[SPOILERS for Kingsman: The Secret Service ahead.]
Kingsman: The Secret Service, the latest big screen adaptation of Kick-Ass co-creator Mark Millar's comic book work, has already done well enough at the box office (following its U.S. debut last weekend) to get people wondering if a sequel will be moving forward after all. The movie has generally earned the respect of critics and general filmgoers alike, for its cheeky and frequently subversive take on the spy genre (as well as for its stylized action sequences and filmmaking choices).
There is, however, one element of the film that has not gone over so well: the final joke in the movie, as a number of our staff members discussed earlier this week during the Screen Rant Underground Podcast. Kingsman co-screenwriter/director Matthew Vaughn has since then addressed such criticisms, while defending the choice to leave said ending gag in the final cut.
To refresh your memory (assuming those reading this have already seen Kingsman), during the film's climax the street punk-turned sophisticated super-spy Gary 'Eggsy' Unwin (Taron Egerton) encounters the captured Princess Tilde (Hanna Alström) in her prison cell. She then promises that, if he can save the world and come back to rescue her... then Eggsy will be allowed to have anal sex with her (which he later does). In typical Millar fashion, the joke is a vulgar, yet winking, riff on a trope: here, James Bond movies and their habit of ending with Bond bedding an attractive woman after saving the day.
Vaughn defended the joke on similar grounds, when asked about the gag during an interview with EW:
If you’ve noticed, this is my Spinal Tap of trying to find 11 with every scene. What happened there was I studied all the old movies, especially the Bond ones. At the end of Moonraker, he’s floating around in space on Dr. Goodhead, and they say, “Bond is attempting reentry.” In The Spy Who Loved Me, he says he’s “keeping the British end up.” The innuendo is pretty strong and always comes from the men. I just thought it would be great to turn it on its head by having the woman say it. I actually think it’s empowering. Some bloody feminists are accusing me of being a misogynist. I’m like, “It couldn’t be further from the truth.” It’s a celebration of women and the woman being empowered in a weird way in my mind, which will cause a big argument again I’m sure. It’s meant to be tongue-in-cheek and crazy.
Well, maybe not quite as crazy as how, in Kingsman, that sodomy joke is followed closely thereafter by (not kidding) a title card where Vaughn dedicates the film to his mother.
The controversy surrounding Kingsman's end joke brings to mind similar complaints prompted by the first Kick-Ass movie adaptation; which, as it were, is Vaughn and Kingsman co-screenwriter Jane Goldman's previous adaptation of a Miliar comic book property. In both cases Millar and the filmmakers adapting his work were seemingly aiming to offer an ironic take on a genre that's prone to juvenile storytelling. Problem is, walking the fine line between being a satire of crass entertainment and, well, being just crass entertainment, isn't always easy - and there's a fair argument to be made that Millar and, in turn, Vaughn/Goldman tend to cross that line more often than they mean to (the Kingsman ending joke being one such occasion).
Vaughn, for his part, doesn't see that joke in Kingsman as being any more problematic than anything else that happens in the film - be it "exploding heads, massacres in church, swearing, [or] people being cut in half," among other things. The filmmaker also argued that had he gone with, say, the joke as presented in the movie's green-band trailer, it wouldn't have had the same impact:
What you do is you say, “If you save the world, I’ll give you more than a kiss.” That’s it. Then he goes back for it and shuts the door. That’s it. Then you go, “Yeah, that’s okay.” For the 20 percent who were offended by it, there are 80 percept who are rolling around laughing so hard. Those 20 percent of people just need to lighten up a little bit. It’s about pushing boundaries and having a bit of fun. It’s not meant to be offensive, and it’s definitely not misogynist or any attack on women. That’s for sure.
Another thing to consider: throughout Kingsman, Eggsy proves that he can be a good-mannered person; he's protective of his mother and baby sister, befriends his fellow Kingsman recruit Roxy (Sophie Cookson) without any ulterior motive, and stands up to aristocrats who look down upon members of the working class. So, Eggsy's actions at the end of the film don't even make a whole lot of sense (or any sense, really), seeing as his personal journey through the movie involves him becoming a true gentleman - not some boy who would immediately accept an offer for anal sex, just because it's from a woman he finds attractive (a woman who's been held captive for some time, no less).
That said, there's many a person who very much enjoyed Kingsman overall, despite not being a fan of the movie's last joke (including, as mentioned before, the SRU crew). So who knows; if Kingsman 2 happens, maybe Vaughn will vie and find a way to wrap up the story on a witty, funny note - but one that doesn't also seem to think that a spoof of a James Bond movie ending = a cruder version of a James Bond movie ending. Audiences will probably do just fine without the butt joke, next time.
Kingsman: The Secret Service is now playing in theaters.