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Parents' Guide to

The King's Man

By Jeffrey Anderson, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 16+

Violent, overlong "Kingsman" prequel is wildly inconsistent.

Movie R 2021 131 minutes
The King's Man Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

Community Reviews

age 13+

Based on 5 parent reviews

age 16+

You need to know history to appreciate this film

People went in with the wrong expectations looking for the ‘wit’ of the first two films. This film was an excellent retelling of the history of WWI. After the details in the scene with Gavilo Princip, I knew exactly what we were in for. First, look him up on wikipedia. Check out the picture. The actor nailed it. Second, the assassination of Archiduke Ferdinand happened almost exactly as portrayed - the bomb thrown, misses but blows up the car behind, the Duke escapes and goes to the Town Hall to give them a speech and a piece of his mind on the attempt, then his car makes a wrong turn and stalls right in front of Princip who promptly shoots the duke and his wife. The movie more or less showed all of that with slight tweaks to fit the retelling. Rasputin in real life was a crazy as portrayed in the movie, even crazier actually. The scenes with the son almost dying and Rasputin controlling the Tsar and his wife by seeming to heal him was also spot on. Again, check out photos of the real Rasputin. The movie nailed it. This film gives reasons behind these events that are obscured by history. No one knows if Princip and the Young Bosnians were controlled by state actors or someone else. No one knows how Rasputin healed the Tsar’s son (he actually had hemophilia) repeatedly. It’s true that he held major influence over the Tsar due to his unique (perceived) ability to heal the boy. The movie gives reasons (man in shadows using agents to cause war) It’s also true that if someone in the shadows wanted Germany to win the war they would’ve needed to: 1- get Russia to pull out, and 2- keep the US out. The movie shows this. The movie mentions the downing of an ocean liner by German u-boats provoking the US. This really happened: it was the Lusitania. The movie villain’ s solution was to convince Germany to send a telegram to Mexico asking them to invade the US. This also happened! Rasputin really did play a role in Tsar Nicolas’s downfall, and was killed in a manner very similar to what was shown. He was invited to a dinner party where first he was poisoned, but the poison did not have any effect. Then he was attacked and eventually shot. His attackers thought he was dead but he later leapt up and ran out. They chased him, shot him again and dumped him in a river. Of course he was no master fighter in real life, but for the movie to nail those details was impressive! This British really did intercept and decipher the German message to Mexico, as shown in the movie. The US didn’t believe the interception was real at first, also shown in the movie. To weave all this together with two fictional behind-the-scenes forces tugging the strings in spy proxi battle was far more enjoyable than the fight scenes themselves. The son, Conrad, getting the white feather treatment for not going to war… that happened! Young women would give white feathers to young man that hadn’t joined the war and would call them cowards. The feeling he had of wanting to go to war - that was the mood of the era. That was before anyone knew what war really was like. The movie gives Conrad a taste of the war and he falls apart regretting ever going there. He realizes he had serious misconceptions of what war truly was. The movie failed to capture the horror of life on the frontline but tried in brief snippets to give a sense of it. Here, also, the movie conflicts itself. Conrad realizes his error all too late and dies. The message from his story was the lesson of that generation, which his father captured in the poem he read during the funeral, ending with the line: To children ardent for some desperate glory, The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est Pro patria mori. That is, the glorification of war is a lie. The phrase “it is sweet and fitting to die for one’s country” is a lie. You would think the Duke took that message to heart and would stick to his pasifism after that. But after crying for a while, one visit from the king and he’s back up and fighting for king and country. Anyway, other than the thematic slip up, this movie was a fantastic historical fiction retelling of WWI. The movie even has Stalin and the revolution finally take Russia out of the war, and the grisly end to the Tsar and his family. If you don’t know all the history, check out Dan Carlin’s Blueprint for Armageddon series. It’s a long podcast but it will give you an entertaining background of WWI. In fact, this movie hits so many of the beats from that series that I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that the director based the story in part on that very series. Anyone who enjoyed that podcast will get a kick out of this movie. Listen to it, then watch the movie again and you will see it totally differently.
age 13+

Has educational value.

World War I, doesn't have a lot of movies about it, and the few I have seen have a very limited scope (the Greta Garbo Mata Hari picture. Or Nicholas and Alexandra, for example). I like how this film puts all of the events in order and explains how they affected one another. Obviously quite a lot of it is made up, but suggesting to teens they look it up and learn more about what was true and what wasn't could give this movie real educational value. There is some questionable material in it. Mostly, the whole sequence where a father asks his son to seduce Rasputin. But parents watching this with their kids could discuss that afterward. Also, last quarter or so of the movie isn't very interesting because it abandons the history lesson in favor of the good spies versus the bad spies, and frankly the main villain is very uninteresting. I wish educational value were a category on this site. I think a lot of content that would be unacceptable as pure entertainment is acceptable in an educational context.

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say (5 ):
Kids say (11 ):

Despite a clever, history-subverting idea and a few great action sequences, this overlong, mostly needless prequel flails all over the place, pretending to decry violence but actually thriving on it. Directed and co-written, like its predecessors, by Matthew Vaughn, the The King's Man story twists are actually cleverly silly, incorporating bits of history and swirling them around, Forrest Gump-style, into something new. For example, Tom Hollander plays King George, Kaiser Wilhelm, and Tsar Nicholas, who are all -- ahem -- cousins. Vladimir Lenin and Mata Hari also show up jn the mix, and Ifans' Rasputin is a totally unpredictable creation who lends some energy to the movie -- and especially to his balletic fight scene during a lavish Christmas ball.

The final showdown, with Orlando trying to parachute onto a plateau, becoming trapped in the wing of his plane, and then just missing the edge of the cliff, is a true white-knuckler, smoothly helmed by Vaughn. But that's a long ways into The King's Man. Too much of the movie's two-hour-plus running time veers into insincere attempts to drive home the nonviolence theme, including scenes of WWI that are simply not funny; instead -- as Peter Jackson's incredible They Shall Not Grow Old demonstrated -- they were really deadly serious. Not to mention the aftermath of those scenes, which fall into weepy pathos and creates a dead spot in the center of the movie. Ultimately, this film that's seemingly devoted to cleverness, action, and fun finally has too little of any of those to make it worth the effort.

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