Film Crit Hulk Smash: KINGSMAN And The Maybe-Genius Of Non-Winking Satire

Hulk on the value of making the joke really, really obvious.

1. THE SINGULARITY

HULK HAS, WELL, WHAT MANY PEOPLE WOULD CONSIDER TO BE, A REALLY WEIRD OPINION ABOUT MATTHEW VAUGHN... AND THAT IS THAT HE MIGHT BE ONE OF THE MOST INTERESTING FILMMAKERS ON THE PLANET.

IT IS AN OPINION THAT HULK HAS COME TO RATHER SLOWLY AND CAUTIOUSLY. BECAUSE THE VALIDATION OF SUCH OPINION RESTS IN THE HANDS OF HIS SURPRISINGLY COMPLICATED AND DOWNRIGHT BRAZEN APPROACH. HULK FIRST SAW A FEW SHADES OF THIS INTENT IN ALL OF GUY RITCHIE'S EARLY (AND BEST) WORK. BUT THEN IT CAME THROUGH IN VAUGHN'S FIRST DIRECTORIAL EFFORTS LAYER CAKE AND STARDUST; A FEW FLIPPANT SIGNATURES OF A MAN WHO KNEW HOW TO PLAY WITH SOME DELICIOUS IRONY. BUT IT WASN'T UNTIL KICK-ASS THAT HULK BEGAN TO SEE THIS WEIRD, SINGULAR APPROACH FOR WHAT IT WAS. SURE, IT WAS CRUDE, BUT THAT CRUDENESS HAD PURPOSE. AND EVEN THOUGH X-MEN: FIRST CLASS PROVIDED A LATERAL MOVE WHEN IT COMES TO THE DEVELOPMENT OF THIS OPINION (AS THE FILM IS MOSTLY A CASE OF TURD-POLISHING A RUSHED STORY INTO SOMETHING RESEMBLING A FUN MOVIE), THAT DIDN'T END UP BEING ALL THAT IMPORTANT. BECAUSE IT WASN'T UNTIL KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE THAT HULK WAS TRULY READY TO BACK UP THIS RIDICULOUS CLAIM.

SO HERE IS WHY HULK THINKS MATTHEW VAUGHN IS SO INTERESTING: HE IS TOEING A RAZOR-THIN LINE OF MAKING JET-BLACK NON-WINKING SATIRES, THAT BOTH TOTALLY BACK-UP THE FACT THAT THEY'RE SATIRES ON THE SEMIOTIC LEVEL WITH PRETTY RESPONSIBLE CONTEXTUALIZATION, BUT DO SO WITHOUT ANY FORM OF GENRE TRANSCENDENCE. MEANING HE IS STILL FULLY EMBRACING THE CORE POP BLOCKBUSTER AESTHETIC, WHICH ACTUALLY SERVES TO HELP RAM THOSE SATIRICAL POINTS HOME, BUT ALSO POSSIBLY ALLOWS THE SOMETIMES-TROUBLING BYPRODUCTS TO DAMN THE WHOLE THING ANYWAY... MAYBE.

PUT SIMPLY: THERE MIGHT BE NO OTHER POP FILMMAKER WHO IS SO GOOD AT HAVING HIS CAKE AND EATING IT TOO.

CONSIDER THE FILM ITSELF. KINGSMAN IS, ON ONE LEVEL, ONE OF THE GLOSSIEST AND SMOOTHEST PIECES OF BLOCKBUSTER FLUFF IN YEARS. IT'S A SWISS-CLOCK CONFECTION. OR MORE TO THE SUBJECT MATTER, A FINELY TUNED EUROPEAN SPORTS CAR. IT KNOWS PERFECTLY HOW TO EXECUTE THOSE HALLMARKS OF HOLLYWOOD ENTERTAINMENT: FLASH. FRILLS. AND EVEN SOME PROPULSIVE CHARACTER-CENTRIC GUSTO.

AND YET ON ANOTHER LEVEL, ANYONE WHO IS IN TUNE TO PROGRESSIVE SOCIAL NORMS IS CONFRONTED WITH A LITANY OF UGLY MOMENTS THAT ARE PRESENT THROUGHOUT THE FILM'S RUNNING TIME; MOMENTS THAT OFTEN MIGHT SEEM TO GO "UNPUNISHED" WITHIN THE WORLD OF THE NARRATIVE AND MAYBE EVEN SEEM AS IF THE MOVIE SUPPORTS THEM WITH CACKLING GLEE. ALL OF WHICH JUST MAKES IT EASILY SEEM LIKE IT'S ALL AN UNABASHED AND RECKLESS INDULGENCE OF CRUDENESS ITSELF.

BUT THERE ON THE THIRD LEVEL, THERE IS STILL A FILM DIRECTLY CONTEXTUALIZING EACH AND EVERY ONE OF THESE CRUDE ACTIONS, THUS CREATING A FILM WITH SURPRISINGLY ARTICULATE SEMIOTIC MESSAGES ABOUT WHAT PEOPLE SEEM TO THINK "IS CRUDE" WHILE REVEALING THE NATURE OF HUMAN KIND'S "TRUE CRUDENESS," ALONG WITH EVEN MORE SURPRISINGLY NUANCED IDEAS ABOUT WHERE THIS KIND OF HORRIFIC INDULGENT BEHAVIOR MAY ACTUALLY BRING US AS A CULTURE.

THE EXECUTION OF THESE THREE LEVELS REVEALS A DIRECTOR WHO USES CRUDITY AS A PLAYGROUND, BUT HE ALSO UNDERSTANDS THE EFFECT OF CRUDITY AND CRUELTY ON HUMAN BEINGS. BETTER YET, HE ALSO SEEMS TO KNOW HOW THEY FUNCTION IN CINEMA. AND MAYBE THE ONLY THING HE DOESN'T KNOW IS HOW NOT TO GO THERE. OR MAYBE HE'S JUST AWARE OF HOW WE AUDIENCES HYPOCRITICALLY OR EVEN WANTONLY EMBRACE THE ALLURE OF THOSE CRUDE THINGS ANYWAY AND SEEKS TO COMMENT ON IT. AND MAYBE, JUST MAYBE, HULK WOULD ARGUE THAT VAUGHN CAN EXECUTE THE CINEMATIC MESSAGES WITH A CLARITY THAT SOME WOULD ONLY RESERVE FOR "OBVIOUS" OR MORE SOCIALLY-ACCEPTED GENIUSES LIKE MARTIN SCORSESE.... HULK CAN HEAR SOME PEOPLE NOW: "COMPARE MATTHEW VAUGHN TO SCORSESE!??!? ARE YOU INSANE?!?!"

WELL, HULK HAS BEEN TALKING IN ALL CAPS THIRD PERSON FOR FOUR YEARS, BUT THAT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THIS.

NO, PEOPLE'S PROBLEM WITH HULK'S COMPARISON IS THE DIFFICULTY OF HOW OFTEN WE CONFUSE THE SURFACE OF THE THING WITH THE PURPOSE OF THE THING. AND MR. SCORSESE IS OBVIOUSLY AIMING FOR A DIFFERENT KIND OF ADULT-CENTRIC AND "SERIOUS-MINDED" AUDIENCE, BUT HULK WOULD ARGUE THAT DOESN'T MEAN AS MUCH AS WE THINK IT DOES. BECAUSE THE GREAT THING ABOUT MOVIES IS THAT THEY ARE RESULTS OF INTENT, NOT INTENT ITSELF. MEANING HULK IS ONLY TRYING TO ARGUE VAUGHN AND SCORSESE SEEM TO HAVE VERY SIMILAR INTENT, THEY JUST USE VERY DIFFERENT LANGUAGES TO GET THERE - AND OBVIOUSLY, AS SOCIETY WOULD ARGUE FOR US, ACCOMPLISH THEIR AIMS TO DIFFERENT DEGREE OF SUCCESS. NONETHELESS, MANY HAVE TROUBLE SEEING VAUGHN AS "THAT KIND OF GUY." HECK, EVERY TIME HULK BRINGS UP HIS NAME IN HOLLYWOOD CIRCLES HULK GETS A VARIETY OF STORIES THAT EITHER CONFIRM OR VIGOROUSLY DENY THE SUPPOSITION. THERE ARE PEOPLE WHO SWEAR HE'S A GENIUS. THERE ARE PEOPLE WHO SWEAR THE EXACT OPPOSITE. AND EVEN IN INTERVIEWS HULK SEES SHADES OF THE GUY CAPABLE OF MAKING SUCH REFINED WORK AND THEN HULK SEES SHADES OF THE GUY THAT IS CAPABLE OF THE VERY BLUNT, REMEDIAL CRUDENESS THAT PEOPLE ACCUSE HIS FILMS OF HAVING.

BUT THAT DOESN'T CHANGE WHAT HULK SEES AS THE OBVIOUS END RESULT OF HIS WORK:

THESE FILMS MIGHT BE THE ONLY HONEST BLOCKBUSTERS.

MEANING THEY ARE AT ONCE LOVINGLY-MADE PULP, BUT THEY REFUSE TO PULL PUNCHES ABOUT THE UGLY MESSAGES THEY CONTAIN. THEY ARE NOT CLEAR ATTEMPTS AT GENRE TRANSCENDENCE - THEY ARE MORE VIOLENT, SWINDLING "FUCK YOU"S TO A POTENTIAL AUDIENCE, NARRATIVES REEKING OF TAYLOR SWIFT-LEVEL CATCHINESS WITH LOKI-LIKE INTENT. PERHAPS ONLY BUILT FOR THE PEOPLE WHO CAN PARSE ALL OF IT AND STILL STOMACH THE ENSUING COMPLICATIONS. BUT WHETHER OR NOT YOU ENJOY THEM, HULK CAN ONLY PROCEED TO ARGUE THAT THEY ARE STILL THAT MOST WONDERFUL THING THAT A CRITIC LOOKS FOR...

THEY ARE SINGULAR.

2. THE PROBLEM WITH INNUENDO

SO HULK'S PRETTY SURE THAT HULK'S TALKED ABOUT THIS BEFORE, BUT NORM MACDONALD HAS THIS THEORY THAT INNUENDO IS ONE OF THE WORST FORMS OF COMEDY BECAUSE IT'S INHERENTLY DISHONEST. NOW, HULK DOESN'T ACTUALLY FULLY AGREE WITH THIS THEORY (AS GOOD INNUENDO CAN BE A BEAUTIFUL THING) BUT HULK LOVES HOW IT EXPLAINS THE COMPLETE VALIDITY TO HIS SPECIFIC BLUNT APPROACH TO COMEDY. TO EXPLAIN SAID THEORY, NORM TOLD THE FOLLOWING STORY ON AN OLD BILL SIMMONS PODCAST, ONE WHICH HULK WILL NOW PARAPHRASE BADLY:

NORM TOLD THIS STORY ABOUT BEING WITH HIS MOM WHILE SHE WAS WATCHING SOME POPULAR SITCOM (HULK THINKS IT WAS WILL AND GRACE? HULK HASN'T BEEN ABLE TO FIND IT) AND SOMEONE MADE A CLEAR SEXUAL INNUENDO ALONG THE LINES OF "I'm going to put my baguette between your biscuits!" OR SOMETHING TO THAT EFFECT, AND HIS MOTHER, WHO WAS EVER THE STAUNCH PARAGON OF DECENCY, PROCEEDED TO GIGGLE AT THE JOKE.

NORM REALIZED WHAT WAS HAPPENING AND, OF COURSE, IMMEDIATELY DUG INTO HER, "Mom! You laughed at that? He said he wanted to fuck her in the ass!"

HER RESPONSE: "Oh, Norm don't say such things!"

NOW. THIS SITUATION BRINGS UP THE OBVIOUS NATURE OF CRUDITY, RIGHT? BECAUSE OF COURSE NORM SWEARING WOULD SET OFF HIS MOTHER'S DISLIKE OF BLUE LANGUAGE. BUT YOU CAN'T HELP BUT TURN AROUND AND ASK WHAT IS HAPPENING ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE EQUATION. YOU HAVE TO ASK "HOW IS THE INNUENDO FUNCTIONING HERE?" BECAUSE NORM WAS RIGHT TO POINT OUT THAT THE INNUENDO JOKE AND THE BLUE JOKE ARE ESSENTIALLY THE SAME THING, RIGHT? SO WHY DOES ONLY ONE OF THEM MAKE HER LAUGH? WHY DOES THE OTHER GRAVELY INSULT HER SENSIBILITIES ? THE CONTRADICTION OBVIOUSLY GETS US TO ASK WHAT KIND OF VALUE AND PURPOSE THAT INNUENDO EVEN HAS.

SO LET'S START WITH THE MOST OBVIOUS QUESTION: WHY DOES INNUENDO MAKE US FEEL LIKE SOMETHING IS OKAY TO SAY?

WELL, HULK WOULD ARGUE THAT INNUENDO IS AT ITS BEST WHEN YOU CAN'T ACTUALLY SAY THOSE THINGS. WHEN YOU REALLY ARE BUMPING UP AGAINST THE RAILS OF POLITE SOCIETY AND SOCIAL MORES. HULK THINKS BACK TO THE BRILLIANT HAYS CODE FILMMAKERS, WHO HAD TO ABSOLUTELY CONTEXTUALIZE LURID SITUATIONS THROUGH OTHER MEANS THAN THE LURIDNESS ITSELF. THIS IS THE OBVIOUS VALUE OF INNUENDO: IT MAKES EVERYTHING "PALATABLE" FOR THE MASSES AND THUS OFTEN A GREAT WAY TO SNEAK FUN IDEAS INTO THE WORLD THAT CONSIDERS THEM TOO DAMAGING. AND AS SUCH, HULK ADORES IT.

BUT ON THE FLIPSIDE, HULK WOULD ARGUE THAT WELL-AIMED BLUNTNESS HAS JUST AS MUCH OF A PLACE. SOMETIMES A JOKE WITH ALL THE NUANCE OF TANK CAN BE EQUALLY WELCOME BECAUSE IT IS ALL ABOUT PLAYING WITH EXPECTATIONS. IT'S ABOUT THE RANGE OF REACTIONS. TO USE THE LANGUAGE OF DOOR TO DOOR SALESMEN: "IT'S A TOE IN THE DOOR OR A DOOR IN THE FACE." IT'S ALL ABOUT THE PURPOSE OF WHAT YOU'RE SAYING AND WHAT SENSIBILITIES YOU ARE TRYING TO TAKE DOWN.

BUT IF THE INNUENDO AND THE BLUNTNESS ARE ESSENTIALLY ABOUT THE SAME IDEA, BEYOND THE MERE POLITENESS OF VERBIAGE, WHY SHOULD ONE BE ACCEPTABLE ON A PURE IDEA-LEVEL WHILE THE OTHER IS NOT? IS IT LITERALLY JUST A MATTER OF PROTOCOL?

TO PUT IT MORE CLEARLY, WHY SHOULD INNUENDO BE THE ONLY ACCEPTABLE WAY NORM'S MOTHER TALKS ABOUT / APPROVES OF ANAL SEX?

THE POINT BEING THAT, WHEN IT COMES RIGHT DOWN TO IT, IT REALLY SHOULDN'T BE THE ONLY WAY SHE DOES. PUTTING SOME CLEVER DRESSING ON SOMETHING DOESN'T INHERENTLY MAKE IT "BETTER." SURE, WE GET TO SEE THE DISPLAY OF WIT FROM SOMEONE WHO MAY BE TRYING TO POKE AT THE SEAMS OF ACCEPTABILITY. BUT JUST AS INNUENDO IS A VEHICLE FOR SNEAKING IN SUBVERSIVENESS - IT ALSO HAS AN UNFORTUNATE HABIT OF DISGUISING TRUE HUMAN UGLINESS, STUFF THAT'S GENUINELY MESSED UP, OR EVEN HELPS FOSTER AN ESSENTIAL "DISTRUTH."

MEANING INNUENDO, LIKE ALL THINGS, CAN HAVE A REALLY UGLY DARK SIDE.

LET'S PUT IT LIKE THIS: WHAT IF THAT CHARACTER IN THE SITCOM SIMPLY WENT UP TO THE OTHER CHARACTER AND LITERALLY SAID "I"m going to fuck you in the ass!" - WELL, SUDDENLY THE SUPER RAPE-Y INTENTION OF THE LINE BECOMES MORE CLEAR. BUT IF YOU START TALKING ABOUT THE SAME ACTION IN TERMS OF BREAD PRODUCTS AND PUNS, WE MISS THAT SEXUALLY AGGRESSIVE SENTIMENT. MEANING THE PUN PUTS THE ATTENTION ON THE CLEVERNESS OF THE JOKE AND NOT THE ACTUAL STATEMENT OF THE JOKE. IF YOU CAN STEALTH IN SURFACE-NESS, YOU CAN ALSO STEALTH IN MENACE. WHICH JUST LEAVES YOU HOLDING WHATEVER IT IS THAT MAY BE OBJECTIONABLE.

THINK OF HOW MANY PG-13 MOVIES COME OUT EVERY SUMMER AND DON'T SHOW BOOBS OR SAY MORE THAN ONE "FUCK," BUT GET AWAY WITH THEMATICALLY SAYING OR UPHOLDING THE MOST HORRIBLE, SEXIST SHIT IMAGINABLE - ALL BECAUSE IT'S ALL ESSENTIALLY THRIVING ON CINEMATIC INNUENDO. SHOW A REALISTIC PORTRAIT OF A WOMAN OWNING HER OWN SEXUALITY AND YOU GET PEOPLE UP IN ARMS. BUT MICHAEL BAY SHOWS HOT GIRLS BENDING OVER CARS AND THEN KILLS A VAGINA ALIEN AND WE JUST EAT OUR NEXT HANDFUL OF POPCORN. SO YES, INNUENDO CAN BE A MARVELOUS WAY TO SNEAK IN SOME DELICIOUS CONTRABAND, BUT IT CAN ALSO BE A HORRIBLE WAY TO PROPAGATE SOME HEINOUS SHIT.

MORE TO NORM'S POINT, UNLIKE BLUNTNESS, THE REAL PROBLEM JUST MIGHT BE THAT IT DOESN'T FEEL ALL THAT HONEST. AND IF THERE IS ONE STAPLE TO ALL OF HIS COMEDY, IT IS THE MUCH-NEEDED ART OF BEING PLAINSPOKEN. WHICH ISN'T TO SAY THAT HE LACKS CLEVERNESS, JUST THAT HE'S CLEVER ENOUGH TO RECOGNIZE THE INHERENT NATURE OF THE BASE-LEVEL FUNNINESS. HE ONCE PUT THE ETHOS BRILLIANTLY: "I always told everybody the perfect joke would be where the setup and punch line were identical." AND WITH NORM'S WORK, THE CLOSER THE SET-UP CAN GET TO THE PUNCH-LINE, THE BETTER. THIS MEANT THAT SO OFTEN HIS JOKES WERE LESS ABOUT THE GOING WHERE YOU WOULDN'T EXPECT THE JOKE TO GO AND INSTEAD EXECUTING THE ART OF DOUBLING DOWN ON EXACTLY WHERE YOU THOUGHT THE JOKE WAS GOING.

TO WIT, HERE ARE A FEW EXAMPLES:

"You know, with Hitler, the more I learn about that guy, the more I don't care for him."

"Many people are skeptical about the marriage of Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie Presley. They say, Lisa Marie is more of a sit at home type, while Michael Jackson is more of a homosexual pedophile."

