We're big fans of The Kingsman here at the Booze League. Released in 2015, the film was co-written and co-produced by Matthew Vaughn and Jane Goldman, with Vaughn taking on the task of directing as well. I'll be completely honest, when I first saw the trailers for this film , I thought it looked terrible. A glitz-covered, James Bond knock-off action turd with a lisping Samuel L. Jackson as the bad guy. Had I known that Matthew Vaughn had produced both Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch for Guy Ritchie, that might have changed my opinion quite a bit. Had I known that Jane Goldman had written The Woman in Black (one of my all-time favorite atmospheric ghost films), and had co-written Stardust and Kick Ass with Vaughn (both of which Vaughn also directed), I would've been throwing my money at the trailer. As in literally ripping the dolla dolla bills outta my pocket and tossing them at the screen.
Had I known all of the above, I would've been prepared exactly what kind of movie I'd be getting when I finally watched The Kingsman. The trailers for both Kick Ass and Stardust elicited the exact same reaction from me as The Kingsman's trailer : "Damn. That looks cheesy and terrible." It isn't possible for one man to have been more wrong about all three of these movies. Turns out, either first impressions are not my strong suit, or the agencies tasked with making the trailers for Vaughn/Goldman films have no idea what to do with them. I would guess, given that all three films have gained a strong cult-like following in spite of the trailers, that the answer is the latter. The unique tone and content of these films are so far out of norm for Hollywood that the usual tricks for quickly defining films via a trailer simply don't apply.
So how has The Kingsman fared since it's release? The production budget for the film was $81 million. Domestically the film has grossed a little over $128 million. That's about $47 million above its budget. That's good right? You don't know the half of it. No really, you literally don't know the half of it. Globally the film has raked in $286 million - over twice as much as it grossed domestically. The grand total for The Kingsman so far is around $414.3 million. Damn close to half a billion dollars. For comparison, Stardust grossed $135.5 million and Kick Ass brought in $96 million. Respectable numbers, but no where near the juggernaut that was The Kingsman. Want some additional perspective on where that stands? That number beats both Back to the Future ($385.5 million) and Raiders of the Lost Ark ($389.9 million). The Kingsman occupies the low-mid $400 millions with such movies as Rain Man, Dances with Wolves, and La La Land.
Fun Fact: Matthew Vaughn
The Kingsman Director is married to former super model Claudia Schiffer.
The plot features a woman with swords for legs, a super secret independent spy agency with fantastical weapons and technology, and a grand dastardly scheme by a Bond-level billionaire super villain. Gary "Eggsy" Unwin (Taron Egerton) is the central character of the film and his story arc relies heavily on the tried and true fish-out-of-water trope that puts this blue collar, normal young man from the wrong side of town face-to-face with highest ranks of a secret spy agency and a plot to end the world. Eggsy's status as an outsider in this world is referenced often through his clothes, scenes involving his mother and her abusive boyfriend, and often mentioned directly in dialogue. In order for this trope to be effective, Eggsy's reality is needs to be exactly as mundane as the world of the Kingsmen is amazing. Which means that the overall world in which the plot unfolds is that of the mundane Eggsy variety, with the Kingsmen being a notable anomaly amongst the normalcy.
Consider then, dear reader, that the world of The Kingsman is actually the same normal reality that we all deal with everyday. Paying bills, running out of milk before running out of cereal, McDonald's forgetting the fries in your drive-thru order (you know this has happened to Valentine at least once), realizing too late that you have no toilet paper as you sit bestride the porcelain throne...this is where I start questioning.
Feel free to join the conversation in the comments below or directly via Twitter!
How long does Valentine have to stand there until his machine kills everyone?
As of 2016, there were 7.4 billion people walking the Earth.
