Sunday, 10 May 2015

Oxfords, not Brogues

- A sustainability geek’s review of Kingsman: The Secret Service 


First reaction: ‘bloody’ brilliant! 

Director Matthew Vaughn skilfully intertwines Skyfall and Kill Bill, throws in a few secret underground elevators and bullet trains รก la Harry Potter, and all with the comedy action of Austin Powers.

Oh and did I mention that the unlikely hero is hot? Rugged and raw hot. Oh and charming, once he takes heed of his patron’s signature moto ‘Manners Maketh Man’. Plus he has a cute yet ridiculous dog. OK I’ll stop!

'Unlikely hero' Eggsy

My friends were cringing more than I at the violence, possibly because I’ve been brought up to remember that ‘it’s all tomato ketchup anyway’, which I sensibly recalled each time a person was sliced in half or a head blew up to fill the whole cinema screen. My mother would be proud.

A small criticism or two: if you have seen the film, then you’ll know that anyone with even a slight feminist inclination will feel that the hero’s final reward could’ve been a little classier…

Also, the strong Conservative undertones of the film (take a look at the depiction of the working-class characters as lazy, violent, half-wits) are not in line with my views nor values.

However, I definitely left the cinema wanting to be a hot British genius super-spy like Foxy Roxy. Obvs.

'Foxy Roxy'

'Foxy Roxy' in action

And wanting to excavate Saville Row to discover its hidden chambers...

Eh hem. Now to the important part. The writers have successfully raised several issues around the global challenges we are currently facing, all within a fast-paced, gadget-filled and sexy package.

The billionaire super-villain was in fact fighting anthropogenically caused climate change all along (albeit in a highly inadvisable way involving the massacre of innocent people)!

It is unlikely that the vast majority of movie viewers would leave the cinema with a renowned sense of empowerment to take individual, professional, political or community-level action against the release of greenhouse gas emissions, however, I applaud the writers for engaging the audience with a world problem that is current and real.

Kingsman training

The film raises several issues that are inextricably joined at the hip with climate change, for example societal development, and not least of all, population growth. Someone, who is, in retrospect, arguably fairly cynical in general terms, once told me that the best thing anyone can do to help ‘save the world’ in their lifetime is to…not have children.

We are set on a course to reach 9 billion on this planet by 2050 and we are already living beyond our means in terms of resource-use. True dat bruv. With fast developing nations like India and China dramatically increasing their demand for food, clothes, housing, transport, medical treatment and all of the things that go along with living in a ‘developed’ country, our impact on the earth and its atmosphere is only going to increase. True dat too bruv.

Whilst I by no means advocate mass human culls, nor do I know enough about China’s one child population policy to comment in an informed manner, I do know that we are going to have to adapt pretty quickly if we are going to have the technology and infrastructure innovative enough to sustain us in a way that does not put future generations, and the environment in which they will live, in jeopardy. Perhaps we all need to become highly-trained Kingsmen and Kingswomen.

There is mention in the film of how global politicians only really care about the next election. We will find out if that is true at COP21 in Paris in December: the gathering that is poised to result in a global agreement for action on climate change. I doubt they'll propose acts similar to Valentine, pictured below. 

Billionnaire super-villain Valentine and his side-kick, blade-runner Gazelle

The film touches upon the unimaginable power of the world’s largest corporations and their influence over government policy in some situations (note the villain’s meeting with Obama).

Could ‘Valentine’ have been referencing Virgin? Of course Branson is all for innovation and sustainability and would never be caught meddling in nano-biochemical warfare. Yet, evidently, there are companies that are more globalised and financially powerful than many countries put together.

The fact that Kingsman are an independently-funded non-governmental organisation smarts a little of ‘f*** the system’ (less so in the capitalistic sense, given the likelihood that their patrons amassed their wealth in a traditional way, but perhaps more in terms of governmental abilities to take action). Indeed, Colin Firth, always great, this time has some tricks hidden up his sleeve.

I could go on with my self-indulgent, exploratory, amateur analysis but won’t. It is a fun movie after all and is designed to be taken lightly. No doubt there will be a second movie and I will be first in line.

So that’s that. Job well done chaps and chapesses. With the popularity of cli-fi (climate fiction) on the rise, we are likely to see more popular entertainment that highlights global challenges and I say: yes please!