"The state of Michigan's legislature has just passed a law allowing the blind to hunt deer. The biggest supporters of the new law? THE DEER."

"O.J. Simpson did not spend Mothers Day with his children. When asked about it he replied, 'Duh! Because I killed their mother!' "

YOU WILL NOTE HOW SPECIFICALLY THESE PUNCHLINES SLAM HOME THE VERY THING YOUR MIND IS THINKING. MEANING THESE ARE ALL ABOUT HIGHLIGHTING THE INTENDED OBSERVATIONS AND PREYING ON YOUR EXPECTATION OF NUANCE OR EVEN CLEVERNESS. INSTEAD, YOU GET THE BLUNTNESS. THEY DOUBLE-DOWN ON EXACTLY WHAT YOU ARE THINKING TO HIGHLIGHT THE OBVIOUS HILARITY OF THE IDEA ITSELF. THIS IS THE WAY NORM ENGAGES COMEDY. AND AS FAR AS HIS VOICE AND VIEWPOINT GO, SURE, HULK WOULD DISAGREE WITH A FEW OF HIS PERSPECTIVES, MAYBE EVEN A LOT OF THEM, BUT WHEN HE'S GETTING AT SOMETHING HULK ALSO SEES AS A TRUTH OR A PIECE OF DELICIOUS IRONY, HULK WOULD ARGUE THERE MIGHT BE NO ONE BETTER.

AND DEEPLY TIED TO NORM'S ENTIRE APPROACH IS ONE OF THE MOST REVEALING QUOTES HE HAS TO OFFER. ONE THAT SO MUCH ACADEMIA REFUSES TO EVER ACCEPT OR EVEN ENGAGE...

NORM: "I think clever people think poor people are stupid."

THAT MAY SEEM LIKE AN OVERSIMPLIFICATION TO YOU, BUT IT'S A VIEWPOINT THAT HULK HAS REALIZED IS GODDAMN FUCKING EVERYWHERE. IT SOAKS ITS WAY INTO JUST ABOUT HALF THE ARTICLES HULK READS IN A GIVEN DAY (ESPECIALLY REGARDING POLITICS). AND AS WEIRDLY DISGUSTING AS THE IDEA IS, IT JUST HIGHLIGHTS HOW WE ARE BEHOLDEN TO THE APPEARANCE OF CLEVERNESS. AND IT SHOWS EXACTLY HOW WE FALL FOR THE INNUENDO. WE WANT TO BE THE ONES WHO "GET IT" WHILE ONLY FLIRTING WITH (OR BARELY ACKNOWLEDGING) OUR MOST BASE AND COMMON SELVES. AND AS A RESULT WE PROPAGATE THE WORSHIP OF MERE DECORUM WITHOUT UNDERSTANDING THE REAL NATURE OF GRACE AND KINDNESS UNDERNEATH. IT'S PRECISELY WHY PEOPLE THINK THEY CAN BE JERKS AS LONG AS THEY GO TO CHURCH EVERY SUNDAY. IT'S WHY PEOPLE HATE WHENEVER HULK WRITES ABOUT TRAGEDIES OR "SOMETHING SERIOUS" WHEN THE HULK STUFF IS "JUST A STUPID GIMMICK." IT'S WHY WE LAUGH ABOUT BUTT FUCKING WHEN WE INSIST THAT WE DON'T THINK BUTT FUCKING IS FUNNY (AND SORRY, BUT THE TERM "BUTT FUCKING" IS TWO AMAZING WORDS). BUT THE GREATEST CONTEMPORARY COMEDIANS? THE ONES LIKE NORM OR LOUIS CK OR AMY SCHUMER OR HANNIBAL BURRESS? THEY FORCE US TO ACKNOWLEDGE THE DISCONNECT. THEY DESTROY THE BRIDGE OF INNUENDO. AND IT'S NOT THAT THEY ARE "BRINGING US DOWN TO THEIR LEVEL..."

IT'S THAT THEY MAKE US ADMIT OUR OWN.

AND BELIEVE IT OR NOT, ALL THIS TALK OF CLASS, INNUENDO, CRASSNESS AND EVEN ANAL SEX WILL END UP BEING CRITICAL LATER.

3. THE NEED OF KNOWING LAUGHTER

OKAY STAND-UP COMEDY IS ONE THING, BUT HOW DOES THIS INNUENDO / BLUNTNESS DYNAMIC TRANSLATE TO THE PRESENTATION OF "JOKES" IN CINEMA?

ADMITTEDLY, UNDERSTANDING THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE TWO LANGUAGES IS CRITICAL. BECAUSE CINEMATIC HUMOR, JUST LIKE EVERYTHING IN MOVIES, IS FILTERED BETWEEN LAYERS AND LAYERS OF INTENT, FEEDING INTO THE STORY'S QUALITATIVE STORY RESULTS, AND EVEN THE STYLISTIC EFFECT. AND WHEN YOU PUT THEM TOGETHER IT INHERENTLY CREATES A SPECIFIC KIND OF CONTEXT. BUT JUST LIKE ANY COMEDY, IT IS STILL ONE THAT IS THEN ULTIMATELY DEPENDENT ON THE SENSE OF HUMOR OF THE AUDIENCE. HULK OF COURSE UNDERSTANDS THAT LAST ONE VARIES FOR MANY, BUT IT ALSO DEPENDS ON THEM UNDERSTANDING THE CINEMATIC LANGUAGE CUES THAT GET THEM THERE. SO TAKING ALL THIS INTO CONSIDERATION, WHAT MAKES SOMETHING CRUDE OKAY TO LAUGH AT IN A MOVIE?

LET'S START WITH THE AUSTIN POWERS MOVIES.

IN THIS FILM SERIES (WHICH, LIKE KINGSMAN, IS ALSO RIFFING ON THE BOND-ESQUE SEXY SPY ADVENTURES OF YESTERYEAR), MR. AUSTIN POWERS PARADES AROUND AS A RIDICULOUS BRITISH LOTHARIO, UNDERMINING MOST OF HIS EQUALLY-SILLY SPY DUTIES, MOSTLY IN THE NAME OF WANTING TO SHAG VARIOUS LADIES. THE FILM MAKES ALL THIS REALLY, REALLY OVERT. MEANING THEY TAKE THE BOND FILMS (EVER CLOSE TO THE JOKE THEMSELVES) AND SIMPLY NUDGE THEM ONE STEP FURTHER WITH FEMALE NAMING CONVENTIONS LIKE "ALOTTA VAGINA." AND AUSTIN, MEANT TO BE A THROWBACK SEX SYMBOL, IS CONVERTED INTO SOMETHING COMPLETELY OVER THE TOP: ROTTEN TEETH, WIG-CLAD AND ADORNING A SHAG CARPETED SCRAP OF CHEST HAIR, IT ALL MAKES THE JOKE REALLY OBVIOUS (IT'S BASICALLY AN SNL OUTFIT). AND EVEN WHEN AUSTIN TALKS ABOUT SHAGGING LADIES, IT'S ALWAYS VERY SILLY AND AWKWARD AND HE MUGS FOR THE CAMERA. HIS ENTIRE PERFORMANCE IS A WINK. HECK, THE MOVIE ITSELF IS A WINK. DOUBLE-HECK, THE MOVIE IS ONE OF THOSE LONG EXAGGERATED OLD-TIMEY WINKS THAT YOU SAW ON THE VAUDEVILLE STAGE.

BUT AS A RESULT OF SAID WINKING, EVERYONE LAUGHS AND GETS IT.

IT'S MAKING THE SATIRE UNBELIEVABLY CLEAR. AND BY MAKING AUSTIN PRETTY MUCH ALWAYS THE BUTT OF THE JOKE, THESE FILMS ARE ALWAYS PROPERLY CONTEXTUALIZING THE RIDICULOUSNESS. NO ONE IS TAKING THIS LITERALLY. NO ONE ACCUSES "ALOTTA VAGINA" OF BEING EXPLOITATIVE, REALLY (UNLESS SOMEONE IS MAKING THE ARGUMENT THAT ANY SATIRE IS INHERENTLY EXPLOITATIVE, WHICH HAS SOME MERIT, BUT IS STILL ANOTHER CONVERSATION WE'LL KIND OF GET TO LATER). BUT IT'S BECAUSE THE CINEMATIC LANGUAGE OF THESE FILMS IS SO DAMN CLEAR THAT ANYTHING LIKE A CHARACTER SHOWING SKIN FOR A JOKE IS COMPLETELY CONTEXTUALIZED. IT'S ALL "GET IT! THEY'RE LIKE THAT CONVENTION IN THE BOND MOVIES!" AND EVEN IF THE SATIRE COULDN'T BE MADE MORE CLEAR, IT ALSO HAS A DELIGHTFULLY PROGRESSIVE SENSE TO EVEN-HANDEDLY THROW MIKE MYERS PASTY, VULNERABLE AND SHAGGY MALE BODY OUT THERE AS MUCH AS HUMANLY POSSIBLE. WHICH IS ALL JUST A WAY OF SAYING THESE FILMS ARE SATIRICALLY RESPONSIBLE AS SHIT.

BUT WHAT HULK REALLY WANTS TO HIGHLIGHT HERE IS THAT SATIRE CLEARLY IS DEPENDENT ON THE IDEA OF "KNOWING LAUGHTER."

THE TRUTH IS THAT ALL HUMOR REALLY ACTUALLY DEPENDS ON THIS. BECAUSE, WELL, YOU SORT OF HAVE TO HAVE YOUR AUDIENCE "GET" THE DAMN JOKE. THAT DOESN'T MEAN THEY HAVE TO EXPLAIN IT, JUST TO LAUGH. FOR IT NEED NOT BE SOME OVERTLY MECHANICAL PROCESS, BUT BASICALLY COMEDY PLAYS WITH ALL YOUR PRE-SET IDEAS AND EXPECTATIONS AND THEN COMMUNICATES AN IDEA TO YOU IN A WAY THAT MAKES YOU LAUGH. MEANING IT MUST BE UNDERSTOOD ON A BASIC LEVEL. AND IN THE CASE OF SATIRE, THAT MEANS UNDERSTANDING STEPHEN COLBERT'S ENTIRE SHOW IS FAKE AND THAT HIS RIDICULOUS CONSERVATIVE BRAVADO IS A JOKE. AND LUCKILY, PRETTY MUCH EVERYONE GETS THE CONTEXT GOING IN. THEY KNOW HE IS MAKING FUN OF CONSERVATIVE BLOWHARD TELEVISION HOSTS.

BUT WHAT ABOUT WHEN SOMEONE DOESN'T KNOW THAT? WELL, NOT ONLY IS THAT SOMEONE MET WITH ACCUSATIONS OF BEING OUT OF TOUCH, BUT IT IS ALSO THE SEEMING DISBELIEF THAT THEY COULD WATCH SOMEONE BEHAVE THAT STRANGELY (AND WITH WINKS ALL OVER THE PLACE) AND BELIEVE IT WAS REAL IN THE SAME WAY THE BLOWHARDS WERE REAL. WHILE MANY MIGHT WORRY THAT SATIRE ONLY PREACHES TO THE CONVERTED, HULK ARGUES THERE IS A VALUE IN GOOD SATIRE BATING PEOPLE INTO ECHOING THE MOST EXTREME VERSIONS OF THEIR DEEP-SEATED VIEWS. AT ITS WORST, IT MAKES PEOPLE FEEL EMBARRASSED FOR MISSING IT. AT BEST, IT FORCES YOU TO REVEAL YOUR BULLSHIT.

SATIRE, OF COURSE, HAS A PROBLEMATIC LOGIC ABOUT IT TOO.

AFTER ALL, THERE ARE PEOPLE WHO WILL MAKE SUPER RACIST VIDEOS WITHOUT A SHRED OF WIT OR POINT OR ANYTHING AND CALL THEM "SATIRE." TO THEM, SATIRE IS JUST A SCATHING JOKE "THEY DON'T REALLY MEAN." BUT HOW ABOUT THOSE HORRIFIC ASSHATS AT THE PENN STATE FRAT THAT ACTUALLY HAD THE GALL TO SAY THEY WERE POSTING PICTURES OF PASSED OUT NUDE WOMEN AS "SATIRE." SO IT SEEMS SOME PEOPLE USE SATIRE (THAT IS, THE COMPLETE LACK OF UNDERSTANDING OF WHAT SATIRE EVEN IS) AS A GET OUT OF JAIL FREE CARD. IN THE AGGRESSOR'S EARS, THE WORD SATIRE JUST ALLOWS THEM TO TURN EVERYTHING INTO A JOKE BECAUSE IT'S "FUNNY" TO THEM... BLURGH. HULK'S PRETTY SURE WE'RE A FEW YEARS AWAY FROM SOMEONE SHOOTING A BUNCH OF PEOPLE AND SAYING THEY WERE SHOOTING THEM IRONICALLY. BUT THE OBVIOUS POINT IS THERE IS A "LIMIT," BUT THAT LIMIT IS UP TO THE LIMITS OF OUR OWN INTERPRETATION AND CONNECTION. BECAUSE THE THINGS DEPICTED CAN BE JUST AS EXPLOITATIVE AS THE STRAIGHT DEPICTION OF THE THING ITSELF. WHICH IS WHY SATIRE IS ALL ABOUT THE WINK, THE CONTEXTUALIZATION, AND THE STATED GOAL OF PURPOSE ALL TO THAT GOAL OF KNOWING LAUGHTER.

WHICH LEADS HULK TO THE CRITICAL QUESTION OF THIS ENTIRE ESSAY: WHAT IF A FILM WAS ABSOLUTELY WINKING IN ALL THE NEEDED CONTEXTUALIZING WAYS, BUT JUST NOT IN THE WAYS THAT MOST PEOPLE ARE GOOD AT RECOGNIZING?

WHAT IF A FILM WAS MAKING ITS MESSAGE ABSOLUTELY 100% CLEAR ON THE TEXTURAL LEVEL, BUT STILL PRESENTED ITSELF AS INDISTINGUISHABLE FROM THE THING IT WAS SATIRIZING? THAT IS TO SAY THAT THE FILM IS WINKING ON THE THEMATIC LEVEL, BUT PROVIDING NO WINKS ON THE TONAL LEVEL. EVEN AS HULK SAYS THIS, PLEASE KEEP IN MIND THERE WERE PEOPLE WHO THOUGHT JONATHAN SWIFT WAS SERIOUS. SO WHAT IF THIS KIND OF FILM DIDN'T TURN TO THE AUDIENCE AND EXPLAIN ITSELF? AND WHAT IF AFTER IT LAID EVERY SINGLE CONTEXT CLUE IT NEEDED AS TO ITS SATIRICAL INTENTION IN THE THEMATIC CONTEXT, THOSE BITS OF EXTRA SURFACE-LEVEL NON-SATIRE ONLY HELPED TO RAM HOME THE POINT? WHAT IF TROLLING A PORTION OF THE AUDIENCE WAS PART OF THAT SAME SATIRICAL INTENT? WHAT IF THIS WAS THE BEST WAY TO MAKE THAT KIND OF MOVIE? WHAT IF IT DID EVERYTHING IT NEEDED TO UPHOLD ITS END OF THE BARGAIN IN CONSTRUCTING THAT MEANING? AND WHAT IF THE FILMMAKER DIDN'T EVEN DO IT ALL COMPLETELY ON PURPOSE?

WELL, HULK WOULD ARGUE IT IS MOST DEFINITELY OKAY TO MAKE A FILM LIKE THAT. AND WOULDN'T YOU KNOW IT, BUT KINGSMAN IS THE FILM THAT DID IT. WHICH JUST MAKES HULK ASK ANOTHER QUESTION...

WHAT IF WE'RE THE ONES NOT HOLDING UP OUR END OF THE BARGAIN?

4. "AND CHICKS FOR FREE."

KINGSMAN OPENS WITH THE SLOW, MELODIC TONES OF THE FANTASTIC SONG "MONEY FOR NOTHING" BY DIRE STRAITS. AS THE SONG COMES INTO EAR, WE ARE SPLASHED WITH A TITLE CARD "MIDDLE EAST 1997" AS TWO MIDDLE EASTERN SOLDIERS LISTEN TO A BOOMBOX FROM THE '80S. AND AS THE FAMOUS GUITAR RIFF KICKS IN, A HELICOPTER SWOOPS INTO FRAME AND BEGINS FIRING MISSILES AT A MIDDLE EASTERN PALACE IN THE DISTANCE. AS THE ROCKETS HIT, THE RUBBLE OF THE PALACE CRASHES TO THE GROUND AND THEN...

THE BOUNCING RUBBLE MORPHS INTO THE CREDITS OF THE MOVIE.

SO YEAH... THIS IS SOMETHING THAT HAPPENS.

IT IS AUDACIOUS. WEIRDLY OFFENSIVE. BUT ALSO DRAPED IN OBVIOUS IRONY. AND MORE IMPORTANTLY, IT'S LETTING YOU KNOW RIGHT AWAY WHAT KIND OF MOVIE THIS IS. THERE COULD NOT BE A MORE BLUNT AND CALLOUS WAY TO ENTER A MOVIE. AND YET, RIGHT FROM THAT CALLOUSNESS THE SONG DROPS OUT AND WE ARE THEN RUSHED INTO AN INCREDIBLY TENSE SCENE WHERE SEVERAL CLAD-IN-BLACK AGENTS INTERROGATE A MIDDLE EASTERN MAN. THE INTERROGATION ITSELF IS SURPRISINGLY COMPLEX. THE TENSE MOMENTS ARE RIFE WITH AMBIGUITY. IT EVEN HAS THE GALL TO HUMANIZE THE TERRORIST IMMEDIATELY. MEANING NO, IT IS NOT STRIVING FOR OBVIOUS BAD GUY-ISM. AND IN THE MIDST OF THE HEATED DISCUSSION, YOU GET HINTS OF ENTIRE STORIES RESTING BEHIND YOU. WHEN YOU LOOK AT WHAT'S HAPPENING HERE, YOU REALIZE THE FILM TOOK YOU FROM GUITAR RIFF TO A COMPLETE RIGHT TURN INTO THE REAL FACE OF MODERN WAR. AND AS SUCH, THE SCENE IS EMBRACING THE FULL UGLINESS OF SUCH A COMPLEX INTERROGATION, AS WELL. THERE ARE NO PULLED PUNCHES. AND AS THE TENSION SWELLS, ONE OF THE AGENTS RECOGNIZES A GRENADE AND SACRIFICES HIMSELF TO SAVE THE OTHER AGENTS.

THE TONE OF THE SCENE QUICKLY TURNS YET AGAIN AS COLIN FIRTH UNMASKS HIMSELF AS ONE OF THE CLAD-IN-BLACK AGENTS. HIS MANNERED BRITISH ACCENT SUDDENLY COMES OUT AND HE REVEALS HIMSELF TO BE INSTANTLY SOULFUL, MOURNING FOR THIS FALLEN AGENT, A MAN WE DON'T EVEN KNOW. ALL THE AGENTS REVEAL THEMSELVES TOO AND SHOW A LEVEL OF POSH DECORUM. IT'S SUCH A RADICAL SHIFT ONCE AGAIN, BUT THE IMPORTANT THING IS THAT WE CAN SEE HOW THIS MAN WAS IMPORTANT TO FIRTH. AND HOW FIRTH FEELS HE FAILED HIM FOR NOT CHECKING THE GRENADE. AND SO FOR THE AGENT'S SACRIFICE, FIRTH GOES OFF TO PASS ALONG A FAVOR OF GRAVE IMPORTANCE...

