Archives For Rowan Atkinson

‘Johnny English Strikes Again’ is exactly what you would expect a Rowan Atkinson film to be: slap stick funny, quirky, a little irreverent, with a small amount of awkwardness on the side. The film parodies our level of dependence on technology, the power of Silicon Valley elites, and Western Society’s obsession with political correctness. [1]

Atkinson and Ben Miller make an excellent comedy duo. Their reunion for ‘Johnny English Strikes Again’, makes this third film more of a sequel than second. The female leads, played by Emma Thompsons and Olga Kurylenko are in balance with the eccentricities of Johnny English and the serious attributes of Angus Bough.  Thompson’s character is fumbling, frantic and Prime Ministerial, whereas Kurylenko’s character is all about completing the mission successfully.

The third instalment in the Johnny English trilogy takes aim at our level of dependence on technology. Exaggerations for comedic effect are obvious, but within those there’s a serious critique of how easy it is to lose control of information; how data could be compromised or manipulated by anyone with the resources and knowledge to do it. [2]

The film critiques the trust placed in those who live and work in Silicon Valley. Silicon Valley Corporations have access to people’s lives and private information; the kind of access to people only ever witnessed in a totalitarian State. The differences being that these corporations benefit from capitalism and people are willing to give them access to their lives, and hard-earned money, in exchange for a service or a reliable product. Silicon Valley corporations have a lot of power. The premise, and trust placed in these corporations, as worked out in ‘Johnny English Strikes Again’ is something akin to: He, who controls the internet, controls the world.

Leaving behind the second film (‘Johnny English Reborn’) the third movie goes back to the formula of the first and borrows a little from its sequel. This isn’t a bad thing. As one of my perceptive daughters observed, ‘Johnny English: Reborn’ (Johnny English 2) wasn’t as good as the first or third in the trilogy, because Angus Bough [pronounced “Boff”; played by Ben Miller) wasn’t in it. Atkinson and Miller make an excellent comedy duo. Miller’s return as Bough in ‘Johnny English Strikes Again’ proves that leaving Miller’s character out of ‘Johnny English Reborn’ was a huge mistake.

The third film borrows from the second in how it makes fun of the West’s obsession with political correctness. Where Post-Modern sensitivities are excessive, they are justifiably mocked. For instance, in one scene, English is met by an agent who, in answer to a question about acquiring a gun for a mission, said, “Guns? Well, we don’t really do those anymore; we prefer a more diplomatic approach.” (Paraphrased).  In another scene, the ever pragmatic English chooses a muscle car over an “environmentally friendly” hybrid, due to its zero dependency on computer technology.

The film succeeds in applying comic relief to serious criticisms – these criticisms being our dependency on technology, the power of Silicon Valley elites, and excessive political correctness. Johnny English Strikes Again is an exciting film which links up better with the first film than its sequel. Although not absent of one or two ridiculous scenes, the film takes the tension between analogue versus digital and suggests that analogue may still have a significant part to play in an age of espionage and information technology[3].


Notes & References:

[1] Hence the review I’ve written for it.

[2] For example Russia’s alleged interference, and collusion, with Donald Trump and his campaigners during the United States 2016 election; as well as the FBI allegedly pushing their own form of interference, on behalf of the Democrat Party candidate Hillary Clinton and the incumbent President Barak Obama.

[3] The analogue vs. digital tension is reminiscent of Kelsey Grammer’s brilliant 1996 film, ‘Down Periscope.

©Rod Lampard, 2018

Disclaimer: I received no remuneration of any kind for providing this review.