The Woman King (\N)

Lupita Nyong'o, Viola Davis,
A historical epic inspired by true events that took place in The Kingdom of Dahomey, one of the most powerful states of Africa in the 18th and 19th centuries.
  • 6.7 /10.0 IMDB Rating:
  • DatePublished:
  • 2018-09-07 Added:
  • Maria Bello, Writer:
  • Director:
  • Cathy Schulman, Julius Tennon, Producer:

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4 / 10

Failed to Impress

Started well and ended well. Nothing in between. No story. Awfully slow-paced. You won't miss anything, can be skipped. There were some good acting and strong womenwith good fight stunts. But, the story was poorly written with too many dragged scenes and with only two to three fight scenes. There is no proper direction and the background score doesn't even exist. Screenplay & Editing was just awful. Trailer tried to hype a bit. Other than the shots in the trailer, there is nothing much in the movie. Could have done much better with characters and more war scenes. Nothing interesting at any point.

5 / 10

Culturally rich, but narratively hollow and light on action

The trailer for "The Woman King" would have you believe that the film is one constant, nonstop action romp. Alas, you have been misled! But what else are Hollywood marketing departments for than to trick potential viewers. More of a talky drama and less of an action extravaganza, "The Woman King" tells a revisionist, alternative history of the fierce Dahomey kingdom. I am no historian, so, when walking into this movie, I knew literally zero of whatever the true story may be; instead, I simply desired a film with an engaging plot, and well-shot action sequences. "The Woman King" has none of those to offer.

For a film that advertises the brutality of its characters, "The Woman King" is surprisingly bloodless. With action scenes filmed in the typical close-up shaky camera style, this movie, in terms of its action, offers up nothing that you haven't already seen before, and seen done better. During large-scale battles the camera shakes, as if the cameraman himself is having a seizure; the violence is censored and neutered, with a lot of the kills occurring offscreen - because a movie about slavery just has to be dumbed down to PG-13 to become family friendly! Film is a business, after all.

Luckily, you will find some entertainment value - or at least I did - when viewing the culture of the Dahomey tribe. I can't speak to the historical accuracy of what the film portrayed, but I do enjoy movies that show in such detail the culture of people who lived long ago, so I certainly enjoyed the various traditions and rituals that were shown on screen. Alas, I do have a complaint when it comes to this, though: What I thought would be my favorite part of the film, the military training, almost seemed like an afterthought with it taking up only a small amount of screen time. What, then, did the film focus on? Mediocre melodrama.

With actresses that act so well you wonder if they were preordained for success in the film industry, "The Woman King" boasts Viola Davis and Lashana Lynch, two women who consistently give powerhouse performances. And while their performances are well done in this movie, the problem lies in the fact that "The Woman King" has a weak script. Instead of telling a straightforward story about fighting back against slavers, for some reason the movie decides to add plot threads (including an underwritten and unbelievable romance) that I, frankly, didn't care about. So while I enjoyed the acting, I couldn't help but feel taken out of and bored with the movie since the storylines never really grabbed me - a lot of it felt like it was taken out of a comic book or graphic novel, complete with a revenge subplot that was borderline unnecessary in a movie that was already about seeking revenge against those who have enslaved them.

A crowd pleaser through and through, "The Woman King" is receiving both critical and general audience acclaim; with an A+ rating on Cinemascore, I'm sure that most will walk into and enjoy it for the historical epic that it is. However, the bloated plot, weak script, and worst of all, the watered down, unfulfilling, and incomprehensible action kept me from fully finding entertainment value in this movie because, as I often say, when the action in your action movie sucks, your movie sucks. And while "The Woman King" doesn't suck, it's not nearly as good as it would have you believe.

5 / 10

Not as outstanding as I had hoped

I saw the two glowing reviews here and decided to write mine. I watched the movie today at the cinema and I was left with a slight feeling of disappointment.

First off, the story is engaging and the the plot progression isn't bad. But something just felt missing.

The trailer is a bit misleading but I won't spoil anything here.

Let me start with the bad; the title gives the impression that Viola Davis is the central character but this is not so from what I saw, not really.

Thuso Mbedu's character seems to be the protagonist here and her delivery is nothing short of amazing.

Lashana Lynch is equally phenomenal as a supporting character, even outshining Davis.

As for John Boyega, his outing as the young king is one or the best things about this film. I didn't know the actor had such charisma.

Generally, the acting is good, especially from the aforementioned actors.

Nigerian born actor Jimmy Odukoya is a great villain who wasn't given enough screentime.

I believe the character would have been phenomenal if his backstory had been explored.

The cinematography is below par (I have seen Nollywood movies with better camera work) but perhaps the biggest letdown is the action.

The fight sequences came off as really disappointing as it was easy to see that it wasn't real combat despite the impressive choreography.

The romance was forced and written in such a way that at the end of it all, I asked myself why it was there in the first place.

The musical score is sublime and the songs and chants got my attention.

At the risk of being bashed, I will end my review by saying The Woman King is a good movie that should have and could have been far more.