AND FROM THERE THE FILM BEGINS

* * *

... SO THIS IS A REALLY, REALLY WEIRD OPENING SEQUENCE.

FOR ONE, THERE ARE TONAL JUMPS THAT ARE IMMEDIATE AND ALL OVER THE PLACE. BUT WHAT HULK WOULD ARGUE IS THAT THOSE TONAL JUMPS ARE LASER-FOCUSED, AND SECRETLY TELLING YOU EVERY SINGLE THING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THIS MOVIE.

LET'S STARTS WITH THE SONG.

DIRE STRAIT'S "MONEY FOR NOTHING" PROBABLY STILL REMAINS ONE OF THE MOST MISUNDERSTOOD SONGS IN MODERN MUSIC HISTORY. YOU SHOULD NOTE THAT IT MOSTLY STEMS FROM PEOPLE HALF-LISTENING TO THE SONG AND HEARING WORDS LIKE "FAGGOT" AND THINKING THE BAND IS MAKING FUN OF PEOPLE WHO WEAR EARRINGS OR SOMETHING. AND YET FROM THE OPENING OF THE SONG IT'S BEYOND CLEAR THAT DIRE STRAITS IS SIMPLY WRITING THE SONG FROM THE PERSPECTIVE OF THE CONSERVATIVE, HOMOPHOBIC, SEXIST JERKS WHO MAKE FUN OF THEM FOR DOING THINGS LIKE HAVING PINK HAIR, WEARING EARRINGS AND BASICALLY NOT BEING MASCULINE ENOUGH - ESPECIALLY TO THE FACT THAT THESE THINGS SEEM TO SECURE THE VERY THINGS THEY WANT FOR THEMSELVES. NAMELY WOMEN, MONEY AND FAME.

CUE LYRICS LIKE:

Now look at them yo-yo's that's the way you do it
You play the guitar on the MTV
That ain't workin' that's the way you do it
Money for nothin' and chicks for free

See the little faggot with the earring and the makeup
Yeah buddy that's his own hair
That little faggot got his own jet airplane
That little faggot he's a millionaire

NOW HERE'S THE THING. HULK COMPLETELY UNDERSTANDS THE WAY IN WHICH THE LANGUAGE OF THE SONG IS ROUGH TO THE MODERN EAR. THROWING AROUND EXTREMELY CHARGED WORDS LIKE "FAGGOT" IS NOT SOMETHING TO BE DONE LIGHTLY, ESPECIALLY CONSIDERING THAT THEY ARE NOT USING THIS LANGUAGE AS ACTUAL GAY PEOPLE. AND EVEN THEN, HULK DOESN'T WANT TO DEFEND THE USE OF THE WORD UNDER THE BANNER OF "WELL, AT THE TIME THOSE WORDS WERE USED MUCH MORE CASUALLY!" BECAUSE EVEN AT THE TIME THERE WAS DISCUSSION OF SUCH THINGS, IT JUST WASN'T AS COMMONPLACE. SO ALL HULK REALLY WANTS TO DO IS HIGHLIGHT THAT DIRE STRAITS INTENTION IS COMPLETELY CLEAR AND THE SATIRICAL USE OF THE POPULIST VOICE WAS USED TO CRITICIZE SAID POPULIST VOICE. AND OF THIS FACT ALONE, THERE CAN BE NO REAL DEBATE. IF ANYTHING, PERHAPS THE MOST REAL CRITICISM TO LEVEL AT THE SONG IS THAT IT DIRECTLY EQUATES THE COMMON WORKING CLASS WITH NEGATIVE REACTIONARY OPINIONS. BUT AGAIN, THEIR TARGET OF IRE IS STILL CLEAR.

WHICH JUST MEANS THE ONLY REAL "PROBLEM" IS THEY JUST DARED TO WRITE A SONG IN FIRST PERSON SATIRE, AND WE TEND TO BE A BAD AUDIENCE WHEN IT COMES TO THAT. SO WHAT SHOULD BE OUR MAIN CONCERN HERE? ARE WE REALLY ASKING IF YOU CAN WRITE A SONG IN ANYTHING OTHER THAN SINCERE FIRST PERSON?

IT'S SOMETHING HULK THINKS ABOUT A LOT. IT'S THAT DEADLY COMBINATION OF PEOPLE PASSIVELY CONSUMING THINGS WHILE NOT HAVING ENOUGH "TRAINING" TO PARSE TOGETHER THE CONTEXT. IT'S BEEN 30 YEARS AND PEOPLE STILL CAN'T HEAR MONEY FOR NOTHING FOR THE FIRST TIME WITHOUT HAVING SOME KIND OF PAUSE. SO DO WE HAVE TO BE SINCERE TO THE OBVIOUS CONSTRUCTION OF OUR INTENTION? OR DO WE HAVE TO BE OBLIGING TO THE LOWEST COMMON DENOMINATOR OF HOW WE CONSTRUCT MESSAGES? PUT CYNICALLY, DO WE HAVE TO IDIOT PROOF OUR MEDIA?

IT'S ACTUALLY A POINT HULK WILL BRING UP WITH REGARD TO ONE OF HULK'S FAVORITE SONGS FROM THE LAST YEAR, AGAINST ME'S "TRANSGENDER DYSPHORIA BLUES."

CUE LYRICS:

Your tells are so obvious,
Shoulders too broad for a girl.
It keeps you reminded,
Helps you remember where you come from.

You want them to notice,
The ragged ends of your summer dress.
You want them to see you
Like they see every other girl.
They just see a faggot.
They'll hold their breath not to catch the sick.

LIKE DIRE STRAITS, THE VOICE SINGING IS NOT THE ONE "TELLING" ALL THESE HORRIBLE THINGS, THE VOICE IS ILLUMINATING THE OPPOSING VIEWPOINT. THE SINGER OF THE SONG IS ONE LAURA JANE GRACE, WHO HAPPENED TO BE BORN THOMAS JANE GABEL. AND AS SHE SINGS, IT'S CLEAR SHE'S NOT ACTUALLY SAYING THOSE THINGS, SHE IS SAYING THE THINGS THAT ARE SAID TO HER. THE "YOU" IS THE "I." AND THE REASON IT IS SO IMPORTANT FOR HER TO DO SO IS BECAUSE IT ALLOWS HER TO SHOW THE IMMEDIACY OF THAT CRUDE VIEWPOINT. SHE IS NOT GOING THROUGH THE FILTER OF HER OWN FEELINGS OR PERSONAL VIEW, SHE IS NOT GOING TO JUST SPEAK FOR HERSELF IN FIRST PERSON; SHE IS SHOWING A HORRIFIC VIEWPOINT AROUND HER IN THE CLEAREST VIEW, IN THEIR WORDS THEMSELVES. AND WHAT'S MORE IS THAT THE MERE ABILITY TO SAY "YOU" ALSO ALLOWS HER TO REACH OUT TO OTHERS, TO AN AUDIENCE, TO PEOPLE WHO NEVER SAW THEMSELVES AS THE KIND OF SUBJECT OF THIS SONG, AND PERSONALIZES IT IN AN IMPORTANT WAY.

IT MAKES THEM COMPLICIT IN THE REALITY SHE FACES.

THAT IS WHY IT IS SO DAMN IMPORTANT TO GET OUT OF THE FIRST PERSON. AND TO DENY AN ARTIST THE RIGHT TO DO THAT? TO USE PERHAPS THE BEST EXPRESSION OF AN IDEA BECAUSE THERE'S A CHANCE IT WILL BE *WRONGLY* MISINTERPRETED BY PEOPLE WHO AREN'T ACTUALLY PAYING ATTENTION? SORRY, BUT NOTHING IS WORTH SACRIFICING THAT.

SO THE THING TO REALIZE IS THAT WHILE MUSIC MIGHT BE THE MOST POWERFUL MEDIUM IN TERMS OF IMBUING YOU WITH A POWERFUL FEELING, MOVIES ARE INCREDIBLE BECAUSE THERE IS NO MEDIUM BETTER AT CONVEYING TO YOU A NEW REALITY AND MAKING YOU COMPLICIT IN THE NATURE OF THAT WORLD. IT'S WHY WE TEND TO RELATE TO CENTRAL MOVIE CHARACTERS IN DIRECT ONE-TO-ONE WAYS. IT'S WHY WE SO READILY DEMAND OUR CHARACTERS BE GOOD AND BE TRUE, AND IT'S WHY WE LOOK TO MOVIES TO SHOW US WHAT WE WANT OUR TRUTH TO BE... AND IT'S EXACTLY WHY WE GET SO FUCKING ANGRY AT THEM WHEN THEY TELL US SOMETHING WE DON'T WANT TO HEAR.

BECAUSE THERE'S A LOT OF THINGS WE DON'T WANT TO BE COMPLICIT IN.

OF COURSE, THE TRUTH IS THAT A LOT OF TIMES WE'RE NOT ACTUALLY COMPLICIT IN THESE THINGS. A LOT OF TIMES, MOVIES ARE DIRECTLY TRYING TO GET US OUTSIDE OF OUR OWN PERSPECTIVES FOR GOOD REASON. THEY ARE TRYING TO CONFRONT US, SHOCK US, SHAPE US, AND GET US TO SEE SOMETHING ABOUT OUR SELVES. AND WHILE SOME MOVIES DO IT "BETTER" THAN OTHERS, PARSING OUT EXACTLY WHAT A MOVIE IS TRYING TO DO CAN BE A REMARKABLY SPECIFIC AFFAIR.

IT'S WHY HULK CAN'T STOP THINKING ABOUT HOW KINGSMAN RIGHT TURNS INTO THAT COMPLEX INTERROGATION SCENE. WE SHIFT AWAY FROM "MONEY FOR NOTHING" (AGAIN, ONE OF THE MOST FAMOUS SATIRICAL SONGS OF ALL TIME) AND PLUGS US STRAIGHT INTO AN INCREDIBLY NUANCED POLITICAL SCENE BECAUSE... WHY? WELL IF WE THINK ABOUT IT FOR A SECOND, WE'LL REALIZE MOST MOVIES THAT ARE ABOUT "GOOD GUYS VS. BAD GUYS" HAVE REMARKABLY CLEAR ROUTING INTERESTS AND MORAL IDENTIFICATION MARKERS, RIGHT? TRUST HULK, IN HOLLYWOOD CIRCLES THE IDENTITY OF BAD GUYS IS CONSIDERED ENDLESSLY. IT'S WHY SO OFTEN BAD GUYS ARE DEFAULT NAZIS OR NEO-NAZIS (BECAUSE WHO WOULD DEFEND THEM?) OR VAGUELY EASTERN EUROPEAN GROUPS THAT AMERICANS CAN BARELY UNDERSTAND THE NUANCE OF, OR SOME REACTIONARY DOMESTIC TERRORIST. OR EVEN AT OUR MOST CONSERVATIVE, WE CHOOSE SOME COUNTRY THAT IS OUR POLITICAL ADVERSARY (THOUGH THOSE SEEM TO BE DWINDLING). BUT WHEN MAKING ARAB TERRORISTS THE BAD GUYS, YOU REALIZE YOU ARE DROPPING KNEE-DEEP INTO THE CONTEXT OF WHAT THAT MEANS TO A MODERN AUDIENCE. AND IT CAN SO EASILY SEEM LIKE YOU ARE ENDORSING A VIEWPOINT THAT SUPPORTS SUCH CHOICE OF WARFARE.

BUT WHAT IS AMAZING ABOUT THAT OPENING SCENE IS THAT IT DOES NONE OF THAT. MEANING IT ISN'T ACTUALLY INTERESTED IN SAYING ANYTHING ABOUT SUPPORTING MIDDLE EASTERN WARFARE, IT IS ONLY INTERESTED IN THE HONESTY OF THE COMPLEXITY AND THE FEAR INVOLVED IN SUCH APPROACH. AGAIN, HULK UNDERSTANDS HOW EASILY IT CAN SEEM LIKE THE FILM IS MAKING LIGHT OF CRUMBLING PALACES AND THEN IMPLYING A MIDDLE EASTERN SUSPECT BEING INTERROGATED WOULD HIDE A BOMB, BUT HULK SWEARS THAT HARD RIGHT TURN IS TRYING TO SAY THE EXACT OPPOSITE. IT'S LIKE ANY EDIT. TWO SEPARATE MEANINGS BECOME A THIRD. IT IS LURING YOU IN WITH IRONIC LANGUAGE AND THEN HITTING YOU HARD WITH A KIND OF REALITY. IT'S NOT TRYING TO PLACATE WITH THE SIMPLE NAZI BAD GUY. TO HULK, THE INTENT OF THE FILM COULDN'T BE MORE CLEAR:

WE'RE NOT PULLING PUNCHES.

WHICH IS WHY THE TONE OF THE OPENING SHIFTS AGAIN INTO SOULFUL, MOURNFUL WORDS FROM COLIN FIRTH. ALL THIS HAS ACTUAL MEANING AND DECORUM TO THE CHARACTER. THESE ACTIONS ARE NOT THE BOMBAST OF HEROISM, THERE IS SADNESS AND LOSS AND ANGER ABOUT DEATH ON ALL SIDES. REALLY, AND ITS OPINION IS BACKED UP WHEN LATER WE LEARN ABOUT HOW FIRTH'S CHARACTER CONDUCTS THE BUSINESS OF PROTECTING THE CROWN (THE NEWSPAPER HEADLINES OF EVERY DAY HIS COVERT ACTION PREVENTED SOME HEADLINE-WORTHY CATASTROPHE).

AND ULTIMATELY WHAT HULK WOULD LIKE TO SUGGEST IS THAT IS ONE OF THE MOST SEMIOTICALLY COMPLEX OPENINGS IN A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE THIS YEAR. AND WHEN CONSIDERED IN LIGHT OF THE REST OF THE MOVIE, IN HELPS FORM LITERALLY NINE DIFFERENT IDEAS THAT WILL BE PRESENTED AND TAKES YOU THROUGH THE FILM'S COMMON 3-STAGE APPROACH OF:

1) IRONIC SATIRICAL SLICKNESS TO

2) PROVOKING UNRULY VISCERA TO

3) WEIRD EMOTIONAL SINCERITY

WHICH IT WILL USE AS A PROCESS THROUGHOUT THE ENTIRE FILM. SERIOUSLY, LOOK AT HULK'S PART ONE WHERE HULK TALKS ABOUT THE METHODOLOGY OF VAUGHN. THIS IS THE PROCESS THAT CONTEXTUALIZES ALL OF IT. AND FROM THERE, IT OPENS UP A SERIES OF INCREDIBLY INTERESTING QUESTIONS TO HULK: WHAT IS THE "VOICE" OF THE FILM? WHO ARE THE ACTUAL BAD GUYS? AND WHO DOES IT MATTER TO? AND MOST OF ALL, IT LEFT HULK THINKING THE GREATEST QUESTION YOU CAN ASK YOURSELF WHEN YOU ARE TEN MINUTES INTO A FILM...

JUST WHAT THE HELL KIND OF MOVIE IS THIS?

5. "NOT THAT KIND OF MOVIE, BRUV"

HULK WILL OFFER UP A HYPOTHESIS IMMEDIATELY: KINGSMAN IS MOSTLY OBSESSED WITH THE ONE SINGLE QUESTION "WHAT IS GENUINE UNDER THE SURFACE OF DECORUM?"

HECK, THE ENTIRE NOTION OF "SURFACE" PLAYS INTO EVERY SINGLE FACET OF THE MOVIE. IT'S ALL ABOUT THE WAY CHARACTERS PROJECT THEMSELVES, WITH VENEERS, ELEGANCE, POSTURE, ACCENTS, OSTENTATIOUS PARTIES, FAMOUS LIQUORS, SEXY WEAPONS, BULLET-PROOF SUITS - AND ULTIMATELY, IT'S ABOUT HOW EACH AND EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THESE THINGS CAN HAVE AN ABJECT ROLE IN DUPLICITY ITSELF.

CONSIDER THE KINGSMEN AS AN AGENCY. THEY ARE NOT ONLY THE THROWBACK ICONS TO THE STYLINGS OF THE '60S, BUT ALSO (WHAT THEY CONSIDER TO BE) THE BETTER, MORE GENTLEMANLY VALUES OF THAT ERA AS WELL. MEANING THEY DO NOT JUST VALUE THEMSELVES AS THE PARAGONS OF JUSTICE, BUT THE STALWART EXAMPLES OF MANNERED DECENCY AND HONOR. AS COLIN FIRTH SO REGULARLY ESPOUSES, "MANNERS MAKETH MAN." BUT, OF COURSE, SO MUCH OF THE KINGSMEN'S TROUBLE COMES FROM THE WAY THEY EASILY COME TO CONFUSE THE SURFACE APPEARANCES OF WHAT IS CONSIDERED "GENTLEMANLY" WITH THE ACTUAL INTENT OF POLITENESS AND CARING. IT CONFUSES THE SIGNPOSTS OF BEING CULTURED - THAT WOULD BE POSH ACCENTS AND WEALTH, ESTEEM AND POWER - WITH THE SIGNPOSTS OF ONE'S BASIC GOODNESS.

THEN PLEASE CONSIDER VALENTINE, THE FILM'S CENTRAL VILLAIN PLAYED BY SAMUEL L. JACKSON. HE'S A MAN OF WEALTH AND INFLUENCE, A TECH SAVANT, COMPLETELY CONCERNED WITH THE MODERN CAUSE OF GLOBAL WARMING. OF COURSE, HIS SOLUTION TO SUCH HUMANE CONCERNS IS TO USE HIS CHARM AND INTELLIGENCE TO THROW THE WORLD'S POOR RIGHT ON THE SCRAP HEAP. BUT EVERY NOTE OF HIS CHARACTERIZATION IS DESIGNED TO BACK UP THE DICHOTOMY OF SMOOTH SURFACE AND UGLY INTENT. HE CANNOT LOOK AT BLOOD WITHOUT GETTING QUEASY, AND YET HE IS HAPPY TO ORDER THOSE SAME DEATHS. HECK, HE IS HAPPY TO CONDEMN MILLIONS TO DEATH. IT ALL HIGHLIGHTS AN OBVIOUS POINT ABOUT SURFACES: MODERN CEO CULTURE CAN GET THROUGH IT BY NOT HAVING TO LOOK AT THE MESS (EVEN TAKE NOTE AT THE EARLIER SCENE WHERE HE CASUALLY SAYS HE DOESN'T NEED TO GO VISIT ONE OF HIS FACTORIES, IT'S AN OBVIOUS BIT OF CRITICISM ABOUT DECISIONS THAT CONDEMN PEOPLE TO DEATH THAT WE DO NOT HAVE TO SEE).

YOU WILL NOTE THAT BOTH OUR HEROES AND OUR VILLAINS DO TERRIBLE THINGS IN THE NAME OF A GOOD POSTURE. LIKE OUR EARLIER DISCUSSION OF INNUENDO, IT'S ABOUT THE WAY SOMEONE'S "DRESS" CAN BE AN ESSENTIAL DISHONESTY. COLIN FIRTH'S CHARACTER MENTIONS TIME AND TIME AGAIN THAT PUTTING ON A SUIT DOESN'T MAKE YOU A GENTLEMAN, NOR DOES ONE HAVE TO BE ASHAMED OF THEIR ACCENT, AND YET IT DOESN'T STOP THE WORLD FROM PILING ON AROUND THEM. JUST AS INNUENDO IS A VEHICLE FOR SNEAKING IN SUBVERSIVENESS, IT ALSO HAS AN UNFORTUNATE HABIT OF DISGUISING TRUE HUMAN UGLINESS, THE STUFF THAT'S GENUINELY MESSED UP, AND EVEN GOES ON TO FOSTER AN ESSENTIAL "DISTRUTH" AT THE HEART OF OUR CLASS WARFARE.

