The King's Man (2021) | Film Review
Blatant Historical Revisionism
by Ask Vestergaard
This review contains some spoilers
The King’s Man is a prequel to Matthew Vaughn’s Kingsman franchise set during the wanton bloodshed of the First World War. It follows pacifist aristocrat Orlando Oxford as he struggles to prevent his son, Conrad, from enlisting while simultaneously launching missions of international espionage in which he extrajudicially assassinates a horny Russian monk who spends a full 30 seconds giving cunnilingus to a rather vaginal-looking scar on Ralph Fiennes’ naked thigh.
It gets worse.
photo courtesy of IMDb
Lord Oxford is close friends with His Excellency the Right Honourable Herbert Kitchener, 1st Earl of Kitchener, Field Marshall, member of His Majesty’s Most Honourable Privy Council, and Certified Genocidal Maniac. But don’t you worry your silly little head – Oxford has disagreements with Kitchener’s tactics. He never acts on them, sure, and those disagreements are condescendingly negligible when Oxford visits one of Kitchener’s South African concentration camps at the beginning of the film, but they are technically there! Yes, Kitchener becomes a heroic and wholesome figure through the film’s runtime, and yes, the main emotional beat that takes place has nothing to do with the tens of thousands of Afrikaans innocents – women and children included – who were murdered in Kitchener’s camps (a harrowing 10% of the full Boer population). Rather, it is focused on fridging Lord Oxford’s oh-so-perfect wife, whose tragic death inspires the Lord to adopt pacifism as she bleeds in his arms and begs for world peace while he is surrounded by starving Black people.
But oh, don’t you worry. It gets worse.
Because Kitchener also dies tragically, his ship blown to smithereens by a submarine torpedo. He had so much more to give, so many moustache hairs to coif and wax, so many badges to polish, so many savages to torture. He will be sorely missed. Who could have killed him, you ask? Who could have robbed us of such beautifully spoken Received Pronunciation slurs?
What if I told you that the First World War that took Kitchener from us at his youthful 65 years of life was not the result of centuries of imperialism creating a web of toxic alliances, but an evil conspiracy? A shadowy cabinet of f-f-foreigners, hellbent on crushing the Union Jack?
A cabal made up of such historical names as Jewish mentalist Erik Jan Hanussen, sandwich-eating Serbian assassin Gavrilo Princip, strip-teasing femme fatale Mata Hari, and none other than lover of the Russian Queen, Rasputin (the aforementioned scar-tonguing bisexual monk). Oh, and also Vladimir Lenin. And that’s not it – there’s a mid-credits scene that sequel-baits the biggest supervillain crossover ever: ‘Thanks to you, comrade, our left hand is strong,’ Hanussen says to Lenin, ‘But as you once said, our right hand now needs strength.’ Left hand, Left wing; right hand, Right wing. And who should step out of the shadows but any Communist revolutionary’s best friend:
… Adolf Hitler?
It can’t get worse than that, you say? Ha.
The conspiracy has a mastermind. Who is their shepherd? Well. Just some Scottish guy. A Scottish guy whose entire motivation is hatred for England because of its oppression of Scotland.
But hey, the emotional climax of this film? Its thematic resolution? Its overall point? The kilted Scottish supervillain, who hates England, basically says ‘BWAHAHAHA! YOU WON’T KILL ME! YOU’RE A PACIFIST!’
To which our peace-loving protagonist Lord Orlando Oxford pretty much replies, ‘I might be a pacifist – but I’m still willing to kill for my country.’
In hindsight, I should have known. 2014’s Kingsman: The Secret Service is a film in which a quintessential Cockney chav is civilized by a posh superspy in a Saville Row suit so that they can team up to put an end to a lisping egomaniac who wants to end the climate crisis by committing omnicide. The sequel, Kingsman: The Golden Circle, casts a woman who wants to end the war on drugs as its primary antagonist, and essentially ends by stating that alcohol is better than drugs.
The series has always had decidedly Conservative politics – I just wasn’t expecting it to be quite this explicit.
Director Matthew Vaughn only calls himself Vaughn in professional credits: his real name is Matthew Allard de Vere Drummond. Sounds pretty aristo-trashy, right? Turns out his father was George Albert Harley de Vere Drummond, godson of King George VI. The very same George who is the titular King in The King’s Man – a man who is portrayed as noble, kind, and intelligent, unlike the bad monarchs Tsar Nikolai II and Kaiser Wilhelm II. In an extremely ableist turn, the film puts massive emphasis on how grotesque Wilhelm’s physical impediments are, while giving George a verbal eloquence that completely ignores the fact that he had a stutter. And to put a bloody cherry on top of this fecal layer cake of a film, this origin story must obviously end with the establishment of the independent superspy agency Kingsman. Key word: independent. An agency that Oxford says will ‘run at the highest levels of discretion, above the politics and bureaucracy of government-run spy organisations.’
Who is one of the founding fathers of this totally independent agency with no involvement in government?
King George VI.
A man who is, in a way, Matthew Vaughn’s grandfather.
The King’s Man is boring. Few of the jokes land. The action is rarely fun. It is explicit historical revisionism and blatant Tory propaganda. It is a film that equates Communism and Fascism, because ‘the National Socialists were totally Socialists, guys’. And it is a garbage movie.