Richmond Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson), The Kingsman's Big Bad, was convinced that the Earth was sick and he laid the blame squarely at the many feet of Overpopulation. In a classic Super Villain Speech, Valentine explains:
"When you get a virus, you get a fever. That's the human body raising its core temperature to kill the virus. Planet Earth works the same way. Global Warming is the fever. Mankind is the Virus. We're making our planet sick. A cull is our only hope. If we don't reduce our population oursevles there's only one of two ways this can go: the host kills the virus or the virus kills the host."
Valentine's plan to rid Planet Earth of the virus, and solve global warming, was to save the rich elite (plus Professor Arnold*cough*TheJoker*cough*), and let the rest of humanity kill itself off with the help of his brain-scrambling SIM cards. His chosen flock were immune to the effects of the SIM cards because of a special implant that blocks the signal that drives the unchosen masses insane. And all of the chaos was controlled by a death machine installed in his plush, party pad lair. Simple right? Valentine turns on his machine, the dregs of humanity wipe each other out.
Valentine understood how powerful his machine was and took precautions to ensure that it couldn't be activated with something as simple as a switch. Instead, he opted for a biometric scanner that only his left hand could activate and there's a whole scene about Valentine setting this up and why it's important. The death machine would only work while Valentine's hand was physically on the machine. The climax of the movie involves Eggsy rushing to get to Valentine's control room to get his hand off The Machine. Hand On the machine=genocidal riots across the planet, while Hand Off=peace, tranquility, and some very confused looking extras.
Had everything gone according to plan, Valentine would stand there with his hand on the Death Machine, the genocidal riots would have started, the disco ball and streamers would've kicked off the Valentine End of the World Party, and everyone could emerge shortly into the blinding sunlight of a new, less populated world. Great! But for as smart as Valentine is supposed to be, there's a massive flaw in this plan.
Let's get back to that 7.4 billion people number I mentioned earlier. For reference regarding the rate of fatalities in riots, we'll use the 1992 Los Angeles riots to get an idea of how quickly people die in riot situations. The LA Riots lasted a total of 6 days and overall, 63 people died. Valentine's machine will generate deaths a lot faster than that, and will have a global effect, so we need to bump that number up considerably. In fact, why don't we bump that number up by 1 million. And instead of it being over a 6 day stretch, let's make it one day. At a rate of 6.3 million deaths a day, Valentine would have to stand there at his machine for 1,174 DAYS (a little over 3 years!). What if we take it a big step further and say that 63 million people die every hour instead? Valentine would still have to stand there with his hand on his fancy death machine for close to 5 days.
Hopefully they have enough champagne and caviar in Valentine's secret mountain lair to keep all the rich and powerful douchebags happy for a loooong time!
How do all these other people get paid?
Harry Hart explains the origins of the Kingsmen to Eggsy, and the audience, during their elevator ride from the tailor shop to the small Kingsman Secret Subway platform deep below. In short, the Kingsmen were founded in 1849 by a number of very wealthy members of the English aristocracy who had lost their heirs to the horrors of the Great War (WWI). The essence of this origin story is that these very wealthy nobles had no one to leave their piles of cash to and as such, opted to create an agency of gentlemen spies who could address the threats to world order and ostensibly prevent another Great War. Putting aside the fact that clearly this didn't happen (thanks a lot, Hitler, you dick), the central idea is that these super wealthy types are pooling their money to fund a secret, and more importantly, independent spy agency. This would mean that while there may be some reluctant cooperation from government agencies, it's doubtful there's any significant funding for the Kingsmen agency. As of 2013 (the year in which the film takes place), the Kingsmen had been in existence for 164 years. Even the deepest pool of money would be taxed by over a century and a half of extreme spending .