YUP! THIS FILM IS ABSOLUTELY ABOUT SOME GOOD OL' CLASS WARFARE. HECK, IT'S PRETTY MUCH AT THE CENTER OF THE WHOLE SURFACE CONVERSATION. WHICH JUST ALSO MEANS IT'S COMPLETELY CRAZY TO HULK HOW MANY PEOPLE THOUGHT THIS FILM WAS SOMEHOW CONSERVATIVE OR HATEFUL OF THE LOWER CLASS, BECAUSE HULK IS HARD PRESSED TO THINK OF A FILM AS CRITICAL OF THE UPPER AND RULING CLASSES AS THIS ONE.

SO HOW IN THE HECK DID EVERYONE MISS IT?

6. ADAPTING SOURCE MATERIAL

THIS IS WHERE HULK ADMITS THAT HULK DOESN'T LIKE THE WORK OF MARK MILLAR.

WHILE HIS WORK OFTEN SHOWCASES AN INVENTIVE SENSE OF STORY INVERSION AND PLAYFUL EXUBERANCE, THE TRUTH IS THAT IT ALSO SHOWCASES A LOT OF UGLY SEMIOTIC STATEMENTS THAT HINT AT SOME SHADY MOTIVES. AND THAT'S REALLY THE KEY WORD: MOTIVATION. MEANING THE WORK REALLY SEEMS TO DIRECTLY STEM FROM THINGS LIKE CLASSIC EMASCULATION ISSUES WHILE PLAYING INTO SOME WEIRD CASUAL / NOT CASUAL RACISM. AND IT ALL MANIFESTS IN BOTH A LOT OF UNDER-THE-SURFACE AND BOLD-FACED RESENTMENT FOR WOMEN AND / OR MINORITIES. IN SHORT, IT IS EXACTLY WHAT MANY ACCUSE THE WORK OF MATTHEW VAUGHN AS BEING.

BUT HULK OFTEN HAS TROUBLE IN GENERAL WHEN IT COMES ILLUSTRATING TO PEOPLE WHAT MAKES MILLAR'S WORK MORE INSIDIOUS THAN OTHER KINDS OF EXPLOITATIVE ENTERTAINMENT THAT HULK READILY ENJOYS. IT'S LIKE PEOPLE JUMP ALL OVER THE "WHAT" OF WHAT IS BEING SHOWN AND THEN COMPARE IT TO SIMILAR THINGS HULK HAS LIKED, REGARDLESS OF CONTEXT. WHICH, TO HULK, IS HOW WE ARE REALLY NOT UNDERSTANDING THE INSIDIOUSNESS OF "THE HOW." AND THE HOW IS PRECISELY WHAT SEPARATES VAUGHN'S WORK FROM MILLAR'S. WITHOUT JUMPING INTO A WHOLE DEEP-TISSUE SEMIOTICS LESSON, IT MOSTLY COMES DOWN TO THE FACT THAT MILLAR'S WORK FEELS LESS LIKE EXPLORATORY TEXT OR MEDITATION ON EMASCULATION AND INSTEAD STUMBLES INTO THOSE UGLY RESULTS, SEEMINGLY FROM THE FLIPPANT COMBATIVENESS OF AN UNBRIDLED ID.

LOOK. AS MUCH AS HULK COULD TRY TO FIND THE NUANCE WITHIN MILLAR (AS THERE IS IN MOST THINGS), THE PROBLEMS ARE JUST PLAIN AS DAY. THE GUY SIMPLY HAS A SHITTY WORLDVIEW AND COMES ACROSS LIKE A DISMISSIVE DICK, SO THERE'S NO POINT BEATING AROUND THE BUSH. HIS CHARACTERIZATION OF WOMEN IS MOSTLY AWFUL. AND IT SEEMS LIKE ALL HIS WORK CONCERNS SOME WEAK MAN COMING TO TERMS WITH HIS EMASCULATION BY GOING THE ROUTE OF A FULLY EMPOWERED VIGILANTE WITH AN AXE TO GRIND. EVEN HIS DEPICTIONS OF RAPE MAKE GAME OF THRONES LOOK DOWNRIGHT RESPONSIBLE. AND WHEN HE'S CHALLENGED ON THAT FRONT, MILLAR SAYS SUCH REACTIONARY BEHIND-THE-TIMES THINGS LIKE:

The ultimate [act] that would be the taboo, to show how bad some villain is, was to have somebody being raped, you know? I don’t really think it matters. It’s the same as, like, a decapitation. It’s just a horrible act to show that somebody’s a bad guy.

AND WHEN CHALLENGED ON SAYING THINGS LIKE THAT HE SAYS THINGS LIKE:

I think it’s meaningless. A tiny storm in a tea-cup. And in ten years time I’ll copy and paste this again when the argument raises its head like it did a decade ago. The fact is that more women are reading comics right now than at any point in my life and they’re not picking them up because they feel they’re demeaning in any way.

... [GROSS-FEELING SILENCE].

OKAY, CAN WE MOVE ON? COOL. BUT AS HULK MENTIONED BEFORE, THE THING TO REALLY UNDERSTAND HERE ARE THE WAYS THAT VAUGHN'S MOVIES HAVE BEEN DIFFERENT FROM THE ORIGINAL WORK THEY ARE ADAPTING.

TAKE A LOOK AT SOME OF THE SIMPLE AND OBVIOUS THINGS IN KICK-ASS THAT WERE REMOVED. SOMETIMES IT'S LITTLE THINGS, LIKE HOW IN THE COMIC KICK-ASS ALWAYS TAKES CARE TO MENTION THE RACE OF THOSE HE ATTACKS, AS IF IT IS A POINT OF PRIDE. IN THE FILM, ALL REMOVED. THEN TAKE A LOOK AT THE PLOT WHERE HE ALSO PRETENDS TO BE GAY IN ORDER TO GET CLOSE TO HIS CRUSH (WHICH STILL HAPPENS IN THE MOVIE), BUT IN THE COMIC WHEN SHE FINDS OUT SHE SENDS HIM A PICTURE OF HER BLOWING A BLACK GUY AND IT'S MOST DEFINITELY NOT ON HER SIDE. IT'S TREATED LIKE THE MOST HEINOUS THING A WOMAN CAN DO! AND YES IT ALL COMES OFF THAT HORRIBLY. SO THE THING HULK WANTS TO CONVEY IS THAT IT'S NOT A MATTER OF MERELY "DULLING THE EDGE" TO GET BY WITH RATINGS AND GREATER SENSIBILITIES TO MAKE THE SAME TERRIBLE SENTIMENTS POP; INSTEAD VAUGHN IS COMPLETELY RE-CONTEXTUALIZING THESE STORIES WHILE KEEPING WHAT WORKS WITH MILLAR'S CONCEITS INTACT. IT'S THE MOVIE THAT TAKES CARE TO DIFFERENTIATE BIG DADDY AND HIT GIRL'S MOTIVATIONS FROM KICK-ASS'S OWN (THEY ARE THE SAME IN THE COMIC), WHICH TURNS THEM INTO LARGER-THAN-LIFE POP INVERSIONS, PROVIDING ACTUAL CONTEXTUALIZATION FOR KICK-ASS'S WANTS, NOT JUST A SAD SACK REFLECTION OF HIS OWN. AGAIN, IT'S ALL ABOUT "THE HOW." WHICH IS EXACTLY WHY KICK-ASS 2, WITHOUT THE DEFT TONAL HAND OF VAUGHN, FEELS LIKE ONE OF THE MOST DISGUSTING AND MORALLY REPREHENSIBLE FILMS HULK'S EVER SEEN. IT NOT ONLY REFLECTS EVERYTHING WRONG WITH THE SOURCE MATERIAL. IT DOESN'T READ AS SATIRICAL, BUT EARNEST. IT CONTEXTUALIZES THE MEANNESS AS GENUINE. IT ALIGNS YOU WITH THE UGLINESS TO NO SMARTER CONTEXTUALIZATION. WHICH MEANS THAT IT IS THE FILM THAT SO MANY PEOPLE ACCUSED THE FIRST OF BEING. YUP, KICK-ASS 2 ITSELF IS ESSENTIALLY A "BAD FAN" OF THE FIRST.

BUT HULK IS TELLING YOU, TAKING AWAY MOTIVES AND TURNING THEM INTO EXPLORATORY SPACES IS NOT AN EASY THING TO DO. IT TAKES EITHER A LEVEL OF AWARENESS OR SHARP INSTINCTS. AND MOST OF THE TIME, PEOPLE USE GENRE TRANSCENDENCE, WHEREIN A DRAMATIC PIECE OF A STORY WILL ADOPT MORE OF THE LANGUAGE OF A SERIOUS DRAMA FILM TO LET THE AUDIENCE UNDERSTAND SUCH TRANSCENDENCE. OR IT WILL TAKE GREAT CARE TO DIRECTLY SHOW THE WAYS IT IS ELEVATING OUT OF THOSE TRAPPINGS. BUT WHAT'S SO INTERESTING ABOUT VAUGHN IS HE DE-CONTEXTUALIZES BY GOING DEEPER INTO THE ARTIFICE AND CONFECTION-LIKE SHEEN TO SHOW THE REAL FEELINGS.

AND IN DOING SO, HE CAN CREATE SOMETHING REALLY, REALLY INTERESTING.

7. MEANINGLESS VIOLENCE

SO THERE IS A SCENE IN KINGSMAN THAT IS ALREADY KIND OF INFAMOUS. MOSTLY BECAUSE IT'S THE KIND OF SCENE THAT INSPIRES COUNTLESS DIFFERENT REACTIONS, ALL OF THEM PROBABLY JUSTIFIED. BUT WHAT HULK LOVES MOST ABOUT THIS SCENE IS THAT WHEN PEOPLE EXPRESS THEIR OPINION ABOUT IT, THEY ARE ACTUALLY TELLING YOU A LOT ABOUT THEMSELVES.

HERE'S WHAT HAPPENS:

AFTER A LOT OF MCGUFFIN CHASING AND VARIOUS PLOT MACHINATIONS, THE FILM REACHES ITS 2/3 POINT AND OUR MAIN MENTORING AGENT, COLIN FIRTH'S "GALAHAD," ARRIVES AT A SMALL CHURCH IN THE SOUTH IN ORDER TO INVESTIGATE WHAT IS HAPPENING WITH THE BAD GUY'S PLOT. TURNS OUT THIS CHURCH WAS SPECIFICALLY TARGETED BECAUSE IT HAPPENS TO BE FULL OF THE WORST END OF THE SPECTRUM OF AMERICAN CONSERVATIVISM, I.E. HATEFUL OF JUST ABOUT EVERYONE NOT LIKE THEM. OF COURSE, SAM JACKSON'S "V" IS MANIPULATING THIS ENTIRE EVENT AND WATCHING FROM ACROSS THE STREET. SO HE TURNS A LITTLE DOOHICKEY AND SUDDENLY GALAHAD STARTS RESPONDING TO THESE JERKS HYPER AGGRESSIVELY WITH A LONG-WINDED AND PROGRESSIVE-MINDED TROLLING JOKE TO CONFRONT THE EVILS OF THE WOMAN NEXT TO HIM, WHICH IS COMPLETELY OUT OF CHARACTER FOR HIM. REELING FROM THE EMOTIONAL OUTBURST, HE MAKES HIS WAY TOWARD THE EXIT, AND THEN JUST STARTS SHOOTING A MAN... CUE ONE OF THE MOST EXTREME-BUT-PLACID ACTION SEQUENCES YOU HAVE EVER SEEN WHERE EVERYONE IN THE CHURCH JUST STARTS MURDERING EACH OTHER, ALL SET TO THE MOST CLICHE OF ALL CLICHE AMERICAN MUSIC: "FREEBIRD." AND SERIOUSLY, EVERYONE JUST STARTS FIGHTING. THERE'S NO POINT OR INTENTION TO IT. THEY JUST SEEM NOT TO BE IN CONTROL. AND IN TERMS OF TONAL EXECUTION, THERE IS NO EMPHASIS ON THE UGLINESS EVEN THOUGH IT IS INDEED UGLY. EVEN ALL THE COOL FIGHTING MOVIES AND GORE ALMOST SEEM WEIRDLY DISTANT UNDER THAT INSANE SOUNDTRACK. AND ALL OF A SUDDEN, FIRTH IS THE LAST ONE STANDING, HE SEEMS TO COME TO HIS SENSES, AND WALKS OUTSIDE WHEREIN HE CONFRONTS THE VILLAIN ABOUT WHAT JUST HAPPENED...

SO THE SCENE IS THE CLOSEST THING HULK HAS EVER SEEN IN TERMS OF AN ACTUAL CINEMATIC REPRESENTATION OF MEANINGLESS VIOLENCE.

NO, THAT DOES NOT MEAN THAT IT IS SIMPLY NON-DRAMATIC OR DEVALUING LIFE, BUT MORE IN THE SENSE THAT HULK GENUINELY FELT NOTHING WHILE WATCHING IT. THERE IS NO ROOTING INTEREST. NO DRAMA. NO CONTEXT. MEANING IT'S NOT VIOLENCE THERE SECRETLY TO CATER TO INDULGENT BLOODTHIRST, OR CATER TO A DESIRE FOR COOL ACTION. HULK KNOWS IT MAY SEEM LIKE IT, AS THAT IS THE "WHAT" BEING FILMED, BUT THE CONTEXT AND THE CINEMATIC LANGUAGE ABSOLUTELY READ OTHERWISE. THE SCENE IS NOT MEANT TO GLORIFY THE VIOLENCE, NOR IS IT MEANT TO MAKE YOU FEEL BAD OR RUB YOUR FACE IN GRIMNESS, NOR THE REALITY OF THE SITUATION (THEY PICKED THE WORST PEOPLE AS TARGETS WITHIN THE CHURCH FOR A REASON). AND IT PICKED THE MOST OVERPLAYED, STALE, EPIC SONG YOU'VE SEEN A MILLION TIMES FOR A REASON. HECK, IT PRACTICALLY HAD TO BE "FREEBIRD" IN ORDER TO WORK WITH THIS KIND OF DISTANCING EFFECT. AND THUS, THE SCENE IS THE ONLY TIME THAT HULK FEELS LIKE AN AUDIENCE WAS PURPOSEFULLY GUIDED INTO A SECTION OF ACTION WHERE THE MEANINGLESSNESS WAS THE ABSOLUTE TOTAL POINT OF WHAT WE WERE SEEING. 

THIS IS NOT TO ARGUE THAT THIS IS SOME LANDMARK MORAL ACCOMPLISHMENT. THERE HAVE BEEN MUCH GRANDER MEDITATIONS ON MEANINGLESS VIOLENCE (HELLO A SHORT FILM ABOUT KILLING) AND INSIGHTS INTO VIOLENCE THAT ARE INFINITELY MORE PROFOUND. BUT THE REASON HULK REALLY ENGAGES WITH THIS SCENE IS THAT IT WAS THE FIRST TIME HULK FELT LIKE HULK'S LOVE OF ACTION DIDN'T IMBUE THE SCENE WITH ANY BASER WAYS WHILE WATCHING IT UNFOLD. HULK FELT THE APPROPRIATE DISTANCE. AS SUCH, IT IS THE CLOSEST HULK HAS SEEN IN A MAINSTREAM FILM TO GETTING TO THE ESSENTIAL "IRONY" AT THE HEART OF HOW OFTEN WE THROW AROUND THE TERM "MEANINGLESS VIOLENCE" ITSELF. BECAUSE SO OFTEN, WE WANT THE VIOLENCE. SO OFTEN WE ROOT FOR IT. SO OFTEN IT IS PART OF THE LANGUAGE OF OUR IMPULSES. BUT EVEN WHILE THIS SCENE GOES ON AND ON AND ON, THERE IS NO REAL SENSE OF WHAT IS EVEN HAPPENING (WHICH IS WHY THE EXPLANATION HAS TO COME AFTER) IN ORDER TO FULLY THROW YOU INTO SOMETHING WITHOUT CONTEXT. AND HERE'S WHY IT'S IMPORTANT:

IF WE DEMAND THAT FILMS BE HONEST, IS AN ACTUAL REPRESENTATION OF MEANINGLESS VIOLENCE NOT THE MOST HONEST THING A VIOLENT BLOCKBUSTER CAN DO?

8. POMP AND CIRCUMSTANCE

YES, HULK KNOWS THAT SOME DETAILS ARE EASY TO MISS.

BUT HULK WOULD ARGUE SOME DETAILS AREN'T.

IT'S THE CONVERSATION COMING OUT OF MOVIES LIKE KINGSMAN WHERE HULK DOESN'T KNOW WHAT TO DO WITH THE ALMOST THUNDEROUS NON-OBSERVANCE, SPECIFICALLY IN REGARDS TO THE FILM'S FEELINGS ABOUT CLASS. TO BE FAIR, HULK IS PROBABLY ON THE MORE SENSITIVE SIDE OF THINGS WHEN IT COMES TO CLASS ISSUES IN FILM. AFTER ALL, IT'S PROBABLY THE SINGLE DOMINANT ISSUE OF OUR ERA AND YET NO ONE REALLY TALKS ABOUT HOW INVASIVE AND PROBLEMATIC IT IS, ESPECIALLY IN HOLLYWOOD. HECK, IT SEEMS WE TALK ABOUT EVERYTHING BUT CLASS IN AMERICAN FILMS. BUT THANKFULLY FOR US, ENGLAND TENDS TO HAVE A BIT MORE FOCUS THERE (LOTS OF LEFTOVER SENTIMENTS ABOUT THE MONARCHY AND ARISTOCRACY AND ALL THAT). BUT EVEN ON BOTH SIDES OF THE POND, THERE SEEMS TO BE A GREAT DEAL OF CONFUSION ABOUT THE HOW THIS PARTICULAR FILM FEELS ABOUT CLASS. THE GUARDIAN EVEN STARTED A RUCKUS IN PARTICULAR, CALLING THE FILM "THE MOST CONSERVATIVE COMEDY THIS CENTURY" BECAUSE IT KILLS LIBERAL POLITICIANS, WANTS THE POOR TO KILL EACH OTHER, AND BECAUSE THE LEAD BADDIE IS A CLIMATE CHANGE ACTIVIST. AND THEN, THE REVIEWER HAS THE GALL TO SAY THE FOLLOWING:

"The extent of Kingsman’s troubling moral viewpoint is matched only by the determination of reviewers to overlook it. “Just try not to think too much,” ... This curiously disengaged sentiment runs throughout a surprising number of the film’s overwhelmingly positive reviews."

