Lawrence of Arabia is setting up an independent intelligence agency to take down Grigori Rasputin and Mata Hari, among others, in the first trailer for The King’s Man. Even though it’s Director Matthew Vaughan’s prequel to his popular Kingsman franchise, the trailer is conspicuously lacking in the dark humor that made its predecessors so broadly appealing. But there’s enough hyper-stylized action sequences to assure us that, stylistically, this will be very much a Kingsman movie.
(Spoilers for first two Kingsman films below.)
The Kingsman franchise is based on the Marvel comic series The Secret Service by Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons, which spawned two very successful action/comedy spy films. In the first film, Eggsy (Taron Egerton), the young son of a deceased Kingsman agent, is recruited to follow in his father’s footsteps by Harry Hart (Colin Firth), aka Galahad. (All the Kingsman agents take on the monikers of the Knights of the Round Table.)
The agency is looking for a new Lancelot, and Eggsy narrowly loses the job to Roxy (Sophie Cookson). But he gets another chance when a second agent is lost in the line of duty, and he joins up with Roxy and Merlin (Mark Strong) to foil a nefarious plot by tech entrepreneur Richmond Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson).
Kingsman: The Secret Service grossed more than $ 400 million worldwide when it debuted in 2014, earning praise for its deft comic touches and hyper-stylized action sequences, although some found the cartoonish violence and occasional low-brow sexual humor off-putting. (There’s a massacre inside a church, for instance, and a lot of exploding heads in the climactic finale.) Eggsy was back and in top form for Kingsman: The Golden Circle (2017), this time teaming up with the agency’s American counterparts, Statesman, to overthrow a drug cartel.
The prequel will explore the origins of the very first independent intelligence agency. Per the official synopsis: “As a collection of history’s worst tyrants and criminal masterminds gather to plot a war to wipe out millions, one man must race against time to stop them.” Among those tyrants is Grigori Rasputin (played by Rhys Ifans). Historically, Rasputin was a mystic who gained considerable influence in the court of Tsar Nicholas II, only to be assassinated by a conspiring group of nobles in 1916. Legend has it that it took several attempts to finally kill him. I’m guessing the “unkillable” mythos should provide excellent fodder for his fictionalized portrayal in The King’s Man.
This first trailer opens on a desolate battlefield during World War I, as a young soldier comes into view carrying a fallen comrade on his back. That young soldier is Conrad (Harris Dickinson), who finds himself being recruited by famed archaeologist and British officer T.E. Lawrence (Ralph Fiennes) to join a fledgling spy agency. (In his pre-Schindler days, Fiennes played Lawrence in A Dangerous Man: Lawrence After Arabia, which came out 27 years ago.)
“Throughout time, our people robbed, lied, and killed, until one day we found ourselves noblemen,” Fiennes says in the somber voiceover, presumably speaking to Conrad. “That nobility never came from chivalry. It came from being tough. And ruthless. Real power is not found running off to war. Real power lies in understanding who it is you’re truly fighting and how they can be defeated. I know you want to fight. But there are other ways of doing your duty.”
The all-star cast includes Liam Neeson as the first Earl of Kitchener, Charles Dance (aka Tywin Lannister from Game of Thrones) as Field Marshal Haig, Stanley Tucci as Merlin, Matthew Goode, Djimon Hounsou, and Alison Steadman. Courtesan/spy Mata Hari (Gemma Arterton) also makes an appearance. The last shot is Lawrence and Conrad standing outside the tailor shop that will become the agency’s headquarters. Maybe we’ll get a sneak peek at the third installment in the main Kingsman series in a post-credit sequence once the film comes out; the two films reportedly were shot back to back.
The King’s Man is slated to hit theaters on February 14, 2020.
Listing image by 20th Century Fox