The Woman King; Grade: B+
The Woman King takes place in 1813 West Africa, where it highlights The Kingdom of Dahomey. The Kingdom of Dahomey strives to create a free civilization towards it’s people, without falling into the typical slave trade that is going on in the rest of the country. The Kingdom of Dahomey has a military base, which is heavily centered around unwed women whom are destined to become fierce soldiers led by General Nanisca (Viola Davis). Nanisca and her fierce soldiers will have an immense challenge ahead, not only has bad intentions against her people, but also Nanisca personally will have to face a terrifying foe from her past.
I’m not gonna lie: When I saw the title reading The Woman King… I kind of laughed. I mean it feels like someone is overly wording Queen in a way, just felt unnecessary. So it kind of gave me slight doubt on the film, given the indication it was PG-13, I would not like a lame corny action film centering around a brutal period of time. You know the ole saying?! Don’t judge a film by it’s title… The Woman King was actually a fun time, definitely a popcorn film.
I enjoyed the traditional feel the way this story is being told. Not only do we experience a fierce bad ass leader like Nanisca, but what really drives it for me is our underdog like tale that follows within our main supporting character Nawi (Thuso Mbedu). This young gal has been through a tough ordeal in her life: An orphan as a child, while also unwilling to be wed since she refuses to be controlled and be treated poorly by a man. So Nawi being sent to the king was her last resort to make something of herself, but she couldn’t be placed anywhere better in which this place is filled with strong independent women, that fight for themselves and most importantly fight for honor.
I really enjoyed this whole underdog side plot of Nawi, she was someone you rooted on, that you wanted her to succeed in these immense challenges where everything feels against her. Sure it can be a little cheesy at moments, little predictable here and there, however come on: You gotta admit it was cool watching a skinny gal who can barely hold onto a sword, somehow proving herself to become a fierce solider.
Viola Davis plays a great performance as Nanisca, I felt she truly proven herself as being a bad ass that can truly entertain a crowd that’s for sure. Some may say this character could be underutilized as this film doesn’t really bring a whole lot of depth, however I felt she was fitting since she’s already proven herself as a legend, plus she’s more of a mentor kind of lead character if anything.
Surprisingly enough: The Woman King was effective in the comedy field, as I felt the sense of humor of this film t’was solid. Had a lot of good chuckling moments in this film, good usage of jokes or how characters would react to one another, t’was nice!
The action while it does succeed in terms of executing entertainment value… I can’t help the fact that it appears to be inconsistent at times. I mean given the PG-13 rating you understand that it’ll be watered down however… It’s a bit too clean, especially in a brutal war like time period, involving spears and swords where many sequences don’t have significant damage. You do get a couple blood sequences but it doesn’t result in creating a realistic atmosphere this film is striving to be, not to mention one of those sequences involves a game like scenario played by the women and men, whom can take a knife wound the longest.
While I really enjoyed the story, you can also say there’s a bit too familiarity in terms of tropes that can be easily predictable. Sometimes you like the stakes to be a little higher, that way you have no idea where the story is going… Not every film in 2022 can be a Barbarian so it’s fine.
Overall, The Woman King is a pretty good film. I highly recommend checking this one out, it’s a fun popcorn film and should be seen in a theater with a good crowd. -Mitch Smietana