BOOK TO FILM: Kingsman: The Secret Service

This book to film comparison contains spoilers.

movie posterA spy organisation recruits an unrefined but promising street kid into the agency’s ultra-competitive training program just as a global threat emerges from a twisted tech genius.

After seeing the trailer for Kingsman, I decided it was time to read my first graphic novel. I had no idea what to expect but I was pleasantly surprised. I could instantly see how well it would translate into a film.

The movie blew me away with its humour, action, and the changes to the plot that strengthened the original story. Of course, some things have been changed in order to satisfy the requirements of the medium but in general the plot follows the same formula.

 

Character changes

There are a few significant alterations in character roles for the movie. First and foremost, Colin Firth’s character is called Harry Hart in the movie. He feels a responsibility to Gary as, 17 years prior, Gary’s father saved Harry’s life. In the comic, this character is called Jack London, and is in fact Gary’s uncle. He chooses to get Gary out of his difficult situation and eventually helps his sister (Gary’s mother) out financially to make up for his absence in her life.

Walk, walk, fashion baby

Walk, walk, fashion baby

The change in relationship between Harry/Jack and Gary’s life works for me. The background of his character in the movie means that Gary and his mother were never abandoned, have never been scrounging for help from a rich relative.

I never really bought Gary’s attitude in the comic because he has someone like Jack to aspire to—someone who made it out of a similar situation and made something of himself.

Unfold your arms and come be awesome.

Unfold your arms and come be awesome.

In the movie, without someone like Jack in his life (albeit infrequently), it’s more understandable and realistic that Gary should feel helpless in his situation. He has seen no one escape from his life so why should he be any different?

Harry comes into his life only when Gary asks for help and calls in the favour he was promised 17 years ago. As soon as Gary sees an opportunity to change his life, he seizes it.

The villain in the comic was Dr James Arnold. In the movie, there are two changes surrounding this character. First, Dr James Arnold still exists in the movie. He is the environmentalist who inspires the movie’s villain, and who is captured at the beginning of the film.

I want two things: for my evil plan to succeed and not to have to watch any of it.

I want two things: for my evil plan to succeed and not to have to watch any of it.

Samuel L. Jackson plays the main villain in the movie, who has been renamed Richmond Valentine. Valentine most resembles the character of Gazelle from the comic, who has been recast as a female and is played by Sofia Boutella. This new female Gazelle also seems to replace the character of Ambrosia Chase, who was Dr James Arnold’s girlfriend in the comic.

 

Evil plans

The villain’s goal in the comic and movie are the same: kill off a lot of people because the planet can no longer support them. Both plans are carried out with the use of SIM cards designed to send people on a vicious killing spree.

Hamill-ception.

Hamill-ception.

The biggest change in the villainous plan is who is considered ‘worth saving’. In the comic, Dr James Arnold is intent on saving actors from sci-fi franchises like Red Dwarf and Star Wars. In fact, the actor initially captured in the mountains is Mark Hamill, who played Luke Skywalker. Hamill makes an appearance in the film not as himself but playing the revamped Dr James Arnold who is also the person captured in the mountains.

In the movie, those ‘worth saving’ are the royalty and leaders of countries around the world, and a few of the super-rich. I suppose if the plan had failed then at least they wouldn’t have too much of a wage gap or need for separate tax brackets.

Adios, Sixth Commandment.

Adios, Sixth Commandment.

The comic sees the trial run for Dr Arnold’s plot take place at a group wedding, testing the SIM cards’ effectiveness on blissfully happy people. In the movie, the trial run for V-Day takes place in an aggressive church environment. While the rest of the violence in the movie is fairly light and even comedic, the scene in the church is almost uncomfortable to watch.

This scene does not shy away from the nature of Valentine’s plan, showing audiences exactly what human beings will be forced to do to each other. It brings gravity to the film, reminding us that this is not simply a comedy or an action movie: underscoring all of the lighter elements is a sinister and unconscionable plan executed by a man who thinks he is doing the right thing.

No Kingsman operative was a party to those initial tests in the comic, and Jack London (the comic’s version of Harry Hart) was killed for sleeping with Arnold’s girlfriend, Ambrosia Chase

 

Kingsman

Knights of the Rectangular Table.

Round tables are so 6th Century. We’re the Knights of the Rectangular Table.

In the comic, Kingsman undertakes to produce not only well-trained agents but gentlemen. The movie adds another layer to the organisation, likening them to the Knights of the Round Table.

Their code names are derived from the original knights, and places in the organisation are only opened at the death of a previous agent, making it an extremely elite taskforce.

Of all the character changes, I most enjoyed the addition of Roxy to the Kingsman training program. Making her an integral character and thus painting Kingsman as gender inclusive was a nice touch. She, along with the female Gazelle, proves that women can kick butt just as well as guys.

The 'in case of emergency' section of the paperwork is taken quite seriously here.

The ‘in case of emergency’ section of the paperwork is taken quite seriously here.

When Gary begins his training for Kingsman, he is immediately more suited for the task than his comic counterpart. With an additional background in gymnastics, some training in the military, and proven automotive skills, he is no longer just an underprivileged kid with a liking for violent computer games.

If they had stuck with the seduction plan, I'm fairly certain Roxy would have won.

If they had stuck with the seduction plan, I’m fairly certain Roxy would have won.

He’s certainly not far behind everyone else in his training class and gives them no opportunity to make him feel like an outsider. Even his clothes in the seduction mission have been carefully chosen rather than worn as a mistaken attempt at dressing up.

 

The verdict

Though there are definite differences between the two, both the comic and the movie of Kingsman tell a lively and engaging story. It seems clear that the movie could blossom from a standalone into a franchise, and I’m definitely looking forward to seeing more in this vein.

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2 thoughts on “BOOK TO FILM: Kingsman: The Secret Service

  1. This was our Valentine’s Day movie! Both the boy and I really loved it. Action, humour, and hello Colin Firth – what more could a girl want from her Valentine’s date 🙂
    I loved that there were strong female characters in the movie, and that Gary was at heart a sweet, intelligent, and kind young man. I too found the church scene uncomfortable, but I did kind of love Samuel L. Jackson’s character’s distaste for blood and his reaction to shooting Mr Firth.
    Guess I’ll have to make this my first graphic novel too! Great review and comparison Sarah 🙂

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