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The King's Man: First Trailer Teases Epic Old-Time Adventure

Everything has a beginning.

The first trailer for The King's Man, a World War I-era prequel to the Kingsman series, dropped today on the 20th Century Fox YouTube channel — and it promises a characteristically action-packed origin story for the Secret Service and its squad of dapper operatives.

The upcoming flick looks quite a bit grittier than the previous installments, 2014's Kingsman: The Secret Service and 2017's Kingsman: The Golden Circle. True to the series' form, however, there's plenty of crazy stunt work and flying lead, all underpinned by the somber narration of the Duke of Oxford (Ralph Fiennes) as he explains the philosophy of the organization that will become the Kingsman to young Lee Unwin (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), his protégé and likely a relative of Gary "Eggsy" Unwin, the main character of the previous two films.

The spot opens on a desolate battlefield at sunrise, with an unidentified British soldier carrying his wounded comrade on his shoulders as seemingly everything explodes around them. "Throughout time, our people robbed, lied, and killed," the Duke's voiceover intones, "until one day, we found ourselves... noblemen."

We see one such "nobleman" attending a ball in an ornate ballroom, surrounded by beautiful women, intercut with the starkly contrasting image of some type of council seated around a long table, pounding their fists in unison. "But that nobility never came from chivalry," the voiceover continues, as we see the Duke leading a squad of riflemen. "It came from being tough and ruthless." As if to punctuate his statement, we get a shot of a line of soldiers being mowed down by gunfire.

As we see the Duke slipping a familiar-looking ring onto his own finger, his narration continues. "Real power is not found running after war," he says. A series of cuts show us a crowded church congregation, gravediggers hard at work in a cemetery, a pair of shirtless men sparring with knives on the grounds of what could be a college campus, and the Duke opening a hidden passage concealed behind a bookshelf. "Real power lies in understanding who it is you're truly fighting... and how they can be defeated," he says, and here's the spot ramps up the intensity.

A quick series of shots show us explosions, gunfights, and — demonstrating just how important the First World War will be the film's narrative — the assassination of the Archduke Ferdinand via bomb, an incident which incited the entire conflict. "I know you want to fight," the Duke's voiceover continues, as we see him and Unwin getting out of a car in front of what appears to be a tailor's shop, "but there are other ways of doing your duty." As the car pulls away, we see the name of the shop on its storefront: "The King's Man." The Duke beckons his young charge to enter, and we cut to the title card.

It's a brief but intense tease which hints at the backdrop of geopolitical conflict necessitating the formation of the vaunted Secret Service. Fiennes, of course, looks perfectly suited to the material — but as we literally don't hear from any other characters in the spot, the jury is still out on how Taylor-Johnson (Quicksilver in Avengers: Age of Ultron) will acquit himself as a superspy.

There are plenty of other Marvel Cinematic Universe veterans among the flick's cast (not terribly surprising, considering that it's getting harder and harder to find actors who haven't appeared in the MCU at some point). These include Djimon Hounsou (Guardians of the Galaxy), Daniel Brühl (Captain America: Civil War), and the great Stanley Tucci (Captain America: The First Avenger); also among the cast are Gemma Arterton (The Escape), Matthew Goode (Downton Abbey), Tom Hollander (Bird Box), Rhys Ifans (Snowden), and Charles Dance (Godzilla: King of the Monsters).

Director Matthew Vaughn returns to the series, and in an interview with the ReelBlend podcast earlier this year, he clued fans in to the fact that this was going to be a slightly different experience from what they're used to. "The prequel is so different. For me, it was a whole new muscle to go off and develop, and I hope the public likes it," he said. "I don't know. I mean, I'm very proud of it already. But it's very, very different. So some people will — the people who hated Kingsman would probably love it, and all the people who love Kingsman might go, 'What the hell has he gone and done?' But hopefully people will like it... It's different in every which way."

This certainly appears to be the case, and if you ask us, turning back the clock to reveal the origins of the Kingsman is a bold and interesting narrative choice. Going the period piece route in service of a beloved franchise is tricky, but Vaughn has pulled it off before: he directed X-Men: First Class, which was set in the '60s (and which also similarly used the looming specter international conflict to help drive its story).

This first spot has us excited, and it'll be intriguing — especially considering the implied common thread of the Unwin family — to see if the prequel sets up any story components that will be further explored when the franchise returns to the present day. The third film in the series proper is expected to begin production sometime this year, and Vaughn promises that it will wrap up the story of the relationship between Harry Hart (Colin Firth) and Eggsy (Taron Egerton). 

The King's Man hits the big screen on February 14, 2020.