etc, etc, etc, there’s one thing that I, as a product of this same world, as a person for whom Star Wars was never a parody but always a sincere and substantial bit of myth-making, have noticed about these kinds of things, from Indiana Jones to Tarantino to this—even if it’s with a wink and a nod, the gesture still somehow functions. A story about a hero overcoming the minotaur in order to get the golden fleece (Greek myth was never my strong point), can still inspire wonder and catharsis and still serve an ideological/symbolic function, even when the audience is fully aware that this is a mythology and that it’s based on other mythologies. The question of how is a question for another day, and probably to be answered by someone much smarter than I, but for now I have to begrudgingly admit: as much as I hate to say it, as much as I still have an absurd “loyalty” to the Bond franchise from hours of acquaintance and indoctrination from youth, and as much as I want “meaning” to be good old fashioned “MEANING” and not new-fangled, postmodern, ironic, Tarantino, “[{‘meaning’]}”—that just might be the only kind of meaning we have today. And, comparing these two films, I have to say that at the moment, the future looks to have far more potential for Kingsman than for the mythology that spawned it.

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2 responses to “Kingsman: The Secret Service (UK/USA, 2015)

  1. Pingback: Legend (UK, 2015) | Offhand Reviews·

  2. Pingback: John Wick: Chapter 2 (USA, 2017) | Offhand Reviews·

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