Second “Kingsman” movie brings back super spy badassery

In today’s world of superhero film adaptations, it might seem there’s little room for other comic books to get a chance to shine on-screen, but the “Kingsman” movies have done it anyway.

Directed by Matthew Vaughn (“Kick-Ass,” “X-Men: First Class”), “Kingsman: The Golden Circle” follows its 2014 predecessor into theaters with the same irreverent humor and love for ridiculous fight scenes that saturated “Kingsman: The Secret Service.” Considering that I ended up seeing it three times in the course of as many weeks and didn’t get remotely bored, I would even argue that it might actually be better than the first film.

The movie opens into a one-on-one fight scene blended with a car chase scene, immediately showing off the creative and well-paced choreography that continues throughout the film.

One of my favorite aspects of the movie was the camerawork (cinematography by George Richmond). During action sequences, the camera followed the movement of the characters with impressive fidelity, sometimes seeming to go beyond the scope of what is physically possible. Whether they achieved the effect through physical camerawork, digital manipulation or some mix of both, it added depth and intensity to the action that kept me hooked.

Fantastic cinematography can only do so much without a riveting score to accompany it. “Kingsman: The Golden Circle” didn’t have any melodies that are going to become household tunes — á la “Star Wars” or “Harry Potter” — but the score matched every sweeping landscape shot and somber moment with the right amount of rise and fall, keeping the mood and rounding out the sheer badassery of the movie (music by Henry Jackman and Matthew Margeson).

In addition to the properly cinematic score, the soundtrack sported a couple of brilliant musical moments in the forms of John Denver and Elton John. (Why those particular artists are so perfect is a spoiler I’m not going to give, but trust me, they’re great.) The movie’s final fight scene offers a foot-stomping good time with The BossHoss’s cover of “Word Up!” and adds even more energy to an already exciting scene.

Although the plot is interesting, much of the movie’s momentum comes from the characters. Eggsy (Taron Egerton), now also known by his Kingsman moniker of “Galahad,” continues to be flippant and quick-witted, while also showing off his skills as a fully fledged agent.

If you watched any of the movie’s trailers, it won’t be a surprise that Colin Firth reprises his role as Harry Hart, despite having been shot point blank in the eye toward the end of the first movie. While the logistics of his survival are dubious at best, his place in the movie’s character dynamic would have been sorely missed. I love a good rational explanation, but I can let some wacky science slide by if it means getting to see Eggsy, Harry and Merlin (Mark Strong) suit up and kick ass together.

Every spy movie needs a good villain, and this one came wrapped in a diabolically peppy package. Julianne Moore (“Hannibal,” “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay”) plays Poppy, leader of the most successful drug cartel in the world, who “grew up on all that awesome ’50s nostalgia” and adds her own hand-jivin’ flair to the drug trade.

It’s often said that the best villains have relatable motives, but it’s incredibly rare that I actually agree with the outcome an antagonist is hoping for. Although her methods are absolutely abhorrent, Poppy’s desire for the legalization of drugs is something I can kind of get behind. Maybe I just love a good moral gray area, but that aspect of the movie was fascinating to me.

In contrast to the development of a solid antagonist, the film severely underutilizes Channing Tatum. His character, agent Tequila of the Statesman secret service, has a fantastic 15 minutes or so of screen time that promise a great new foil for the other characters, only to be sidelined for the rest of the film. Whether due to a lack of time to film from Tatum or simply an oversight on the part of the writers, I would say they definitely missed an opportunity to develop a promising new character.

All in all, “Kingsman: The Golden Circle” is a solid sequel, which can be tough to come by in any series that started as a standalone film. (I’m looking at you, “Pirates of the Caribbean” two through five.) If you liked the first movie and are looking for a chance to suspend a bit of your disbelief and watch some cool super spies do cool super spy things, this is definitely the movie for you.