Another thought on Kingsman: backstory implications (#SFWApro)

mv5bmtkxmjgwmdm4ml5bml5banbnxkftztgwmtk3ntiwnde-_v1_sx640_sy720_While I didn’t get into it in my original post on Kingsman: The Secret Service, a minor problem I had with the film is the backstory.

Early on, Hart explains to Eggsy that the Kingsmen were created by a group of wealthy men horrified (as many people were) by the senseless slaughter of WW I. Believing the world’s governments had failed to stop it, they created the Kingsmen as a black ops group that could do better. This departs from the Mark Millar comic the movie was based on, wherein the characters worked for MI6. The trouble is, I never saw any evidence the group, did, in fact do better.

They didn’t stop WW II or the Holocaust. Or Vietnam. Or Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait, or our 2003 decision to go in and take out Saddam. Or 9/11. Or the countless countries (Guatemala, Iran) where the U.S. deposed a democratically elected leader to put a dictator in place. Or the collapse of the British Empire (I’m fine with the British Empire having gone to dust, but I’m surprised an England-based group didn’t try to reverse it). So what were they doing for the century before Eggsy signed up in the film?

Did they stop some even worse events from happening? Prevent Hitler from infiltrating the Manhattan Project say, or stop the Cuban Missile Crisis from becoming a nuclear war? Or is the group ultimately not the world-saver Arthur (Michael Caine) claims it is?  Is it just that nobody thought about the implications of the new backstory?

I imagine the latter is probably the case. If so, I believe that was a writing mistake, even though I haven’t run across any other reviewers bothered by it. Because if they really have done awesome stuff, that makes Eggsy the blue-collar spy more impressive for entering their ranks. And if ultimately they’re a bunch of poseurs that makes for better deconstruction of the “snobbery with violence”  elements of British espionage fiction (although it still runs into the problem I noted at the link, that Hart [Colin Firth] is supposed to be a hero Eggsy can look up to). As William Faulkner says, the past isn’t dead, it’s not even past. If you introduce super-spies or occult powers or super-powers into the past that’s going to change the past — or if not, there ought to be a reason. In Impossible Takes a Little Longer the presence of paranormals has warped the 20th century, for example. In Sorcerer to the Crown magic doesn’t affect the Napoleonic War because French and English mages have a pact not to intervene.

In Kingsman, no explanation. Of course it was a hit, and there’s a sequel so it was hardly a fatal mistake, but it still bugs me.

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Filed under Impossible Takes a Little Longer, Movies, Writing

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