Take a good look at that picture up above. Let's take the cost of all those vehicles off the table for a minute. Even without putting them in situations where bad guys are shooting at them with big guns, those vehicles all require routine standard maintenance. Which means the Kingsmen are keeping an absolute legion of mechanics on staff. There's zero chance that these are normal mechanics making a normal mechanics wage. They're working on crazy spy vehicles for a shadowy non-government agency, which requires the Kingsmen to then pay a healthy amount for discretion as well. Enough that their maintenance team wouldn't be compromised by an enemy spy offering them a suitcase stuffed of full of quid. Britain's "technical middle class" is estimated to make a yearly average of around £38,000 ($52,000). These are the high status, professionally skilled experts like radiologists, pharmacists, etc. Jobs that require some certain amount of education and experience. You'd expect that the Kingsman aren't hiring unskilled professionals to work discreetly on their secret spy vehicles.
A conservative guess on the number of maintenance crew to service these vehicles would be 70. Let's give them a 20% bump on their yearly salary to secure their discretion, and we come up with a yearly salary of £47,500 ($64,000). Just in the hangar, the Kingsmen are putting out £3,325,000 ($4,500,000) a year for support staff. This number doesn't include the cost of the physical parts and materials required to repair and maintain these vehicles, many of which seem to be of the vintage or high end variety, which means the parts are even more costly.
So what about IT? What about HR? R&D? What about repair crews? Janitorial? What about the pilots for their training planes? What about the guys who have to repair the two-way mirror window Eggsy broke out that first night when their barracks flooded? Who maintains the track that super speedy Secret Subway travels on? Obviously there's a large number of gardeners to keep the grounds of their mansion immaculate. What about Amelia, the Kingsman employee that can apparently hold her breath FOREVER and faked drowning in the recruits' first test to demonstrate the importance of team work? (spoiler alert: it makes the dream work!). Did she get a bonus? How the hell would you even hire for that job? How much does the ONE GUY that operates the Kingsman Tailor Shop get paid? It's gotta be pretty good compensation to be the gatekeeper to everything Kingsmen.
So, again, all these questions come down to this: where does all that money come from? How do those people get paid? A static pool of Old Money wouldn't be able to bear the brunt of this. Not after 164 years. Operating a high end tailor shop in London wouldn't fund all this. Even if the Kingsmen owned tailor shops across the UK, that's still a ridiculous amount of money.
I have a few other ideas that might offset costs, but feel free to let us know what you think in the comments below or on Twitter!
How many Tailor shops with secret subways are there?
This piggy backs on the previous question a little, but do the Kingsmen have only one tailor shop that provides a high speed transport to their lush country mansion? We never see any other Kingsmen at the Savile Row tailor shop that is the central London location for Harry Hart (Colin Firth) and Eggsy.
What makes the most sense is that there are numerous tailor shops serving as the HQ for many different Kingsmen agents stations throughout the UK. A Kingsman working on the Scotland border wouldn't want to waste time getting all the way back to London to outfit himself for a mission in a critical situation. One would think that a 164 year old secret spy agency would've encountered and addressed that situation already. One could also assume that that would mean that quick access to the Kingsmen's central base would be of high importance as well.
If you've read to here, you know that we're gonna start breaking down some numbers. One can assume from the number of Kingsmen that appear in the scene with the holograms that there are 10 Kingsmen. Traditional King Arthur legends, which obviously have a lot of bearing on the Kingsmen, often put the lowest number of Knights of the Round Table at 12, but it looks like we only have 10 Kingsman agents. Take Arthur (Michael Caine) and Merlin (Mark Strong) out of the equation (clearly they spend their time at the mansion and at the Savile Row shop) as well as Galahad, aka Harry Hart, who calls that same shop his home, and that leaves 7 satellite tailor shops. That means seven tube lines all converging on the mansion and seven tube lines that have hundreds of miles (sorry I mean kilometers) of secret tracks and junctions that need to maintained and serviced.
So, again, a money question here to add to all the money questions above, but where is all the money coming from to maintain these tracks? How do the logistics of traveling to the mansion work? Do they have to file an alert or something similar that they're coming in so that some central" track control station" can schedule them in and make sure there are no accidents? If you're coming from the far hinterlands, do they have classy servers pouring you classy libations as you sit your classy ass in a classy cushioned seat? Pretty sure the Kingsmen would travel in style given the option.