OKAY... IT'S SENTENCES LIKE THIS, COMING AFTER ALL THE SUPPOSED "EVIDENCE" ABOVE, THAT GIVE HULK A BIT OF EXISTENTIAL CRISIS. BECAUSE THE BAD GUY'S PLAN REALLY DOESN'T HAVE MUCH TO DO WITH CLIMATE CHANGE. IN FACT, THE PURPOSE OF ALL HIS MACHINATIONS IS PRETTY DAMN CLEAR:

THEY'RE GIVING FREE CELL PHONE CHIPS TO ALL THE POOR PEOPLE OF THE EARTH, WHICH HAS A SECRET TECH ABILITY TO MAKE THEM BEAT THE SHIT OUT OF EACH OTHER AND MURDER EACH OTHER (JUST LIKE IN THE CHURCH), ALL SO THE RICH AND POWERFUL CAN INHERIT THE EARTH AND NOT HAVE TO CHANGE ANY OF WHAT THEY DO.

THAT IS LITERALLY THE BAD GUY'S PLAN IN THE MOVIE.

HECK, THE MOVIE EVEN GOES SO FAR AS TO MAKE CLEAR THAT ALMOST EVERY SINGLE RICH PERSON AND POLITICIAN, LIBERAL AND CONSERVATIVE ALIKE, GOES ALONG WITH THIS PLAN SWIMMINGLY BECAUSE WHEN PUSH COMES TO SHOVE THEY SIMPLY DON'T GIVE A FUCK ABOUT POOR PEOPLE. THROUGHOUT THE ENTIRE FILM, BOTH "GOOD GUY" AND "BAD GUY" SIGN UP TO GO ALONG WITH IT. YES, EVEN A BARACK OBAMA LOOKALIKE. AGAIN, BEYOND ALL THE LIP SERVICE, MOST LEADERS MAKE IT CLEAR THEY DO NOT GIVE A FUCK ABOUT THE POOR. YOU WILL NOTE THAT HULK SAID "MOST." BECAUSE THOSE LEADERS AND CELEBRITIES IN THE FILM WHO ARE DECENT AND SEE THE OBVIOUS TRUTH THAT THIS PLAN IS NOTHING MORE THAN A HOLOCAUST AGAINST THE POOR? WELL, THEY ARE SIMPLY IMPRISONED IN A LUXURIOUS SUPER-VILLAIN LAYER, SEEMINGLY BECAUSE THEIR LIVES ARE STILL "WORTH IT" TO V BECAUSE THEY ARE AMONG THE RICH AND POWERFUL AND DESERVE TO LIVE IN THE NEW AGE! AND BECAUSE OF THIS CONFLICT, OUR MAIN HERO, EGGSY, PRIDE OF THE LONDON UNDERCLASS, AND ONE OF THE FEW EVER TO MAKE INTO THE KINGSMAN CIRCLE, HAS THE BASIC ABILITY TO SEE THIS INHUMAN GARBAGE FOR WHAT IT IS AND TRIES TO PUT A STOP TO IT. 

SO, UM, THIS IS LITERALLY THE PLOT OF THE MOVIE AND IT MAKES IT PRETTY FUCKING CLEAR HOW THE MOVIE FEELS ABOUT THE UPPER CLASS.

HECK, IT MIGHT BE ONE OF THE MOST SCATHING PORTRAITS OF THE UPPER CLASS HULK CAN THINK OF. IT THROWS OUT ANY PRETENSIONS TO UPPER CLASS MORALITY AND POLITICS AND NAILS THE REALITY THAT WHEN IT COMES TO ANYTHING THAT ACTUALLY IMPACTS "THEM," WELL, IT TURNS INTO US VS. THEM.

BUT LET'S GO THROUGH THE REST OF THE INTERPRETATION, SHALL WE? WHILE THE FILM HIGHLIGHTS THE MANIA IN WHICH THE POOR PEOPLE ARE RIPPING EACH OTHER APART, IT IS AGAIN AT THE MANIPULATION OF THE RICH AS OUR POOR HERO RUNS TO TRY AND STOP IT. AND AT NO POINT IN THE FILM DOES ANYONE IMPLY THAT CLIMATE CHANGE IS ANYTHING OTHER THAN A REAL, SUBSTANTIAL AND GENUINE THREAT TO THE WORLD. IN FACT EVERYONE SEEMS PRETTY MUCH IN AGREEMENT ABOUT THAT THREAT. SO WHAT IT IS THEREFORE TRYING TO ARGUE IS THAT RICH PEOPLE'S CONSTANT SOLUTIONS ONLY INVOLVE LOOKING OUT FOR THEMSELVES AGAINST THE BETTER NATURE OF THE VERY HUMANITY THEY THROW UNDER THE BUS. AGAIN, IT IS A FILM WITH SUCH SEETHING HATRED FOR THE UPPER CLASS THAT IT WILL ZERO IN ON THEIR HYPOCRISY AND THROW THE ENTIRETY OF IT INTO THE FIRE. AND GENERALLY SPEAKING? THERE IS NO MORE APT CHARACTERIZATION FOR THE 99% OF THE 0.1%'S INTENSE SELFISHNESS, ESPECIALLY AS IT PERTAINS TO THEIR INFLUENCE ON WORLD POLITICS.

THE MESSAGE OF KINGSMAN IS UNRELENTING IN THAT REGARD.

AND IT'S ALWAYS BEEN THERE IN VAUGHN'S WORK, TOO. YOU CAN GO BACK ALL THE WAY TO BACK TO LAYER CAKE, A TITLE WHICH DIRECTLY REFERENCES THE LAYERS OF SOCIAL STRATA IN ENGLAND, PARTICULARLY THE CRIMINAL WORLD. YOU CAN SEE THAT SAME SEETHING, BUT MOSTLY DIRECTED AT THOSE AT THE TOP OF THE FOOD CHAIN WHO CAN'T BOTHER TO LOOK DOWN AND SEE WHO THEY ARE STEPPING ON. THE ENEMIES IN VAUGHN'S MOVIES ARE ALWAYS THE PEOPLE WHO FEEL LIKE THEY CAN GET AWAY WITH SOMETHING, AND OFTEN DO. FOR THE FOLLOWING POINT, PLEASE UNDERSTAND THAT HULK DOESN'T REALLY LIKE TO DIVE INTO ARTIST'S BRAINS TO PLAY POP PSYCHOLOGISTS, BUT KNOWING THAT MATTHEW VAUGHN IS LITERALLY THE DISREGARDED BASTARD SON OF A BRITISH ARISTOCRAT IS A THING THAT IS KIND OF HARD TO IGNORE. BECAUSE HE IS BOTH A PRODUCT OF THAT WORLD AND THE ONE WHO IS MOST SINGULARLY DRIVEN IN HIS CONTEMPT FOR IT (THOUGH IT ALSO SEEMS TO MANIFEST IN OTHER ODD WAYS WE'LL GET TO LATER). POINT IS, WITH KINGSMAN, VAUGHN HAS SET HIS SIGHTS ON THE THING THAT HAS ALWAYS SEEMED TO BOTHER HIM ON AN INSTINCTUAL LEVEL.

AND THE FILM'S MOST DAMMING MOMENT OF INTENT OF COURSE COMES AT THE FILM'S BIGGEST TRIUMPHANT MOMENT, WHEREIN EDWARD ELGAR'S "POMP AND CIRCUMSTANCE" PLAYS AS THE MCGUFFIN DOOHICKEY IS REVERSED BACK ONTO THE RICH AND POWERFUL AND ALL THE WORLD'S LEADERS AND POOR-HATING-UPPER CLASS PEOPLE'S HEADS EXPLODE TO A TRIUMPHANT SWELL OF MUSIC!

YOU MAY ASK: "WAIT, THEY PLAY THE GRADUATION SONG AS ALL THAT HAPPENS? CUZ, WE LIKE, GRADUATED INTO A NEW ERA OR SOMETHING??"

NOPE! SOME OF YOU MAY NOT KNOW THIS, BUT POMP AND CIRCUMSTANCE - A.K.A. THE GRADUATION SONG - WAS WRITTEN DURING WORLD WAR ONE AS A SCATHING INDICTMENT OF RICH PEOPLE SENDING YOUNG KIDS OFF TO DIE FOR THEIR NATIONALISTIC BULLSHIT PRIDE.

CUE WIKI-FIED LYRICS:

Farewell the tranquil mind! farewell content!
Farewell the plumed troop, and the big wars,
That make ambition virtue! O, farewell!
Farewell the neighing steed, and the shrill trump,
The spirit-stirring drum, the ear-piercing fife,
The royal banner, and all quality,
Pride, pomp and circumstance of glorious war!

[He also added an epigraph to the marches that sets out their apparent intention. It comes, according to Dr. Young, from Lord de Tabley’s ‘The March of Glory’, quoted by Newman in a version that differs profoundly from de Tabley’s published version:]

Like a proud music that draws men on to die
Madly upon the spears in martial ecstasy,
A measure that sets heaven in all their veins
And iron in their hands.
I hear the Nation march
Beneath her ensign as an eagle’s wing;
O’er shield and sheeted targe
The banners of my faith most gaily swing,
Moving to victory with solemn noise,
With worship and with conquest, and the voice of myriads.

YOU HAVE THE POMP: THE DRIVE FOR REASONS AND IDEOLOGIES! AND THEN YOU HAVE THE CIRCUMSTANCE: ACTUAL WAR, DEATH AND BLOODSHED. BASICALLY THIS SONG WAS THE MOST SCATHING IRONIC THING YOU COULD WRITE IN THOSE DAYS (THIS WAS LIKE COLBERT AT THE WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENCE DINNER LEVEL SCATHING). IT DOESN'T EVEN PULL PUNCHES OR USE SUBTLETY. BUT OF COURSE, LIKE MOST THINGS AFFECTED BY THE DULL DIN OF HISTORY, WE'VE LOST THAT ETYMOLOGY IN THE POPULAR CONVERSATION. WORSE, WE'VE LITERALIZED IT AND THUS PERVERTED THE INTENTION TO THE POINT THAT IT'S JUST BECOME "THE GRADUATION SONG." BUT IT IS ONE OBVIOUSLY LACED WITH SUCH SECRET MEANING THAT HULK FINDS ITS USE HERE TO BE COMPLETELY APT: SENDING CHILDREN OUT IN THE WORLD TO BE CHEWED UP AND SPIT OUT FOR BULLSHIT NATIONALISTIC PRIDE AND THE AID OF THE WEALTHY.

IT IS SAFE TO SAY, GIVEN THE THEMES OF THE FILM, KINGSMAN IS NOT USING IT BY ACCIDENT.

AND IF WE ARE KEEPING A RUNNING TALLY, IS THIS THE SECOND MUSIC CUE OF A DRAMATICALLY MISUNDERSTOOD AND IRONIC SONG USED TO A VERY SPECIFIC EFFECT? OKAY, JUST CHECKING. BECAUSE TO ARGUE THAT THE USE OF THE SONG IS ACCIDENTAL WOULD BE TO IMPLY THEY WERE UNAWARE OF THE SONG'S MEANING AT THE PRECISE MOMENT IT WENT ALONG WITH THE MURDER OF WORLD LEADERS BECAUSE THEY ARE COMMITTING A HOLOCAUST AGAINST THE POOR? AS IN, YOU KNOW, THE VERY THING THE SONG IS ABOUT?

SIGH... WE JUST ALWAYS MISS THE DETAILS.

WHICH AGAIN, IS UNDERSTANDABLE. BUT HULK ALWAYS WANTS TO WONDER WHAT MAKES PEOPLE STOP THEMSELVES FROM GETTING IN CLOSER TO ANALYZE SOMETHING, WHILE THEY READILY DO IT FOR SOMETHING ELSE. TRUTHFULLY, HULK ISN'T ANGRY WITH THAT GUARDIAN CRITIC; HULK WANTS TO GET DRINKS WITH THE WRITER AND SUGGEST: "HEY, MAYBE PEOPLE ARE RESPONDING TO THIS FILM POSITIVELY FOR GOOD REASON?" BUT PEOPLE ALWAYS SEEM TO LET A FEW QUICK ASSUMPTIONS GET IN THE WAY OF ACTUALLY SITTING THERE AND DOING THE SIMPLE ARITHMETIC WITH A MOVIE.

EVEN ANTHONY LANE TOOK A CLEAR SHOT AT THE FILM, IMPLYING IT WAS RACIST BY HAVING SAMUEL L. JACKSON SERVE MCDONALDS WHEN HE INVITES COLIN FIRTH OVER, SOMEHOW MISSING THE CLEAR INTENTION OF THE MOMENT WHERE COLIN FIRTH DOESN'T MISS A BEAT AND RESPONDS "I'll have the Big Mac." CLEARLY MEANT TO HIGHLIGHT THE FACT THAT IT IS A POOR GUEST WHO DENIES THE FOOD THAT IS OFFERED (AGAIN, FIRTH IS MANNERED AND UNCONCERNED WITH THE SIGNPOSTS OF CLASS, MEANING HE DOESN'T GIVE A SHIT ABOUT ACTUAL CLASS, WHICH IS PRECISELY WHAT MAKES HIM A PROVERBIAL CLASS ACT). AND HULK WOULD EVEN GO SO FAR AS TO ARGUE THAT IS DOWNRIGHT WEIRD FOR LANE TO THINK OF MCDONALD'S AS "BLACK FOOD," AS HULK HAS LITERALLY NEVER EVER THOUGHT THAT IN HULK'S ENTIRE LIFE. THE ENTIRE MCDONALD'S DISCUSSION IS CLEARLY A QUESTION OF AFFORDABLE FOOD FOR LOWER CLASSES, AND AS SUCH, HULK CAN'T HELP BUT FEEL LIKE IT'S ONE OF THOSE WEIRD ATTEMPTS TO CALL OUT RACISM THAT PROBABLY REVEAL MORE ABOUT THE PERSON'S ASSOCIATION OF RACE THAN THE THING THE PERSON IS CRITICIZING. BUT IT'S ALL PART OF THE LARGER QUESTION:

HOW DO WE KEEP NOT CONNECTING THE DOTS THAT ARE REALLY, TRULY THERE?

OR DOES THE FILM'S ENTIRE PROBLEM REST IN THE SAME IRONY THAT PLAGUES THE UPPER CLASS OF THE FILM ITSELF? DOES A GROUP OF RULING CRITICAL INTELLECTUALS NOT HAVE THE ABILITY TO RECOGNIZE THAT PERHAPS THEY'RE GUILTY OF A VERY UGLY THOUGHT: CHIEFLY, ONE BEST EXPRESSED THROUGH THAT GREAT NORM MACDONALD QUOTE:

"I think clever people think poor people are stupid."

BECAUSE THAT'S THE UGLY THOUGHT THAT CLEVER PEOPLE NEVER TALK ABOUT. WHICH SUCKS BECAUSE YOU REALIZE IT'S PRACTICALLY AT THE HEART OF ALL OF OUR PROBLEMS. BECAUSE YES, ANTI-INTELLECTUALISM CAN BE SUPER PROBLEMATIC FOR A CULTURE, BUT TO TAKE THAT ISSUE AND LAY ALL OUR PROBLEMS AT THE FEET OF IT IS INSANELY RIDICULOUS. JUST IMAGINE SOMEONE SAYING TO AN ENTIRE GODDAMN SOCIETY: "ALL OUR PROBLEMS ARE BECAUSE YOU DON'T PUT ENOUGH TRUST IN US, THE SMART PEOPLE!"

RIGHT. BECAUSE SMART PEOPLE HAVE DONE A BANG-UP JOB. BECAUSE WE ALWAYS THINK OF POLITICIANS AS BEING DUMB, WHEN REALLY THEY ARE MADE UP OF THE INTELLECTUAL ELITE AND IVY-LEAGUED WRAPPED. THEY DON'T INCLUDE EXPERTS FROM OUTSIDE THEIR FIELD BECAUSE IT'S COUNTER-PRODUCTIVE TO THEIR LARGER AIM OF KEEPING LIKE-MINDED PEOPLE UPHOLDING THEIR POWER STRUCTURE. IT'S WHY THEY DON'T CANNIBALIZE THEIR OWN RANKS. IT'S WHY THEY TAKE RIPE ADVANTAGE OF VOTERS AND SABOTAGE EXPERTS WITHIN THE RANK AND FILE OF ACTUAL ACADEMIA.

SO TO COME AT ANY OF THIS WITH ANYTHING OTHER THAN THE AN EMPATHETIC HEART IS TO ESSENTIALLY MISTRUST THE NATURE OF HUMANITY AND OUR VERY CAPACITY.

WHICH IS PRECISELY WHY EGGSY, THE HERO OF OUR STORY, REFUSES TO SHOOT HIS DOG. HE REFUSES TO DO CALLOUS THINGS. HE REFUSES TO SACRIFICE HIS HUMANITY, NOR HIS TEAMMATES, NOR HIS FAMILY, FOR THE GLORY OF QUEEN AND COUNTRY.

HE IS THE HERO OF THE STORY BECAUSE HE KNOWS IT'S ALL BULLSHIT. HE REFUSES THE POMP AND STAYS FIXATED ON THE CIRCUMSTANCE. WHICH MAKES HIM A GODDAMN REVELATION OF A MODERN PROTAGONIST, IF YOU ASK HULK.

SO HERE'S THE REAL QUESTION:

JUST WHY IS IT SO HARD TO BELIEVE KINGSMAN OF ALL MOVIES IS SAYING THESE THINGS?

9. TIS NOT THE FAULT IN OUR STARS...

EVERYONE CAN PRETTY MUCH AGREE THAT COMEDY IS HARDER, BUT SERIOUS MOVIES WILL ALWAYS WIN THE OSCARS. SURE, THERE MAY BE THE OCCASIONAL FILM THAT BREAKS THROUGH, BUT HULK'S NOT SURE WE'LL EVER BE ABLE TO CHANGE ALL THAT. EVEN WITHIN GENRE, WE SEEM TO JUST ATTACH MEANINGS TO SURFACES. WE FALL IMMEDIATELY FOR TONE OVER METAPHOR. AND WE ARE JUST BAD AT LOOKING AT WHAT A FILM IS SAYING.

AND YET, WHEN IT COMES TO AUDIENCE "INTERPRETATION," THE THING THAT WE ARE BEST DOING IS FILLING A VACUUM.

TO WIT, LOST PRESENTED A BUNCH OF MYSTERIES / UNANSWERED QUESTIONS AND LEGIONS OF FANS BENT OVER BACKWARDS TO TRY AND ANSWER THOSE QUESTIONS. THEY LOOKED AT EVERY LITTLE FRAME OF THE SHOW. THEY BECAME MINI-DETECTIVES. THEY PUT THE PIECES TOGETHER AND THEN WROTE ABOUT IT, THOUSANDS OF WORDS AT A TIME. AND WITH ALL THE UNSOLVED MYSTERIES OF CINEMA AND TV, PEOPLE READILY TAKE UP THE CALL TO INTERPRET THE LINGERING PLOT ISSUES, BREAK OUT THEIR LOGIC, AND ENGAGE IN THAT THING THEY THINK IS "STORY." HECK, EVEN A FILM LIKE WHIPLASH, WHICH PLAYS OUT AS A MOSTLY STRAIGHTFORWARD FILM, BECOMES A HUGE TALKING POINT IN TERMS OF INTERPRETATION BECAUSE OF THE CLEAR MORAL AMBIGUITY OF THE FILM'S ENDING IS MEANT TO PROVOKE SUCH RANGES OF RESPONSE. WHICH PROVES THE WHOLE POINT: WE ONLY CARE TO DIVE INTO THINGS THAT ARE ACTUALLY OUTSIDE OF THE TEXT. MEANING WE ALO LIKE TO UNDERSTAND INTERPRETATION BASED ON WHAT WE BRING TO IT, NOT NECESSARILY WHAT THE FILM CONTAINS IN AND OF ITS OWN ATTEMPT AT MESSAGING.

