News broke yesterday that seven more Kingsman movies are currently in the works, although I have to wonder whether anybody actually expects them to see the light of day. These showboating announcements are a dime a dozen in the current landscape of blockbuster filmmaking and are clearly intended to generate excitement around an upcoming project. Suffice to say, the most that they elicit from me is an exhausted sigh.
The key thing to keep in mind about these PR-friendly statements is that they effectively don’t mean anything. It only takes one box office flop to nullify an entire slate of sequels and spin-offs, which is something we’ve seen dozens of times in the last 10 years alone. Guy Ritchie’s King Arthur: Legend of the Sword was supposed to kickstart a six-film saga, Tom Cruise’s The Mummy had planned to spawn an entire Dark Universe, while a new Terminator trilogy implodes on itself roughly every three years.
It’s a damning indictment of how Hollywood studios have become too preoccupied with setting up bloated franchises, a trend which can largely be attributed to one particular phenomenon: the Marvel Cinematic Universe. That heroic endeavour has undoubtedly been a treat for fans around the world, but its resounding success has come at a price. These days, every studio wants a $20 billion shared universe to its name and the result has been a parade of failed ventures that have accomplished little besides audience apathy.
Besides undermining consumer confidence, this misguided focus also puts the legacy of cinema in jeopardy. After all, the blockbusters from decades past that have stood the test of time tend to be those with the most laser-focused plotting. Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial and Raiders of the Lost Ark are among those that tell exciting and satisfying stories in a mere two hours (give or take), without the need for universe-building shenanigans which often serve only to dilute and disjoint the proceedings.
Will future generations have any desire to return to the big-budget movies being produced today? It’s a valid question when so many suffer from bizarre tangents and unresolved plot threads as a result of scrapped follow-ups.
Kingsman itself has been guilty of this in the past, with 2017’s sequel The Golden Circle attempting to lay the groundwork for a US-based spin-off titled Statesman, which would theoretically star Channing Tatum and Jeff Bridges. Of course, since reaction to that idea was decidedly mixed (to put it generously), the project has been moving along at a snail’s pace in the years that have followed.
It’s for this reason that you’ll forgive my scepticism over the ambitious plans for the franchise that came to light this week. Assuming that the soon-to-be-released prequel, The King’s Man, doesn’t flop and render this whole discussion pointless, I would still prefer the producers focus their efforts on making one good movie rather than seven imaginary ones.