How many bottles of this brandy do they have?
It's very, VERY difficult to get a solid price on what an 1815 Napoleonic brandy would cost. We have a bit of reference on this through a bottle of 1859 Napoleonic brandy that recently sold for $136,000. That means that each sip you take is about $310. And that's for a brandy that's 50 years younger than what they're drinking in honor of newly slain Kingsmen.
We first see this brandy when Harry returns to the tailor shop and we're introduced to both Arthur and Merlin. Lancelot had just been cut in half by Sword Legs McGee (Gazelle, played by Sofia Boutella) and all the Kingsmen agents were seated around the table via hologram to drink a toast in his honor. Arthur explains later to Eggsy that this is the special brandy that they bring out to honor a fallen Kingsman.
Fun Fact: Dalmore 62
"1962 Dalmore... it'd be a sin to spill any." If anything, Lancelot's last words were an understatement. Only 12 bottles of this Dalmore whiskey exist in the world. You can own one for a piddling $215,000.
The only time we see the Kingsman around the table drinking, which is to honor the fallen Lancelot, all of them are all holographic projections, with the exception of Galahad and Arthur. They're nowhere near the Savile Row shop and yet somehow they have the technology, and the perfect place, to seem to appear seating around a table like a true English gentleman. In addition, all of them are also sipping and toasting to their fallen comrade. So what are they drinking? It's understood that such an expensive liquor is consumed as a sign of honor to the agent that gave his life, so is that also 1815 Napoleonic brandy? Do Kingsman agents die so frequently that they all just keep a bottle of this brandy at their own tailor shops across the UK? Or is Arthur just a selfish bastard and keeps their one bottle there in London so he can get a tipple out of it when it's required? The Kingsmen love spending money on posh things, so I'm going to go out on a limb and say that they probably have about 8-10 bottles of this rare brandy.
No implant, no problem?
Valentine's super slow moving plan hinged on the signal emitted by smartphones equipped with his evil SIM cards. His chosen survivors had implants that protected them from being affected by this signal, but neither Valentine nor Gazelle had those implants. When the death machine's effects were first tested at the South Glade Mission Church, there was some concern that they were far enough away from the church as to be immune from the SIM cards' effects. We know that Valentine didn't have an exploding version of the implant at the end of the movie, but his and Gazelle's caution at the church tells us that they had no implants at all.
So if Valentine and Gazelle were the only ones in the room without implants when the death machine was turned on, how did they escape the effects? Were Valentine's chosen ones prevented from installing the SIM cards on their phones? Were they not allowed to bring their phones with them into the lair? Maybe Valentine outfitted them with SIM cards that weren't of the deadly variety that most of the world had?
It's hard to believe that not one person had one of those SIM cards installed on their phone. If you've spent any time with any people at any time in your life, you know that there are a lot of dumb and stubborn people out there. In Colorado alone, it was estimated that tens of thousands of people suffered eye damage during the recent solar eclipse. Those are the exact people that would bring a death machine SIM card to the V-Day End of the World Party.
Yet, none of the occupants of Valentine's Lair had any ill effects from the death machine. So either the phones weren't allowed in, the entire bunker was shielded or the lair uses the same signal nullifying tech that the implants used.
What do you think? Do you have some answers to these questions? Let's hear it!
Wylie Withers is the Commissioner of the Booze League and Co-Host of the BoozeCast. He spent many years as 1/3 of the comedy improv duo The Merry Misfits of Doom before pursing a Masters in Boozing (with a Marketing focus). His posterior was featured on the final episode of Beverly Hills, 90210, earning him his SAG card. He'd like to give a shoutout to his liver and left kidney for always being there for him. Follow him on Twitter @wyliewithers or reach him via email firstname.lastname@example.org.