IS THIS WHY WE ARE BAD AT INTERPRETING A FILM LIKE KINGSMAN?

BECAUSE IT DOESN'T GIVE US A VACUUM TO FILL. IT DOESN'T THRIVE ON AMBIGUITY. INSTEAD, IT PRESENTS A FUN, SLICK MOVIE WITH AN IRONIC, SEETHING MESSAGE JUST SITTING THERE IN THE PLOT MECHANICS AND ETHOS, PLAIN AS DAY. BUT BECAUSE WE DON'T RECOGNIZE THE KINDS OF CUES THAT PROMPT US TO CONNECT THOSE IDEAS, THE "ARITHMETIC" JUST SITS THERE, UNCOMPUTED. EVEN THE OFT-MALIGNED "ENGLISH MAJORS" WHO LOVE NOTHING MORE THAN SOME THEMATIC INTERPRETATION (AND OF WHOM HULK COUNTS HULKSELF), DON'T REALLY FEEL PROMPTED TO ENGAGE A FILM LIKE KINGSMAN, BECAUSE IT ISN'T A CLEAR SYMBOLIC MYSTERY LIKE MULHOLLAND DR. OR UNDER THE SKIN OR SOMETHING OF THAT NATURE. NO, EVERYONE SEEMS TO BE DISINTERESTED IN REALLY THINKING ABOUT A FILM LIKE THIS.

WHICH JUST MEANS THAT MAYBE WE AREN'T DOING OUR JOB?

BECAUSE KINGSMAN, FOR ALL ITS MANY AGGRESSIONS AND CRUDENESSES, HAS SOMETHING CONCRETE TO SAY. AND IT'S NOT LIKE HULK WENT HOME AND THOUGHT ABOUT ALL THIS FOR HOURS. HULK GOT ALL OF IT RIGHT AS THE MOVIE WAS GOING ALONG. AND THAT UNDERSTANDING FOSTERED HULK'S ABILITY TO ENJOY THE FILM THROUGH AND THROUGH. IT'S ALL RIGHT THERE. AND NOT TO SINGLE OUT THEIR RESPONSE, BECAUSE PEOPLE TEND TO GET REALLY MAD WHENEVER HULK SAYS SOMETHING LIKE THIS, BUT FOR WHATEVER IT'S WORTH, MOST OF THE PEOPLE WHO LOVED KINGSMAN THE SAME WAY HULK DID WERE FILMMAKERS. PERHAPS THEY JUST SAW THE INTENTION OF THE LANGUAGE IMMEDIATELY. BUT WHATEVER IT MEANS, IT MEANS. AND IT IS IMPORTANT BECAUSE HULK ALWAYS LIKES TO SAY IT IS THE JOB OF THE CRITIC TO REALLY ENGAGE A FILM ON THE LEVEL WITH WHICH IT IS TRYING TO ENGAGE YOU. AND IF IT WANTS YOU TO RECONCILE THOSE ATTEMPTS WITH MEANING, IT IS THE CRITIC'S JOB TO COMMUNICATE THAT EFFECTIVENESS.

BUT WHAT IF WE AREN'T DOING OUR JOBS? AND WITH THAT HAUNTING QUESTION: IT'S TIME TO DISCUSS THE FILM'S ENDING...

10. BUTTZ

SO AFTER A LIFETIME OF WATCHING THE MOVIES, HULK SPENT AN ADDITIONAL HALF A YEAR RESEARCHING JAMES BOND IN ORDER TO WRITE A GIANT FREAKING TOME THAT IS ESSENTIALLY A FEMINIST APPROXIMATION OF THE ENTIRE JAMES BOND SERIES. AND THE BOOK IS LITERALLY TITLED "JAMES BOND: STARING INTO THE ID OF A BONER INCARNATE." NOW, THE LAST THING HULK WANTS TO IMPLY IS THAT THIS WORK IS BY ANY MEANS A DEFINITE INTERPRETATION OF BOND AND HIS MEANING IN MASCULINITY / FEMINISM. ALL HULK WANTS TO SAY IS THAT HULK HAS THOUGHT ABOUT THIS PARTICULAR SUBJECT A WHOLE FREAKING LOT. AND WHAT HULK WOULD ARGUE IS THAT THE MOST "FUNCTIONAL" INTEGRATION OF FEMINISM EXISTS WHEN THE FILMS REACH THE NEXUS BETWEEN THE ROMANTIC LIE OF JAMES BOND AT HIS BEST, MOST CHARMING, MOST SENSITIVE SELF, WHILE SIMULTANEOUSLY NOT LYING ABOUT THE OFTEN UGLY PSYCHOLOGY AT THE HEART OF HIS CHARACTERIZATION.

MEANING IN ORDER TO SUCCEED, A JAMES BOND ENTRY MUST BOTH UNDERMINE AND "OVERMINE" THE HONESTY OF WHO HE IS AT THE CORE... BUT MOST OF THE TIME?

THE JAMES BOND SERIES DOESN'T DO THAT AT ALL. IT INSTEAD TENDS TO JUST WRAP EVERYTHING UP WITH A MERE BUTTON OF "EVERYTHING'S OKAY!" AS BOND SETTLES DOWN WITH WHATEVER GIRL IS LEFT ALIVE AND THEY GO ON TO FUCK AND THE CAMERA CUTS AWAY BEFORE ANYTHING GETS RATED R. THAT'S JUST THE TRUTH OF IT. VERY RARELY DOES THAT WOMAN ACTUALLY MEAN SOMETHING TO HIM, NOR DOES SHE MEAN ANYTHING TO THE AUDIENCE. AND VARY RARELY DOES THE "ENDING FUCK" HAVE ANY KIND OF GENUINE CATHARSIS. WHICH PROBABLY MAKES THIS "THE WORST LIE" OF THE SERIES. OR HECK, MAYBE IT'S THE BEST, MOST IMPORTANT LIE, THE INTENTION OF THE LIE THEY WANT TO UPHOLD IN THEIR COCK-SMITHING INTEREST. OR HECK, MAYBE WE CAN JUST SHRUG OUR SHOULDERS AT WHAT IS PRESENTED TEXTUALLY AS A CELEBRATORY HOOK-UP OF TWO AGREEING PARTIES WHO ARE JUST HAPPY THE WORLD'S NOT OVER AND STILL REELING OFF THE HIGH OF THE FILM'S CLIMAX. AND MOST LIKELY, IT IS A COMBINATION OF ALL THESE THINGS.

BUT WHAT IS THE MOST HONEST WAY TO TREAT IT?

THAT'S REALLY WHAT THIS IS ALL ABOUT, RIGHT? HONESTY. AND IN SENDING UP BOND THERE'S SO MANY WAYS ONE COULD DO IT. FOR INSTANCE, THERE'S THIS MONSTER GAG IN OSS 117 WHERE OUR HERO BEGINS MAKING OUT WITH ONE OF HIS SEXUAL CONQUESTS AND THE CAMERA, IN TYPICAL BOND FASHION, BEGINS TO GRACEFULLY PAN AWAY FROM THE SEX, BUT IT ACCIDENTALLY CATCHES THEIR REFLECTION IN A MIRROR SO THAT WE SEE THEIR AWKWARD, FUMBLING, NAKED BODIES. THE PERSON OPERATING THE CAMERA CLEARLY PANICS AND TURNS IT AWAY AS QUICKLY AS POSSIBLE. IT'S ONE OF THOSE FOURTH WALL BREAKS THAT HAS MORE IN COMMON WITH THE AUSTIN POWERS SERIES, BUT IT CONVEYS SO MUCH ABOUT THE RULES WE TAKE FOR GRANTED IN THE BOND UNIVERSE, AND HOW PEOPLE REGARD THE OBLIGATORY SEXUAL NATURE OF THESE CHARACTERS ANYWAY. THE GOAL OF BOTH IS TO SAY SOMETHING SIMPLE AND HONEST:

THAT THIS IS COMPLETELY RIDICULOUS.

AND HULK WOULD ARGUE THAT THE MOMENT AT THE END OF KINGSMAN IS REMARKABLY SIMILAR, BUT LIKE ALL THINGS IN THE VAUGHN OEUVRE, IT IS PRESENTED AS CRUDELY AND PLAIN-FACEDEDLY AS POSSIBLE. BUT LET HULK ALSO BE CLEAR: IF SOMEONE WAS OFFENDED BY THE FOLLOWING MOMENT, HULK CAN COMPLETELY UNDERSTAND WHY. BUT HULK WILL SIMPLY MAKE A CASE FOR AN ALTERNATIVE TAKE. SO WITH THAT SAID, HERE WE GO WITH SPOILER TALK:

KINGSMAN ENDS ON AN ANAL SEX JOKE.

HULK WOULD ARGUE IT'S NOT EVEN REALLY MEANT TO BE A FUNNY ONE. IT INSTEAD SEEMS TO BE MADE AS BOLD, BLATANT AND TONE-DEAF AS POSSIBLE. TO WIT, OUR LEAD GENT EGGSY IS ON HIS WAY FOR THE FINAL CONFRONTATION, BUT HE MEETS THE ICELANDIC PRINCESS TILDE IN THE PRISONS BELOW. NOW, SHE WAS REVEALED EARLIER IN THE FILM AND SHE WAS ONE OF THE GOOD RICH PEOPLE WHO WAS HORRIFIED BY SAM JACKSON AND HER PRIME MINISTER'S CASUAL WILLINGNESS TO GO ALONG WITH THIS WHOLE "KILL THE POOR" PLAN. AND FOR HER HUMANITY AND MORAL FIBER, SHE WAS LOCKED UP HERE. WHEN THEY MEET, SHE BEGS HIM TO GET HER OUT OF THERE. AND HE SAYS IN TYPICAL BOND-ISH BRAVADO THAT HE'S ON THE WAY TO SAVE THE WORLD AND IF HE COMES BACK TO LET HER OUT, CAN HE HAVE A KISS? (WHICH IS NOT A "GOOD THING" OF COURSE, BUT THE IMPLICATION IS DISTINCTLY BONDIAN), BUT THEN SHE JUST SIMPLY RETORTS WITH HER HEAVY ACCENT: "If you save the world, we can do it in the asshole." HER BLUNT DELIVERY LANDS RIGHT THERE WITH AN AWKWARD THUD. AND WHEN IT HAPPENED, HULK LITERALLY HEARD AN ENTIRE AUDIENCE NOT CHEER, BUT EKE OUT VISCERAL, UNCOMFORTABLE GUFFAWS. EVEN EGGSY, PARALYZED FOR A MOMENT BY THE THUD, THEN CALMLY REPLIES: "I'll be right back." AND GOES OFF WITH HIS DORKY SUAVENESS. IT'S A WINKING "MOMENT" BUT YOU WILL NOTE THE CINEMA DOESN'T WINK.

FROM THERE, OUR EGGSY GOES OFF AND DEFEATS THE BAD GUYS, COMES BACK WITH CHAMPAGNE IN DISTINCTLY BONDIAN FASHION, AND SHE'S WAITING FOR HIM WITH EAGER ATTENTION. AND IT CUTS AWAY TO MARK STRONG IN THE JET. WHO, IN TRYING TO FIND WHERE EGGSY WENT TURNS ON THE VISION SETTING THROUGH HIS SPY GLASSES AND THUS SEES HIM LOOK DOWN AT THE PRINCESS IN BED (THIS IS BASICALLY WHAT HAPPENED IN MOONRAKER, BY THE WAY, COMPLETE WITH THE LINE "ATTEMPTING RE-ENTRY"). THE BIG DIFFERENCE IS THAT, LIKE OSS 117, THE CAMERA DOESN'T CUT AWAY AND INSTEAD EGGSY'S POV PANS DOWN TO SHOW WHAT CAN ONLY BE DESCRIBED AS HER "EAGERLY AWAITING BUTT" IN PLAIN VIEW. THE SHOT HOLDS FOR A BEAT, EVERYONE IN THE THEATER GOT QUIET AND NERVOUS AND STARTED SHUFFLING. IT'S JUST THIS HUGE, WEIRD VISCERAL REACTION OF "WAIT, ARE THEY GONNA!??!"

AND THEN WE CUT TO MARK STRONG'S CHARACTER STARING DIRECTLY INTO CAMERA AND QUIETLY REMARKING "OH!" BEFORE HE CLOSES THE DECK OF THE COMPUTER LIKE THEY ARE SHUTTERS, THUS REMOVING THE AUDIENCE FROM VIEW SO WE CAN'T SEE. BOOM. WE ARE THEN HIT WITH A "DIRECTED BY MATTHEW VAUGHN" TAG. IT'S ONLY KIND OF FOURTH WALL-Y, BUT UNLIKE THE CLEAR JOKE OF OSS 117, THERE IS A WEIRD ELEGANCE TO STRONG'S RESPONSE, ESPECIALLY WHEN SET AGAINST THE BLUNTNESS OF THE MOMENT, WHICH HULK WOULD ARGUE IS VERY MUCH PURPOSEFUL.

BUT IT'S NOT OVER YET! BECAUSE THE ENTIRE FILM COMES BACK AND RETURNS FOR A CODA OF NOTHING MORE THAN A LITTLE CHARACTER BEAT OF EGGSY TAKING CARE OF THE JERK RUFFIANS IN THE BAR WHO PLAGUE AND "OWN" HIS MOTHER, AND THEN EGGSY ENACTS BEAT FOR BEAT THE START OF COLIN FIRTH'S SAME FIGHT IN THE BAR FROM EARLIER. THEN THE FILM ENDS FOR REAL AND MATTHEW VAUGHN HITS US WITH ANOTHER TITLE CARD, THIS TIME DEDICATING THE FILM TO HIS MOTHER, "WHO TAUGHT HIM HOW TO BE A GENTLEMEN."

...

......

.......... OK.

SO THERE'S OBVIOUSLY A LOT TO UNPACK HERE, AS WHAT IS DESCRIBED ABOVE CERTAINLY SEEMS LIKE ALL MANNER OF ILL TASTE, BUT HULK HAS A FEW THOUGHTS ON IT. STARTING WITH THIS: REMEMBER NORM MACDONALD'S POINT ABOUT THE LACK OF HONESTY IN INNUENDO? WELL HULK ARGUES THAT WHAT WE ARE SEEING HERE IS THE CINEMATIC EQUIVALENT OF THAT CLASSIC NORM MACDONALD DOUBLE-ING DOWN ON THE OBVIOUS JOKE. IT'S WHY THE REQUEST FOR DOING IT IN THE ASSHOLE LANDS WITH AN AIRLESS THUD. IT'S WHY THE FILM PANS DOWN TO THE ACTUAL BUTT. THIS IS ALL THE SCREAMING ACT OF CRUDE NON-INNUENDO. THIS IS BLUNT. BUT IT IS ALSO HONEST.

WHICH MEANS VAUGHN JUST SHOWED US WHAT A JAMES BOND JOKE REALLY LOOKS LIKE.

THE INTENTION COULD NOT BE MORE CLEAR. IT'S THE MOST CLASSIC BOND ENDING SCENARIO. THEY'VE CLEARLY CHOSEN THIS CHARACTER CAREFULLY. SHE'S BARELY IN THE FILM, SHE'S DEFINED AS BEING INHERENTLY GOOD, SHE'S EVEN A REPUTABLE PRINCESS. AND SHE TAKES HIS JUVENILE ATTEMPT AT FLIRTATION AND OBLIGATORILY RUNS WITH IT TO THE FURTHEST END. THAT'S PRECISELY WHY IT IS SO OUT OF NOWHERE. IT IS VERY SPECIFICALLY SET UP TO READ AS THE "RIDICULOUS OBLIGATORY BOND GIRL" AND SHOWING JUST HOW OUT OF NOWHERE SUCH OBLIGING FLIRTATION AND OBLIGATORY CONSUMMATION CAN BE. AND EVERYTHING ABOUT THAT ENDING IS DESIGNED TO BE VISCERAL AND CONFRONTATIONAL. IT'S WHY THE SHOT IS A P.O.V. SHOT. IT'S NOT LETTING US OFF THE HOOK. IT'S VERY PURPOSEFULLY PUSHING THE SCENE INTO A FORCED REACTION INSTEAD OF MERELY CALLING OUT THE JOKE IN SAFE WAY. IT WANTS IT TO BE UNSAFE. IT WANTS OUR REACTION. IT WANTS TO SEE US REACT WITH ENTHUSIASM OR SHOCK. WHICH IS PRECISELY WHY MARK STRONG'S MERLIN TREATS THE MOMENT WITH AN UNDERSTATED RESPONSE LIKE IT'S JUST BUSINESS AS USUAL.

NOW. HULK IS PERFECTLY WILLING TO TO ADMIT THAT THIS SCENE MIGHT FEEL WEIRD BECAUSE IT IS SOMEWHAT OUT OF SYNC WITH THE BOND-SKEWERING TACTICS WITHIN THE REST OF THE MOVIE. MEANING RARELY DOES THE BONDIAN LANGUAGE IN KINGSMAN FEEL AS DIRECT AS THIS (THOUGH TO BE FAIR, SAM JACKSON LITERALLY TALKS ABOUT THESE KINDS OF SPY MOVIES). BUT ULTIMATELY, HULK ACCEPTS THE ATTEMPT BEING MADE BECAUSE, AGAIN, HULK GENUINELY UNDERSTANDS THE ACT'S CONFRONTATIONAL SEQUENCING IS PART OF THE COMMENTARY. WHICH LEADS HULK TO THINK THERE ARE TWO PLAYS ACTUALLY BEING MADE HERE...

1) THE FIRST BEING ALL THE AFOREMENTIONED WILL TO PUSH A JAMES BOND SEX SCENE OUT OF MERE INNUENDO AND INTO FACING THE ACTUAL CRASSNESS IT PERVADES.

2) THE SECOND IS TO DIRECTLY ENGAGE THE VIEWER WITH THIS RATHER BAITING SCENE TO SEE WHICH SIDE OF THE REACTION THEY COME DOWN ON.

BECAUSE AS HULK'S TRIED TO PROVE TIME AND TIME AGAIN, THE MOVIE IS WORKING IN A DIRECT, PROVOKING WAY. YOUR REACTION MATTERS. AND THE SECOND IT PANNED DOWN TO HER BUTT, HULK WASN'T CELEBRATORY, HULK BASICALLY PANICKED. HULK THOUGHT: "YIKES!" WHAT ARE THEY- ARE THEY REALLY GONNA SHOW???" AND THEN THE SCENE GOES ON TO THE CLOSE WITH THE CHUCKLE, WHICH LETS YOU SEE EXACTLY WHAT VAUGHN IS TRYING TO DO.

IT IS BASICALLY ASKING YOU A SERIES OF QUESTIONS: ARE YOU THE KIND OF PERSON WHO WANTS TO SEE WHAT HAPPENS NEXT? ARE YOU HORRIFIED THAT THE SHOT LINGERED TOO LONG AND DIDN'T CUT AWAY? DO YOU GET WHY THE JOKE ENDED EXACTLY WHERE IT DID? AND DOESN'T THIS WHOLE THING BRING UP THE CONVERSATION ABOUT WHETHER OR NOT PEOPLE ARE MORE FREAKED OUT BY CONSENSUAL ANAL SEX THAN THEY WERE ABOUT THE MEANINGLESS VIOLENCE AND THE ATTEMPTED MURDER OF THE UNDERCLASS?

