Anyone familiar with recent comicbook adaptations to the big screen will certainly be aware of the way that no hero – or occasional villain – can die. Now before we go any further, if you’re not up to date with your MCUs and DCEUs and are wanting to avoid spoilers, now would be a good time to look away. The same applies for Kingsman: The Golden Circle, the sequel to 2014’s surprise hit, Kingsman: The Secret Service.
From War Machine’s seemingly fatal fall in Captain America: Civil War to Agent Coulson’s miraculous reprise from Avenger’s Assemble into Televisions Agent’s of S.H.I.E.L.D. you just can’t keep a good hero down (let’s not even start discussing Superman’s “sacrifice” in Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice). Which brings me onto Kingsman and an interview with director Matthew Vaughn with Empire during their Spoiler Special Podcast.
Now during the movie – and the trailer – we see that Kingsman is effectively wiped out leaving our protagonist Egsy and Q-esque Merlin (Taron Egerton and Mark Strong respectively) to go off a-hunting for revenge. Luckily for them they run into Egsy’s predecessor, Harry Hart (Colin Firth), a twist revealed at the end of the trailer much to Vaughn’s protest, and rightly so.
Having been shot in the head during the first film, no one expected Colin Firth’s reprise as the quintessential gentlemen spy with a violent streak. So it’s not something that audience’s really needed to see to be convinced to go and see the movie which, along with the previous cast, contains an all new cast of all-stars Channing Tatum, Halle Berry, Jeff Bridges and antagonist Julianne Moore. Seeing Harry Hart alive and well didn’t lure me to my nearest picturehouse, but it sure would have been a fun surprise when I got there.
Anyway I digress.
Harry’s miraculous recovery comes from a ludicrous piece of technology that should only exist in a comicbook adaptation – which this is – leading me onto the point I’m trying to make (only 300 words in…) In the podcast Vaughn runs through the reasoning to kill off two very likable characters, Roxy, aka Lancelot (Sophie Cookson) and Merlin in that their deaths add a purpose to the protagonist’s motivations and actions. This is true. I mean, would John Wick’s rampage be so accepted by audiences if they hadn’t killed his dog and merely stole his car?
But this creates a bit of a paradoxical feedback loop. If we can have Harry Hart come back to life after a point-blank headshot, why should we have to put up with losing, a) the only kick-ass female character (pun intended) and, b) the chief gadget man who can’t out-think a landmine?
Weirdly, I’m okay losing Merlin. He’s had two full films, been fleshed out as a character and has a very moving send off – I still can’t can’t listen to Country Roads – but as Vaughn states in the interview, there’s a version of the film where he’s not dead.
Moving onto my gripe, there didn’t seem to be a version of the film where Roxy survives. She has a great little moment at the beginning of the film – being wing-man to Egsy over his dinner date – but after that, her loss is equivalent to JB’s (the dog). After being largely on the back burner throughout the whole first film, despite her potential to be the lead (think about it, Egsy has to break through his stereotype to become a gentlemen spy, she in fact beats him and becomes, seemingly, the first gentlewomen spy), I was really looking forward to seeing more of her.
Certainly there’s a chance she did survive ready to come back in the third of the trilogy. I mean her death was off-screen and the characters in this series have survived far worse. But maybe for some diversity and change, why not give this treatment to Merlin and have Roxy as a main character for this film, the two newbies having to come to terms with the loss of their newly found lives that eventually go off and seek help from their American cousins? This then leads nicely into finding Harry, hoping he’ll help guide them, only to find out that he’s lost his memory.
I’m no writer and can only speculate about such things, but for me death is a very motivational tool for most people can relate to it, therefore helping them relate to the protagonist’s motivations. But comicbook adaptations are starting to take the biscuit where we now expect people not to die and so when they actually do, we… well I, have a tantrum, and I’m not even the evil villain who’s trying to kill them.