Photo Copyright Twentieth Century Fox

From the producer of Kick-Ass (2010) and X-Men: First Class (2011), Matthew Vaughn brings us the sequel to the ever-entertaining 2015 action-comedy, Kingsman: The Secret Service, with Kingsman: The Golden Circle. Because this film series is loosely based on a 2012 comic book series by the same name, printed under Icon Comics, an imprint of Marvel Comics, you should go into the movie with a familiar set of expectations. While the first film focused on the impending doom of a privatized internet—with some brainwashing involved—the second film deals with an underground drug dealing business, known as “The Golden Circle.” Poppy, the leader of the Golden Circle, played by Julianne Moore, sabotages her own drugs to infect users and force them to beg for the antidote, which only Poppy has. Before doing so, however, she eliminates all of the Kingsman agents other than Merlin and Eggsy, who are forced to work with the Statesman, their United States cousin organization.

The sequel is star-studded, with the likes of Taron Egerton, Colin Firth, Mark Strong, Halle Berry, Julianne Moore, Channing Tatum, Jeff Bridges, and Elton John. The sequel definitely has more comic book-type tropes than the first film. While the first film did have colorful exploding heads and a one-shot action sequence to the tune of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Free Bird, the sequel takes it a step further by “reviving” Harry Hart, who was shot in the face by Valentine in the climax of the first film. There was some sense of urgency in the action scenes in the first film that isn’t really present in the action scenes of the sequel. The suspense of the action is rooted in the character’s risk of death as opposed to the “countdown” timer suspense littered throughout the first film.

Although I enjoyed the first film significantly more than the sequel, the overall experience of watching The Golden Circle was satisfying. While none of the characters seem to demonstrate any notable change from the start of the film to the end (other than Harry regaining his memory, a character death, and a betrayal), the American characters seem to have some interesting traits. The English characters of Harry, Eggsy, and Merlin all act in favor of the greater good, but multiple American characters prioritize their image, fame, money, revenge, and politics over the safety of others and of the world—even the character of the President in the film. While that reading of the film is what I found most enjoyable, my favorite parts were the numerous Elton John appearances and references littered throughout the film. Some of the buildings are named after his songs, the two robotic dogs are named Bennie and Jet, a few of his songs are included on the soundtrack, and Elton John himself is in the film, kidnapped by Poppy, and even has some action scenes of his own. Here’s to hoping Kingsman 3 will include the rumored Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as the villain, but until then, that’s a wrap.