AND YES, HULK IS COMPLETELY AWARE OF THE COMPLICATIONS IN ENGAGING IN THE ASSUMED INNOCENCE OF A GIVEN SCENE BY DECLARING ANY SEX IN A FILM "CONSENSUAL" (AS THIS IS STILL BEING WRITTEN, DIRECTED AND EXECUTED BY THE OVERSIGHT OF VAUGHN). AND YES, HULK WOULD ALSO AGREE THAT ANY KIND OF SEXUAL TRANSCENDENCE WOULD BE PREFERABLE TO THE DOUBLING-DOWN ON THE OBVIOUSNESS. AFTER ALL, THE FILM HAD THE INGENUITY TO TURN A BOND FILM INTO CLASS COMMENTARY; WHY CAN'T THEY TRANSCEND THIS ONE? HECK, DEVIN HAD THE GREAT IDEA THAT THE ENDING SHOULD REVEAL THAT EGGSY IS IN FACT GAY - AS HE HASN'T REALLY SHOWN SEXUAL INTEREST IN WOMEN THAT WAY TILL THIS POINT - AND THAT HIS ENDING SEXUAL TRYST WITH SHOULD BE WITH A GENT. WHICH WOULD BE A BRAZEN MOVE AND WORTHY OF CHEER! BUT HULK STILL MUST ACCEPT THE SATIRICAL INTENTION / MERITS OF THE SCENE AS IS. AND LIKE ANY CONVERSATION REGARDING NUDITY BEING USED AS A CRITICISM OF OBLIGATORY SEXUALITY, SATIRE OR OTHERWISE, IT GETS AT THE VALID REALITY OF: "YEAH, BUT THEY'RE STILL SHOWING IT." WHICH IS VALID, BUT STILL GETS US INTO THE WHOLE REFLEXIVE ARGUMENT ABOUT SEXUAL EXPRESSION, IN THAT THERE IS SO MUCH DAMN SEXUAL VICTIMIZATION IN THAT EXPRESSION, BUT SOMETIMES SAFE SEXUAL EXPRESSIONS GET CAUGHT IN THE CROSS-FIRE TOO. MEANING WE HAVE TO BE SURE THAT ONE'S VISCERAL REACTION ISN'T JUST PART OF HOW PEOPLE GET FREAKED OUT ABOUT ANAL SEX IN GENERAL.

WHAT'S INTERESTING IS THAT THIS IS THE SAME EXACT ARGUMENT WITH WHETHER SATIRE IS MORALLY OKAY IN THAT IT IS STILL A DEPICTION OF THE SAME ACT IT IS CRITICIZING... WE'LL TALK MORE ABOUT THIS CATCH 22 IN A BIT, BUT HULK IS GOING TO VERY MUCH ARGUE THAT BOTH SATIRE AND PURPOSEFUL DEPICTION DO HAVE A PLACE IN CINEMA. THE HOWS AND WHYS OF WHAT ACTUALLY "WORKS" IS ONE THING, BUT TO DISMISS THE VERY CAPABILITY OF SUCH A DEVICE AS THE ANAL SEX JOKE IN KINGSMAN IS TO LIKEWISE DISMISS THE GAGS FROM OSS 117 AND THE AUSTIN POWERS MOVIES.

THE ONLY DIFFERENCE IS THAT ONE JUST SEEMS MORE WRONG.

AND AGAIN, HULK WOULD ARGUE THAT IS VERY MUCH PART OF THE POINT. PLEASE REMEMBER THAT SCORSESE IS FAMOUS FOR ALWAYS PUTTING IN MOMENTS WHERE HE PUSHES HIS "LIKEABLE ASSHOLE" CHARACTERS A BEAT TOO FAR IN THE REALM OF UNFORGIVABLE CRUELTY. IT'S WHY HE SHOWS HENRY HILL BEING DESPICABLE OR JORDAN BELFORT HITTING HIS WIFE. THE PURPOSE IS TO REMIND THE AUDIENCE OF EXACTLY WHO THESE PEOPLE REALLY ARE. AND ON THE FLIPSIDE, HE DOESN'T MORALIZE THIS DESPICABLE BEHAVIOR EITHER. HE DOESN'T PUT THESE ACTS IN THE CONTEXT OF RIGHT AND WRONG, JUST AS HE DOESN'T LIE ABOUT THE ALLURE OF THESE CHARACTERS, NOR WILL HE EVER LIE ABOUT THEIR CAPACITY FOR HORROR. SCORSESE'S WORK IS ALWAYS CAPTIVATING BECAUSE IT IS ALWAYS HONEST ABOUT WHO THESE MONSTERS ARE AND WILL NEVER FLINCH FROM SHOWING OUR RELATIONSHIP TO THESE SAME MONSTERS. HE WILL SHOW SEX AND DRUGS AND VIOLENCE FOR THE ALLURE THEY HAVE OVER US. HULK MEAN, THERE'S A REASON PEOPLE ENGAGE IN ALL THOSE ACTS IN THE FIRST PLACE. AND TO MORALIZE LIFE NOT AS IT IS, BUT AS IT SHOULD BE, FEELS LIKE A LIE.

SO THE QUESTION NO ONE SEEMS TO BE ASKING IS THIS: IS MATTHEW VAUGHN JUST DOING THE SAME THING FOR POP BLOCKBUSTERS?

BECAUSE HULK WOULD ARGUE THAT KINGSMAN IS THE MOST HONEST JAMES BOND FILM EVER MADE. IT IS THE AMALGAMATION AND APPROXIMATION OF JUST ABOUT EVERY SINGLE THING HULK BROUGHT UP IN THE BOOK, IT'S JUST THAT OFTEN ITS SOLUTIONS HAVE VERY LITTLE TO DO WITH TRANSCENDENCE AND INVERSION, BUT INSTEAD HAVE EVERYTHING TO DO WITH GIVING THE AUDIENCE THE BOLD-FACED HONEST AND UGLY VERSION OF ALL THE THINGS THEY WANT. IT'S A FILM THAT COMPLETELY CUTS THROUGH THE BULLSHIT OF WHAT PEOPLE LOVE ABOUT THE INDULGENT AND SHITTIER ASPECTS OF JAMES BOND, AND YES THAT INVOLVES GETTING SOME OF THE AUDIENCE TO LAP UP SOME OF THE UGLIEST MESSAGES IMAGINABLE, ALL WHILE SIMULTANEOUSLY GIVING US THE SEMIOTIC KEY TO TRANSCEND IT OURSELVES.

THAT'S WHAT THE WHOLE "NOT THAT KIND OF MOVIE, BRUV" MANTRA ACTUALLY MEANS. IT'S A LINE THAT TELLS YOU IT IS NOT GOING TO BE A MOVIE THAT TEASES YOU WITH INNUENDO. IT IS THE MOVIE THAT IS GOING TO HIT YOU HARD WITH WHAT'S REALLY GOING ON HERE. IT'S GOING TO BE HONEST ABOUT HOW THESE SORTS OF STORIES CAN GO. AND THEY'RE GOING TO BE HONEST ABOUT WHAT THEY'RE REALLY AFTER.

AND IF WE'RE AT A PLACE OF FINALLY ACCEPTING THIS FILM'S BRAND OF HONESTY, THAT MEANS HULK CAN FINALLY TALK ABOUT THE OTHER AUTHOR OF THIS FILM...

11. THE OTHER AUTHOR

FUN FACT: THIS ARTICLE IS ACTUALLY ABOUT JANE GOLDMAN.

WHO IS THAT? WELL, SHE IS MATTHEW VAUGHN'S WRITING PARTNER / PRODUCER FOR ONE. WHICH MEANS SHE IS JUST AS RESPONSIBLE FOR KINGSMAN AS HE IS. NATURALLY, GOLDMAN IS A FIGURE OF VARIOUS LEVELS OF NOTORIETY IN ENGLAND. SHE HOSTED SOME FUNKY PARANORMAL SHOWS BACK IN THE DAY AND WROTE ABOUT X-FILES. SHE'S A FRIEND OF NEIL GAIMAN AND MARRIED TO COMEDIAN JONATHAN ROSS (THEY HAVE KIDS TOGETHER, INCLUDING ONE NAMED AFTER JACK KIRBY). SHE'S WRITTEN WITH MATTHEW ON EVERY FILM SINCE STARDUST. AND ON HER OWN SHE WROTE THAT SOLID AS HELL LITTLE HORROR FILM THE WOMAN IN BLACK. SHORT VERSION: SHE'S FUCKIN LEGIT, Y'ALL. AND WITHIN MOMENTS OF HEARING HER TALK, YOU REALIZE JUST HOW SMART SHE IS WHEN SHE SAYS THINGS LIKE, "Vengeance is the act of turning anger in on yourself. On the surface it may be directed at someone else, but it is a surefire recipe for arresting emotional recovery." AND FROM THOUGHTS LIKE THIS IT IS OBVIOUS HOW CRITICAL SHE IS TO THEIR CREATIVE PARTNERSHIP. BETTER YET, SHE SO READILY SEEMS TO UNDERSTAND THE GENDER DIALOGUE HER FILMS EXIST IN, WHILE ALSO ADVOCATING THE FORM OF FEMINISM THAT UNAPOLOGETICALLY DIVES INTO HYPER-SEXUALITY AND THE BRAZEN INCLINATION THAT WOMEN CAN SPEAK THEIR FUCKING MINDS. MEANING IT'S NO ACCIDENT THAT THERE HAS BEEN A WHOLE LOT OF STODGY JUDGMENTAL TALK ABOUT HER. MOSTLY BECAUSE SHE, AT AGE 44, DARES TO DO THINGS LIKE DYE HER HAIR CRAZY COLORS AND SHOW HER FIGURE! (HOW DARE SHE! RABBLE RABBLE! ETC!). BUT MOST OFFENSIVE THING OF ALL IS THE VERY NOTION THAT SHE EXISTS AS THE LUCKY PERSON VAUGHN WORKS WITH WHO IS JUST GOING ALONG FOR THE RIDE.

BECAUSE HULK IS PRETTY SURE THE "LUCK" GOES IN THE OTHER DIRECTION.

TO HIGHLIGHT WHAT HULK IS TALKING ABOUT, THE FOLLOWING IS A SHORT FILM / PROMO THAT GOLDMAN WROTE A FEW YEARS AGO (DIRECTED BY SAM TAYLOR-JOHNSON) CALLED "JAMES BOND SUPPORTS INTERNATIONAL WOMEN'S DAY" ... WHAT DOES A FILM WITH THAT TITLE EVEN LOOK LIKE?

WELL, JUST WATCH:

THE SHORT IS OBVIOUSLY A PSA FOR THE EQUALS CAMPAIGN, AND A FAIRLY STRAIGHTFORWARD, NON-REVELATORY ONE AT THAT. BUT THE LARGER POINT TO TAKE AWAY FROM IT, AT LEAST FOR THE PURPOSES OF THIS ESSAY, IS THAT GOLDMAN IS A WRITER OF THIS FILM AND, IN THE VERY LEAST, STAUNCHLY AWARE OF THE GENDER POLITICS OF JAMES BOND. THAT LINE ESPECIALLY STICKS OUT WITH PURPOSE:

"For someone with such a fondness for women, I'm wondering if you ever considered what it might be like to be one?"

TO HULK, THE WRITING IS ON THE WALL: COMING OUT OF MILLAR'S SOURCE MATERIAL AND LOOKING AT SOME OF VAUGHN'S MORE PUZZLING QUOTES, GOLDMAN IS THE EXACT KIND OF PARTNER THAT MAKES VAUGHN'S WORK COME TOGETHER IN A FUNCTIONAL WAY. SHE SEEMS TO BE AWARE OF ALL THE RIGHT COMPLICATIONS. SHE SEEMS TO BE ABLE TO STEER THEM IN THE RIGHT DIRECTIONS. SHE SEEMS TO HAVE MUCH BETTER ANSWERS FOR HIS TERRIBLE ONES. SHE SEEMS TO TAKE HIS DEVILISH INSTINCT AND DRIVE AND HELP HIM FILTER IT INTO SOMETHING MORE PRODUCTIVE. SHE SEEMS TO BE ABLE TO APPROXIMATE ALL THE DIFFICULTIES AS THEY BOTH FIND A DISTILLATION FOR THEIR MORE BASE, CRUDE AND SEXUALIZED TREATMENTS OF SATIRE ITSELF, WHILE THEY BUILD A HILARIOUS SHEEN TO EXHIBIT IT. AND IT'S PROBABLY WHY THE ANAL SEX JOKE FEELS LIKE LIKE A PIECE OF GENDER CO-OWNERSHIP, EVEN IF IT MAY NOT SEEM LIKE IT. TO HULK, THEIR TEAMWORK IS JUST A PERFECT FIT (AND TO THINK THEY ALMOST MADE THOR!).

BUT YOU KNOW WHAT? FOR THE SAKE OF ARGUMENT, LET'S SAY YOU'RE RIGHT.

LET'S SAY THAT AFTER ALL THIS, THEY ARE LUCKY AND HAVE NO IDEA WHAT THEY'RE DOING. LET'S SAY A BASTARD SON OF AN ENGLISH ARISTOCRAT MAKES HIM NO MORE DEFT IN TALKING ABOUT CLASS THAN ANYONE. LET'S HIGHLIGHT THE IRONY THAT HE'S ALSO ONE OF THOSE RICH PEOPLE WITH LOTS OF MONEY, RIDING AROUND IN HELICOPTERS AND WHATNOT. LET'S HIGHLIGHT THE FACT HE STILL GREW UP WITH MONEY. LET'S POINT OUT THE WEIRD FACT HE'S STILL TAKING THE ARISTOCRAT'S NAME. LET'S HIGHLIGHT THE FACT THAT MOST PEOPLE STILL MISINTERPRET A CRAP LOAD OF WHAT THE MOVIE IS TRYING TO DO. LET'S ACCEPT THE FACT THAT THE CRUDENESS OF THEIR WORK LANDS WITH A THUD TO A GOOD AMOUNT OF PEOPLE. LET'S ACCEPT THAT THESE FILMS CAN BE PROBLEMATIC OR AT LEAST CONTRADICTORY. LET'S ACCEPT THAT EVEN ALL THE GOOD THINGS ABOUT THESE FILMS AND ALL OF HULK'S SEMIOTIC BREAKDOWNS OF THESE MOMENTS SOMEHOW HAPPENED ACCIDENTALLY.

FINE. LET'S SAY ALL THAT... BUT HERE'S THE NEXT QUESTION:

DOES IT ACTUALLY MATTER?

12. THE KANYE WEST COROLLARY (YES, THIS IS A CHAPTER)

KANYE WEST IS ONE OF HULK'S FAVORITE ARTISTS.

HULK EVEN JUST WROTE AN ENTIRE ARTICLE ABOUT HOW FASCINATING HE IS. BUT HERE'S ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW FOR THE SAKE OF THIS COLUMN: ALMOST EVERY ARTICLE / NEWS ITEM / THINK PIECE THAT HULK READS ABOUT KANYE WEST ALWAYS SEEMS TO MISS THE POINT ABOUT WHAT MAKES HIM SPECIAL. IS KANYE GOOD? IS KANYE BAD? WAS HE OUT OF LINE WHEN HE DID X, Y OR Z? IT DOESN'T MATTER BECAUSE KANYE WEST LIVES IN THE PERFECT NEXUS OF ON-PURPOSE GENIUS AND NONSENSICAL ID-LIKE REACTION. IN A WAY, HIS VERY BEING EXPRESSES A KIND OF PERFECT TRUTH. KANYE IS TRYING TO TELL US SOMETHING THROUGH A UNIQUE COMBINATION OF SKILL AND INSTINCT AND IN TURN ENDS UP MAKING SOME OF THE MOST INTERESTING ARTISTIC STATEMENTS HULK CAN THINK OF. IT'S PART HILARIOUS, PART OFFENSIVE AND PART BRILLIANT. AS SUCH, HULK HULK DOESN'T NEED TO "EVALUATE" KANYE... HULK SIMPLY NEEDS TO WATCH / ABSORB / AND TRY TO GRASP AT WHATEVER THE HECK HE MIGHT BE THINKING OR SAYING.

SO EVEN WHILE HULK ARGUES THAT KINGSMAN IS PURPOSEFULLY COHERENT THROUGH AND THROUGH, THERE IS GREAT MERIT TO THE END PRODUCT EVEN IF IT IS ARRIVED AT BY ACCIDENT. A LOT WAS MADE OF SAMUEL L. JACKSON'S LISP, BUT TO HULK? IT WAS THE FIRST NON-TARANTINO PERFORMANCE OF HIS IN RECENT YEARS WHERE HULK STOPPED SEEING "SAMUEL L. JACKSON" AND SAW THE CHARACTER (HE REALLY IS A HELL OF AN ACTOR). MAYBE "POMP AND CIRCUMSTANCE" WAS SOME RANDOM CHOICE THAT HAPPENED TO BE A PERFECT SEMIOTIC STATEMENT TO HIGHLIGHT THE HYPOCRISY OF THOSE LEADERS WHO SEND THE MASSES OFF TO DIE FOR THEIR INTERESTS. AND MAYBE VAUGHN EVEN MEANT THE ENDING ANAL SEX JOKE TO PUT PEOPLE OFF, BUT THERE'S SO MUCH LANGUAGE THERE THAT BACKS UP THE IDEA OF EXACTLY WHAT HE'S CRITICIZING. IN THE END, THERE IS ONLY THE FASCINATING RESULT.

WHICH JUST MIGHT HAVE TO BE A FUNDAMENTAL THING TO ACCEPT, NOT JUST WHEN IT COMES TO STORYTELLING, BUT THE NATURE OF LIFE. WHEN THE HIGGS BOSON WAS MEASURED AT 125 UNITS OF MASS, THAT FIGURE HAPPENED TO BE THE EXACT HALFWAY POINT BETWEEN WHAT SCIENTISTS REGARD AS ORDER AND CHAOS. AND WITH ART, YOUR INTERPRETATIONS ALWAYS EXIST IN THAT SAME NEXUS BETWEEN THE EVIDENCE OF INTENTION AND SOME ORGANICALLY DISCOVERED ELEMENT, AS IF ALL BREWED ON A WHIM.

AND LIKE KANYE, HULK'S NOT SURE HULK CAN CONVINCE OF KINGSMAN'S GENIUS, BUT IT SURE AS FUCK IS ART. FOR IT'S ONE OF THE WEIRDEST "WOLF IN SHEEP'S CLOTHING" FILMS THAT HULK HAS EVER SEEN. AND EVEN THEN, HULK ACKNOWLEDGES THAT IT MAY EXIST IN THAT PERFECT STASIS OF 50% INTENTION AND 50% ACCIDENT...

BUT IF THAT'S ENOUGH FOR THE NATURE OF THE UNIVERSE...

THAN THAT IS MORE THAN ENOUGH FOR HULK.

13. FINALE

MAYBE IT'S JUST THAT WE'RE SUCKER'S FOR TONE.

IT'S THE THING HULK CAN'T STOP THINKING ABOUT. AS MUCH AS ANY AUDIENCE CAN CEREBRALLY ENGAGE THIS AND THAT, THE TONE STILL DOMINATES THEIR ORIGINAL FEEL. BECAUSE YES, TONE IS THE THING THAT GIVES US THE FEELING OF WHAT WE ARE WATCHING. AND IF THAT DOESN'T LINE UP WITH HOWEVER WE ARE PARSING THE CEREBRAL SIDE OF THE FILM, WE DISASSOCIATE... AT LEAST UNTIL WE CAN HOOK OURSELVES BACK IN.

