Surprisingly, although we seem to live in a world that is inundated with comic book movies, Kingsman: The Secret Service has had minimal press. I suppose that it wasn't made by Marvel, so the marketing isn't as intense, but for a movie with a current Rotten Tomatoes score around 75% (with a viewer score of almost 90%), it does seem odd that it has been out more than a month and although I'd heard of it, I didn't even know what it was about.
From the trailers, I had thought it was a kids' movie - a young kid in spy training. I was actually surprised to see it was rated R going in, because I really didn't think it would be. Of course, had I realized it was created by Mark Millar, who wrote Kick-Ass, and Dave Gibbons, who was the artist on Watchmen, I would not have been surprised. I love Watchmen, both the book and movie (yes, the book is better, but I did really enjoy the movie version), and I hated Kick-Ass, so I wasn't sure what to expect with Kingsman. Mark Millar also wrote Wanted, though, which is another favorite, so it's not surprising that Kingsman had the right blend of humor, satire, and comic violence.
So, as a fair warning to anyone who may be easily offended, this IS an R-rated movie. There is a ton of swearing, a few sex jokes (that were out of place, in my opinion), and excessive violence. As I mentioned above, it was created by the people who made Kick-Ass, Wanted, and Watchmen. If those movies felt too violent or inappropriate, you would not enjoy this, either.
I, on the other hand, really enjoyed this movie. I love spy movies and this was an homage to old spy movies, yet it stood on its own and also poked fun at things like the Bond franchise. It's hard to pull off both spoof and sincerity, but Kingsman does it exceptionally well.
The story is about Eggsy, a kid? (I thought he was supposed to be 16, but clearly he's not given the end of the movie, and there's reference later to whether he's an Oxford or Cambridge man, so I guess maybe college-aged?) living in lower-class London. His father died (in the service of the Kingsman, although he doesn't really know that) when he was a baby and now he's living with his mom, her abusive boyfriend, and their baby. Eggsy is a smart kid who had a lot of potential but uses none of it, instead living a life of petty crime.
On the other hand, we have Harry (Galahad), a member of a secret organization that recently lost one of its spies (Lancelot - see the Arthurian theme?). Harry sets out to find the people who did it (the villains are great in this movie - Samuel L. Jackson is campy as hell and his assistant is awesome!), while also being tasked with finding a recruit for Lancelot's spot. And this is where Eggsy and Harry's paths cross.
Admittedly, there are no real surprises in the story. It's a generally predictable course of events, but they are enjoyable and entertaining from start to finish. There is a fantastic blend of spy movie mockery, witty humor, and great spy action. It's also clear that it has comic book roots from its film direction, style, and sometimes over the top violence.
I only had one issue with the movie, which was a brief scene/joke towards the end involving Eggsy and the Scandinavian princess. It was randomly vulgar, which would not have stood out had it been consistent with the movie to that point. However, in a movie where the female characters are pretty awesome on their own and about an organization that does have a lot of class even when they are blowing people up, it felt juvenile and out of character. It's rare for a comic book movie to have this much depth of character development, to be honest, so that is what I will remember from the movie, but the scene just seemed to lower the quality for no real reason, except to garner a few mild chuckles in an already funny and awesome movie. It just felt like something that would have been edited out when they saw the whole, but wasn't, and it is a little like the random brothel scenes in Game of Thrones that end up just annoying more people than amusing anyone.
Still, as a whole, this was one of the most entertaining movies I have seen in a while and it was refreshing. I know people love the family friendly aspects of Guardians of the Galaxy and some of the other Marvel movies, but it was nice to see something that didn't care about that. My husband has always been a comic book fan, and he grew up with the superhero comics, but my own interests started later and have always tended to be a bit darker, like Preacher, Sandman, and Alan Moore's work, so this was a great movie choice for us both.