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The King's Man Reviews Have Arrived, Read What Critics Are Saying About The Kingsman Prequel

Ralph Fiennes stars in The King's Man.
(Image credit: 20th Century Studios)

After seven release date changes, The King’s Man is finally getting its day in theaters, and the reviews are in. The Matthew Vaughn-directed prequel will take audiences back to where the Kingsman organization began, a century before the events of 2017’s Kingsman: The Golden Circle. Ralph Fiennes stars in the third installment of the Kingsman franchise as the Duke of Oxford, alongside Harris Dickinson, Gemma Arterton, Djimon Hounsou and Stanley Tucci. 

The red-band trailer seemed to promise plenty of the wit and violence that has attracted fans to the series, but what did the critics have to say? We’ll start with the CinemaBlend review, as our own Mike Reyes gave the film 4 out of 5 stars, noting that while The King’s Man takes a slightly more serious tone than its predecessors, the film still brings plenty of antics and cheeky charm. 

With a story that includes everything from a sword fight set to a Tchikovsky mixtape, humor at the expense of the very real lusts of Grigori Rasputin (Rhys Ifans), and even the inclusion of what’s best described as goat parkour, The King’s Man doesn’t take itself too seriously. Balancing its tone even handedly, this prequel goes a long way towards forming the Kingsman universe that Matthew Vaughn and his co-conspirators first introduced to audiences in 2014.

Hoai-Tran Bui of SlashFilm rated the movie 5 out of 10, finding problems with its tone. The film’s somber use of real historical events, including World War I, clashed with the comic book-like hyperviolence. And while “weird” was likely part the goal, it didn’t hit the mark in its intended way.

The King's Man loses the tongue-in-cheek satire of the first two films — whose veneer of satire was already thin to begin with — making its moments of outrageous comedy all the weirder. How can a movie that adopts the grim tone of a World War I movie also feature a scene where Rhys Ifans' hedonistic Rasputin licks Ralph Fiennes' leg then twirls around with a knife like some kind of deranged supervillain? The King's Man does, but whether it does that well is another question.

Anna Smith of Deadline agreed that The King’s Man was tonally confusing but had its good moments. The dramatic wartime scenes effected palpable grief, and Rhys Ifans’s Rasputin was “gloriously theatrical,” but other aspects were either confusing or underdeveloped.

This blend of serious war film, boys’ own adventure and preposterous comedy has its moments, but it’s a strange brew that ultimately falls a little flat.

Vikram Murthi of IndieWire agreed with the other critics that the prequel brought a more serious tone than the other two Kingsman movies. He graded the film a C, saying he wouldn’t have minded the second half’s devolution to an “overstuffed shoot-em-up” if the action sequences hadn’t been so "dull."

its political incoherence could be forgiven or at least mitigated if The King’s Man wasn’t generally so dull. Save for an extended fight sequence against Rasputin, which effectively mixes dance and fight choreography, and a suspenseful scene when Orlando scales a mountain, the action sequences in The King’s Man are predictable and unengaging.

Frank Scheck of The Hollywood Reporter, on the other hand, found a “lurid fascination” in the movie’s revisionist history and a lot to like. even if parts of the first half suffered from lethargic pacing.

Like many origin stories, The King’s Man has slow spots and pacing issues. The first half in particular takes a while to get going, but the attention to historical detail and the marvelous production values compensate for the occasional lethargy. The revelation of the mysterious mastermind’s true identity proves underwhelming, as if the filmmakers were overly determined to include a nemesis of Bond villain status.

It seems like the critics — like the early reactions — are split. They all seem to agree there is a tonal shift in this movie that is more serious than the previous two, but where the disagreement lies is how successful the film pulled off the series’ signature humor against the backdrop of World War I.

You’ll be able to form your own opinion on the prequel when The King’s Man hits theaters December 22. And be sure to take a look at our 2022 New Movie Release Schedule to start planning for next year.

Mom of two and hard-core '90s kid. Unprovoked, will quote Friends in any situation. Can usually be found rewatching The West Wing instead of doing anything productive.