In a sea of Hollywood comic book and superhero movie franchise, Kingsman stands apart. The first movie, The Secret Service, was based on the comic co-created by Mark Millar and Watchmen's Dave Gibbons. But while the comic sold well, it was the movie adaptation that became a blockbuster, earning rave reviews, $US400 million ($507 million) at the worldwide box office, and a sequel, The Golden Circle — a sequel based on no comic at all.
All Images: Fox
Kingsmen is now a comic book movie franchise that has left its source material behind. The Golden Circle's screenplay was cowritten by the film's director Matthew Vaughn (who co-created the series with Millar and Gibbons) and Jane Goldman (who co-wrote several movie adaptations of Millar's work, including the first Kingsmen) — without any input from the comic book creators at all. In fact, no one involved even suspected the first film could or would get a sequel.
"Matthew's never made it a secret of the fact he's not really into sequels," writer Jane Goldman said about her counterpart. "Which I've always totally understood and, to a large degree, agreed with. Unless you've got something you want to say, there's no sense in continuing a story."
However, at the end of the first movie and comic, there was certainly room to continue the story. "We all know how to set things up so you can expand it," Gibbons said. "And that's very much the nature of the narrative in both the comic book and the movie. You are setting a world up. You're doing the bit where you pluck somebody from an average background and turn them into the hero. And that's where they both left Eggsy. And he's got a long, long way to go... [But no,] I don't think we specifically thought that."
In fact, the comic and the movie were both birthed out of a simple conversation Vaughn and Millar had while making X-Men: First Class. The two were talking about the fact there aren't any crazy spy movies any more, so they decided to do one together. The result was the simultaneous creation of a comic and a movie, each slightly different from each other, that weren't conceived to be franchise.
Don't believe that? The proof is in the comic and movie's bold choice to kill Eggsy's mentor character (Uncle Jack in the comics, Galahad in the film), played in the film by Colin Firth. As has been revealed in the trailer for The Golden Circle, the fan-favourite Galahad is somehow back for the film sequel. Goldsman can't think of a better example to prove no one was planning on continuing the story.
"[Firth's death] strikes the fact that there was never a plan to make this a franchise," she said. "Matthew has always quite openly said that if he [had been] planning a franchise, we wouldn't have killed Colin in the first. That is the bare truth of it."
However, once the film was a hit, Goldman and Vaughn got increasingly excited about moving the Kingsmen story forward. "It's such a rich world and we both had feelings about the characters that there were other things to explore, and other things that could be done," she said.
Primarily, they wanted to learn more about Eggsy, played by Taron Edgerton. The first film is basically his origin story but, but the movie ends with Eggsy having just become a fully fledged super-spy. Goldsman thought not only was that a good place to start a sequel, but also explore what it's like for the young characters to suddenly have all this power.
He's in this world where he has an incredibly glamorous job. But he is an everyman. He's someone we all relate to. The question is, 'What happens next?' What would happen to any of us if we were in that world? What dilemmas do you face, and how do you reconcile that job with the perfectly natural desire to have the things people naturally desire in life? Eggsy's a regular guy. And he wants regular things. And how do you make that work when you're an international spy?
That was the idea for the film, but there was still a big problem: Would a Kingsmen movie really be a Kingsmen without Colin Firth involved?
"We thought of doing [the sequel] without Colin but it seemed not right," Goldsman said. "And so, it was a matter of 'How do we do this while still honouring the emotional moment that was?' You don't want to cheapen that. And you don't want to be glib about it. Let's honour what happened and continue that story along that path rather than just say, 'Sorry, he's not dead.' We didn't want to do that. So, I think it's turned into something interesting."
Another interesting aspect of The Golden Circle is that the story goes international. Not only does it introduce a world-dominating, drug-dealing, '50s-fanatic villain named Poppy (played by Julianne Moore), the Kingsman meet up with the Statesman, the US counterpart to their high-tech brand of intelligence, and played by Jeff Bridges, Channing Tatum, Pedro Pascal and Halle Berry.
"[Introducing the Statesman] was very much about wanting to explore a different world," Goldsman said. "Just as you want to do new things, as well as exploring a new emotional journey for Eggsy, you want to explore a different world. New allies, new enemies. Just make it completely different. So that was the fun of introducing that."
And none of these characters were invented with either Millar, Gibbons, or a comic to have based them on.
"I don't feel proprietary about this at all," said Gibbons. "There's the comic books, and whatever they are, and there's movies, whatever they are, and obviously ideas were swapped backwards and forwards. But there's no kind of preciousness to these things. It's ours. How can they mess with it?"
So while The Golden Circle will be largely Vaughn and Goldsman's take on Kingsman, Gibbons does say he and Millar could, at some point, give their own take:
And as to whether Mark and I will do another comic book series, I don't know. Don't know. It's an intriguing thing. Up until this, I had never done spy stories. I had done lots of science-fiction, lots of superhero...and it's a genre that I loved, through James Bond, through Len Deighton, through Jason Bourne, through The Man from U.N.C.L.E., it's a subgenre. And it shares a lot with the superhero mythos. So yeah, it's an area I certainly felt comfortable with.
But in a weird twist of fate, there is a comic book sequel coming out, which is completely unrelated to the movie and not done by Millar or Gibbons. It's called Kingsman: The Red Diamond, and Rob Williams and Simon Fraser take over the reigns. That means, in the course of one month, the franchise that wasn't supposed to be is becoming one of the most unique ones out there. Two unrelated sequels are coming out, both with totally different creative teams, neither of which are the original comic writer or artist.
Kingsman: The Golden Circle opens September 21. Kingsman: The Red Diamond hits shelves September 6.