HULK WAS RECENTLY TALKING ABOUT HULK'S TENDENCY TO ANALYZE WHILE WATCHING A MOVIE AND SOMEONE REMARKED THAT IT MUST MAKE HULK DISENGAGE EMOTIONALLY. THE TRUTH IS, ANALYSIS IS EXACTLY WHAT HELPS HULK UNDERSTAND HULK'S EMOTIONS. WHEN A MOVIE STARTS MAKING AN INTERESTING CHOICE HULK AUTOMATICALLY THINKS "WHY ARE THEY DOING THIS? WHAT ARE THEY GETTING AT?" AND USUALLY IT CLICKS AND HULK UNDERSTANDS THE LANGUAGE OF THE FILM AND HULK IS THEREFORE ENGAGED A THOUSANDS TIMES MORE THAN BEFORE. AND IT'S NOT SOME LONG, SLOW PROCESS. IT HAPPENS QUICKLY, MANY TIMES OVER, AND TO HULK'S GREAT JOY.

NOW, YOU MAY REMEMBER THAT HULK ONCE CRITICIZED FIGHT CLUB AND SOME OF THE WORK OF DAVID FINCHER ON THE GROUNDS THAT HE WAS CLAIMING TO MAKE SATIRES, BUT THAT THE FILM NEVER QUITE BACKED UP THAT INTENTION. MEANING THE CEREBRAL SIDE OF THE EQUATION NEVER QUITE CAME TOGETHER IN WAY THAT MADE SENSE. SURE, THEY SORT OF FELT LIKE SATIRES, AS FINCHER HAS A KNACK FOR MAKING DARK, SCATHING AND INSINCERE COMEDIES, BUT THE ACTUAL CONSTRUCT OF THE MESSAGE TENDS TO BE RATHER CONFUSED OR DISINGENUOUS. HE OFTEN AIMS FOR A CLEAR MESSAGE, BUT IT'S LIKE HIS CINEMA DOESN'T FOLLOW THROUGH, NOT EVEN IRONICALLY. HE MERELY DRAPES SCENES WITH SIMULTANEOUS ATTRACTION AND REVULSION AND YET WE ALWAYS THINK OF HIS FILMS AS BEING MORE COMPLEX OR ADULT. IS IT JUST BECAUSE THEY'RE MADE TO FEEL GRAY AND DARK AND MOODY AND AMBIGUOUS? DO WE EVER STOP TO THINK WHAT IS ACTUALLY BEING ADVOCATED HERE?

BUT IT ALL PARSES A DIFFERENT WAY WITH THE WORK OF VAUGHN AND GOLDMAN. FOR ONE, THEIR TONE IS ALWAYS FUN! EXCEPT WHEN THE TRIUMPH CUTS OUT TO GIVE YOU A SWIFT TONAL KICK TO THE NUTS IN THE WAY OF AN UGLY REALITY (JUST BEFORE THEY SWOOP BACK TO A KIND OF CATHARTIC SYNTHESIS BETWEEN THE TWO). BUT WHEN IT COMES TO THE IRONY, THEY NEVER USE THE ACTUAL CINEMA OR TONE TO WINK. THEY JUST BACK UP THE FUCK OUT OF THEIR MESSAGES. UNLIKE FINCHER, THEY LAYER THE ACTUAL TEXTS OF SATIRE. THEY REVEL IN IT. THEY PRESS HARD. THEY MAKE IT INDISTINGUISHABLE ON THE TONAL LEVEL. AND IF YOU EFFECTIVELY "FALL FOR IT" ANYWAY, WELL, THE RESPONSIBLE SEMIOTICS CAN ESSENTIALLY MAKE IT "YOUR FAULT." HULK WOULD ARGUE THIS IS THE SAME SPIRIT AS SOMEONE MISTAKING AN ONION ARTICLE FOR REALITY, BUT 1) THAT APPROACH RUBS A LOT OF PEOPLE THE WRONG WAY. AND 2) NO MATTER HOW MANY TIMES THEY MAKE THEIR INTENTION CLEAR AND TIP THEIR CAP TOWARD A FUN UNDERSTANDING, NO MATTER HOW OFTEN THEY TRY TO HAVE THEIR CAKE AND EAT IT TOO, WE STILL INEXPLICABLY THINK OF THEIR FILMS AS A FUN ENDORSEMENT OF WHATEVER IS ACTUALLY HAPPENING. FOR WHATEVER REASONS, WE CAN'T GET OVER THE TONE.

AND ALL HULK IS TRYING TO ARGUE HERE IS THAT WE SHOULD.

* * *

REMEMBER WHEN HULK SAID VAUGHN (AND GOLDMAN) WAS A SINGULAR ARTIST?

WELL, HULK LIED... KIND OF.

BECAUSE VAUGHN AND GOLDMAN ARE THE CLOSEST CINEMATIC COUSIN TO NONE OTHER THAN THE GREAT PAUL VERHOEVEN. YOU MAY IMMEDIATELY HAVE A KNEE-JERK REACTION TO THIS, ESPECIALLY IF YOU KNOW AND ENJOY VERHOEVEN'S WORK SO MUCH MORE CLEARLY THAN YOU DO VAUGHN AND GOLDMAN'S, BUT THEY REALLY ARE REMARKABLY SIMILAR. TO THE POINT THAT THE PUBLIC HAD MANY OF THE EXACT SAME CONVERSATIONS ABOUT ROBOCOP AND BASIC INSTINCT AS THEY HAVE WITH KICK-ASS AND KINGSMAN. AND THE TRUTH IS THAT VERHOEVEN'S BEEN MAKING SIMILAR KINDS OF FUN, SUPER-VIOLENT, INDULGENT, STRAIGHT-FACED SATIRES FOR DECADES NOW. VERHOEVEN EVEN ADAPTED HEINLEN'S SERIOUS-MINDED STARSHIP TROOPERS IN MUCH THE SAME WAY WE SEE VAUGHN AND GOLDMAN ADAPT MILLAR'S WORK. VERHOEVEN'S ONLY "WINK" IS NOT THROUGH GOOFY ABSTRACTION, BUT THROUGH THE SHEER AUDACIOUSNESS OF THE BLUNT WITH THE CLEAR SEMIOTIC POINTS UNDERNEATH THEM. PERHAPS IT'S JUST THAT VERHOEVEN'S '80S-ESQUE CINEMATIC LANGUAGE IS A LOT MORE CLEAR TO PEOPLE. BUT THAT'S WHEN YOU HAVE TO REALIZE THAT SO MANY PEOPLE HAVE BEEN MISUNDERSTANDING VERHOEVEN FOR YEARS, TOO. ESPECIALLY IN THE '80S. IN THE END, THE ONLY REALITY IS THAT VERHOEVEN'S FILMS MIGHT BE 8% MORE CEREBRAL AND VAUGHN AND GOLDMAN'S MIGHT BE MORE 8% MORE INSTINCTUAL. BUT THOSE DIFFERENCES DO NOT ACCOUNT FOR THE WHOLE OF THEIR RELATIVE GOODNESS. REALLY THESE DIFFERENCES ARE WHAT MAKE THEM INTERESTING AND PERHAPS JUST THAT: DIFFERENT FROM ONE ANOTHER.

AND HULK HOPES THAT CAN BE ENOUGH.

BUT HULK ALSO KNOWS IT PROBABLY WON'T BE. MAYBE IT'S JUST HARD TO GET SOME PEOPLE TO EMBRACE THE KINDS OF FILMS THAT LET YOU HAVE YOUR CAKE AND EAT IT TOO. MAYBE IT'S HARD FOR PEOPLE TO EMBRACE SOMETHING THAT IS LARGELY MISUNDERSTOOD. AFTER ALL, HOW MANY PEOPLE NEED TO "GET" A MOVIE IN ORDER FOR IT TO BE A SUCCESS? AND WHAT GOOD IS A MOVIE IF NOT ENOUGH PEOPLE REALLY GET IT?

THE TRUTH IS THAT HULK IS NOT ENTIRELY SURE.

HULK JUST SPENT 16,000 WORDS EXPLAINING HOW HULK THINKS KINGSMAN IS SUPPOSED TO BE TAKEN, AND HULK DESPERATELY WANTS TO CONVINCE YOU OF THAT FACT, BUT HULK KNOWS THAT GENUINE CHANGE AND REVERSAL IS HARD. MOVIES ARE EXPERIENCES, AND IF YOU HAD A CRAPPY EXPERIENCE WHILE WATCHING IT'S HARD TO CHANGE THAT REALITY. IT EXISTS. AND EVEN THEN, KINGSMAN'S PARTICULAR DANCE IS SO WEIRDLY COMPLEX THERE'S A GOOD CHANCE THAT MANY WILL ONLY ABSORB THE PURE BLOCKBUSTER LEVEL OF IT AND BE LIKE "FUCK YEA!" JUST THERE'S A GOOD CHANCE MANY WILL BE EQUALLY REVOLTED (AND MAYBE EVEN RIGHTFULLY REVOLTED GIVEN THE PROVOKING NATURE OF THE CONTENT). SO WITH ALL THESE DIFFERENT REACTIONS, HOW DO WE ZERO IN ON WHAT IS ACTUALLY GOOD?

THE ANSWER, OF COURSE, LIES IN ASKING A BETTER QUESTION;

DOES DIRE STRAITS REALLY HAVE TO WRITE "MONEY FOR NOTHING" FROM THE PERSPECTIVE OF THEMSELVES OR CAN THEY WRITE THE SONG FROM THE PERSPECTIVE OF THE HOMOPHOBIC ASSHOLE? ESPECIALLY AFTER 30 YEARS OF PEOPLE GETTING IT WRONG?

IT MIGHT NOT SOUND LIKE MUCH OF AN ARGUMENT, BECAUSE OF COURSE THEY HAVE "THE RIGHT." BUT HULK WOULD ARGUE THAT THIS VERY PROCESS OF PEOPLE "GETTING IT WRONG" IS ACTUALLY AN EXTREMELY IMPORTANT LEARNING TOOL FOR CHANGE.

IT'S ALL PART OF THAT DICHOTOMOUS QUESTION HULK ASKS AGAIN AND AGAIN: DO WE WANT MOVIES TO REFLECT THE UGLY HONESTY OF WHAT IS? OR DO WE WANT MOVIES TO SHOW THINGS HOW THEY SHOULD BE? THE TRUTH IS THAT HULK WANTS BOTH KINDS OF MOVIES, AS THEY BOTH HAVE INCREDIBLE WAYS OF REACHING PEOPLE. BUT WHEN A FILM CHOOSES ITS OWN PATH, HULK TRIES TO RESPECT THAT PATH AND JUDGE IT ON WHETHER OR NOT HULK FELT THEY CAPTURED A KIND OF HONESTY WITHIN THAT APPROACH.

MEANING HULK DOES NOT CRITICIZE IT FOR NOT BEING THE OTHER.

PLEASE NOTE HOW EVERYONE WHO REALLY WORRIES ABOUT THE EFFECT OF KINGSMAN DOESN'T SEEM TO BE WORRIED ABOUT THE EFFECT ON THEMSELVES, THEY ARE WORRIED ABOUT ITS EFFECT ON SOME PRESUMABLY IDIOTIC MASSES. WHICH IS NOT ONLY A PROBLEMATIC VIEWPOINT TO BEGIN WITH (AS NORM SAID, "I think clever people think poor people are stupid"), BUT IT BRINGS UP ANOTHER KEY PROBLEM: HULK'S NOT GOING TO LOSE AN INTERESTING WAY OF TELLING STORIES JUST SO WE CAN MAKE MOVIES MORE PALATABLE FOR THE "PRESUMED CRETINS." MEANING HULK'S NOT GOING TO INSIST WE START "BAD-FAN-PROOFING" MOVIES. EVERYONE'S ALWAYS WORRIED SOME IDIOT ISN'T GOING TO "GET IT," BUT AS HULK FOUND TIME AND TIME AGAIN IN THE WOLF OF WALL STREET CONVERSATION, THE ONE WHO IS MOST WORRIED SEEMS TO BE THE ONE MOST OFTEN NOT "GETTING IT."

IN THE END, A MOVIE ONLY HAS TO BE RESPONSIBLE TO ITS OWN SEMIOTIC MESSAGES. FOR THAT IS WHAT "MOVIE HONESTY" IS ABOUT.

AND IN THE PANTHEON OF MOVIES, THERE HAPPENS TO BE PLENTY OF SOCIALLY WELL-MEANING FILMS THAT ARE DISHONEST. JUST AS THERE ARE MANY FILMS THAT DON'T MAKE YOU ASK THE HARD QUESTIONS. THAT WRAP THE "SHOULD BE" UP IN A NEAT BOW AND DO ALL THE HARD SOUL-SEARCHING WORK FOR YOU. THAT MAKE YOU FEEL LIKE YOU HAVE CHANGED, EVEN IF YOU HAVE NOT. AND MORE AND MORE, HULK REALIZES THAT THESE FILMS MIGHT BE PROBLEMATIC. FOR IT IS ACTUALLY THE ONES THAT INSPIRE WIDE-RANGING AND KNEE-JERK REACTIONS THAT ARE DRIVING AT SOMETHING IN YOUR INTERNAL SENSE OF ORDER. THAT ARE THE ONES THAT STICK WITH YOU. AND SOMETIMES IT'S TRUE, THE MOVIES ARE SAYING GARBAGE THINGS AND YOU HAVE TO CONFRONT THEM, BUT SOMETIMES YOU REALIZE THAT YOUR ANGERED REACTION IS THE THING THAT IS WRONG AND BEING CONFRONTED. THAT THE MOVIE HAS ACTUALLY OFFERED YOU INSIGHT AND THEN PUT THE RESPONSIBILITY IN YOUR HANDS. AND NOT IN THE WAY THAT THEY JUST TRY TO GET YOU TO FILL IN THE VACUUM, BUT THE WAY THEY GET YOU TO ACTUALLY PROCESS WHAT YOU'VE SEEN. COMBATIVE AND DIFFICULT FILMS CAN HONE OUR ABILITY TO GET AT TRUTH THROUGH THE PRISM. AND NO MATTER WHAT REACTION WE HAVE, GOOD OR BAD, UNDERSTANDING OR MISUNDERSTANDING, THE SPACE OF THAT CONVERSATION CREATES THE REAL FLOW OF ENGAGEMENT THAT MAKES US OUR MOST CEREBRALLY-VIGILANT SELVES.

MEANING WE AS A SOCIETY COME TO UNDERSTAND MORE ABOUT ART WHEN WE SEEM TO BE IN DISAGREEMENT ABOUT HOW IT WORKS.

AND IN THE END, SOMETIMES WE HAVE TO PRAGMATICALLY ACCEPT THAT VAUGHN AND GOLDMAN WOULD NOT HAVE BEEN ABLE TO GET MONEY TO MAKE WHAT WOULD AMOUNT TO A PREACHY, NOT VERY FUN MOVIE. SOMETIMES, IN ORDER TO RIGHTFULLY CRITICIZE THE EXECUTION OF BLOCKBUSTERS, YOU STILL HAVE TO MAKE A BLOCKBUSTER. AND WHAT IT LACKS IN FEEL-GOOD TRANSCENDENCE, IN MAKES UP FOR IN BEING ONE OF THOSE SHAKE-YOUR-HEAD LAUGHING KIND OF JOKES. AS HULK'S FRIEND ONCE SAID:

"Whether we admit it or not, there is a cultural value to pointing your finger and laughing at someone without them knowing it."

HULK KNOWS THAT SOUNDS VERY UN-HULK-LIKE, BUT DOING SO WITH A KIND OF GRACE AND INSIGHT IS PART OF THE HUMAN SPECTRUM OF ENGAGEMENT. IT'S NOT HULK'S MANTRA. BUT HULK CAN STILL DEEPLY APPRECIATE IT. FOR IT SEEMS TO BE BEHIND MOST OF THE WORK OF THE COEN BROTHERS. AND SUCH FINGER-POINTING HAPPENS TO BE A HUGE PART OF THE GRAND LITERARY TRADITION. BUT PERHAPS CINEMA IS SO POWERFUL AND SO "NOW" THAT IT DRUMS UP WEIRDER FEELINGS. PERHAPS FINGER-POINTING-SATIRE IS SO TROUBLING IN CINEMA BECAUSE CINEMA MAKES EVERYTHING REAL. AGAIN, IT'S WHY SOME PEOPLE FREAKED OUT ABOUT THE WOLF OF WALL STREET. IT DARED TO SHOW THE DARK JOKE OF THE TRUTH: THAT THESE WALL ST. PEOPLE BEHAVE LIKE FUN-LOVING MONSTERS AND NOT ONLY DO THEY GO UNPUNISHED, BUT EVERYONE PRETTY MUCH WANTS TO BE THEM. AND IN THE END, WE WILL GET ANGRIER AT A FILM FOR SHOWING THAT TRUTH THAN THE ACTUAL REAL-LIFE MONSTERS WHO PROPAGATE IT.

AND WITH KINGSMAN, WE ENGAGE THE SAME DARK JOKE OF BLOCKBUSTERS.

WE ARE FACED WITH THE TRUTH THAT MOST OF OUR SUMMER HEROES BEHAVE LIKE FUN-LOVING MONSTERS AND NOT ONLY DO THEY GO UNPUNISHED, BUT EVERYONE PRETTY MUCH WANTS TO BE ONE. JUST LIKE TONY STARK OR JAMES BOND HIMSELF. AND NO MATTER HOW MUCH WE ARGUE ABOUT WHETHER OR NOT IT'S AN ARTISTS JOB TO COMMUNICATE THAT PREVIOUS STATEMENT TO AS MANY PEOPLE AS POSSIBLE, HULK DOESN'T WANT US TO MISS THE FACT THAT VAUGHN AND GOLDMAN ABSOLUTELY JUST MADE THE MOST HONEST JAMES BOND MOVIE OF ALL TIME.

AND WHAT HULK REALLY, REALLY, REALLY DOESN'T WANT TO GET LOST IS THAT KINGSMAN IS ACTUALLY MAKING A PRETTY BEAUTIFUL CASE FOR HUMANITY, TOO. IT WANTS TO REMIND US NOT ONLY OF A MANNERED PAST, BUT UNDERSTAND THAT MANNERS RUN MUCH DEEPER THAN MERE SOCIAL CUES, AND SHOULD LIGHT THE HEARTS OF A CLASS CONFLICT THAT HAS DOMINATED SOCIETY SINCE ITS VERY INCEPTION. FOR ALL ITS CYNICISM, THE FILM REALLY, TRULY BELIEVES IN CREATING A MODERN CULTURE WHERE MANNERS ARE NOT ABOUT YOUR CLASS OR YOUR REFINEMENT, BUT THE INTEGRITY OF YOUR HEART AND HONESTY OF YOUR CRUDENESS.

WHICH IS WHY VAUGHN DEDICATES THE FILM TO HIS MOTHER RIGHT AFTER AN ANAL SEX JOKE. UNLIKE NORM MACDONALD'S MOTHER, SHE PROBABLY WOULD HAVE FOUND IT FUNNY.

IT'S JUST THAT KIND OF MOVIE, BRUV.

<3 HULK

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