10 / 10

This movie has literally everything you'd want in a movie - tremendous action, great villains, self discovery and character triumph

The Woman King (2022) is a movie my wife and I caught in theatres last night. The storyline follows an African kingdom with a new(er) king in 1823 who posses the only female army in Africa. The leader of the female Army has a past that haunts her but the respect of her king, enough to be on his council. She strongly urges him to avoid the slave trade and find alternative methods of riches. Meanwhile, those who do believe strongly in the slave trade look to march on the kingdom and bring them down. A new recruitment class to the female army brings brashness, new ideas to defend the kingdom, and the female leader's ghosts back to the forefront...

This movie is directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood (Love & Basketball) and stars Viola Davis (The Help), Thuso Mbedu (The Underground Railroad), Lashana Lynch (No Time to Die), Sheila Atim (Doctor Strange: In the Mouth of Madness), John Boyega (Star Wars: Episode VII-IV) and Jimmy Odukoya (Mamba's Diamond).

This movie has so much depth and contains a great primary plot and even better sub plots. The writing is remarkable, thorough and very impressive. The character's inner demons are well portrayed as is their struggle to overcome them. The acting is out of this world across the board. You feel for every character; and if anything happens to anyone, you feel personally hurt. The villains were also excellent as is the outcome of each of them. The settings and cinematography is outstanding and there is impressive use of lighting. The action scenes are remarkable and the fight choreography is award winning caliber. My only complaint is an awkward love story that is obviously in here to show maturity and self discovery but I could have done without it.

Overall, this movie has literally everything you'd want in a movie - tremendous action, great villains, self discovery and character triumph. I would strongly, strongly recommend seeing this movie and score it a 10/10. We loved it.

9 / 10

The King of Better Balance, Only Limited by Time


The Plot: A plot like this has the potential to be too extreme or get lost in one factor that everything else tumbles. Thankfully, The Woman King has succeeded on many fronts with a successful presentation. While nothing revolutionary that we haven't seen before, this film really takes a tired story and sharpens it into a spear of many elements that pulled me into the mix. The battle for slavery in the colony days holds many horrors and the movie really shows how one can make a film about fighting the horrors without going Disney on it. Amidst the overall plot are various subplots that focus on the kingdom aspect, which though not fully fleshed out like Game of Thrones, again holds great management with the time they have, establishing a good pace. It forges a community quite well, and that is the central pillar for this film to work with.

The Character Focus/Utilization: Much of the story's strength comes from the fantastic character focus of the story, and utilizing many people in the right amounts. True, Viola Davis is a main character, but the writers and director managed to extend the stories to other warriors that help give you more characters to attach too. Outside the woman warrior components, other factions hold their own merit, such as the King himself by Boyega, the evil ruler of the opposing empire, and even the love interest that forms later on in the movie. While not the most balanced, it again, keeps the components very well involved and helps spice up the tale we've heard so much.

The Cultural Aspect: Taking those characters and throwing them into a cultural tale was a brilliant choice for me. The Woman King will give you plenty of tribal activities to study and adore, finding themselves potentially captivated by the community's use of song, dance, chanting, and other rituals. Some might be hard, boring, or boastful, I'll admit that when they get a little long, but overall, very impressed with the cultural integration piece to establish the setting.

The Music: Another immersive element, this movie's film score holds two primary styles that might help get you into the setting they designed. No surprise, there is a lot of what sounds like African Tribal music to the works, the drums, shakers, and a few horns helping to give you that stereotypical sound the Lion King made famous for many of us. It works very well in the cultural settings and sometimes extends to other moments that describe the pain well. My favorite was the orchestral work, and there are moments where the theater's system amplify that sound to a very, very, high degree to sell that epic moment. Great use of music.

The Acting: No surprise, the movie has done very well to make the characters come to life in ways I had hoped they would. Not quite in your face feminist and tough, as many things choose to do, this tribe kicks major butt in the female led cast. Lynch is probably one of my favorite characters in this story, her balance is nice to see, and she shows so much in her ability to extend across emotional spectra to make a very realistic character. Young actress Mbedu crushed her role as well, getting a lot more spotlight than I had anticipated, but for the most part gets her acting down pat, including hysterical cries. I quite enjoyed her determination, but again the fact that she was not perfect was an incredible display of direction and restraint to again make fun characters. Of course, Davis is the star of the show and no surprise, she crushes it again. In what might be my favorite role of hers, at least in a while, Davis unleashes the tough woman attitude she wields so well, but then manages to pull some it back and open up her vulnerability. As the movie goes on, she may not cover quite as many levels of emotion her compatriots do, but somehow takes her angle and makes it work so well given the position of her character. Needless to say, but I will anyway, the chemistry is top notch and that's the successful part of all this ordeal is how well they work together.

The Costumes/Make Up: We aren't turning the women into orcs, elves, or donkeys, but they are transforming them into the tribal warriors of a kingdom. This film's use of costume and makeup is subtle, looking like something from a play, but again works so well in what it accomplishes. I loved the warrior looks, I loved the settlers rugged clothes showing struggle, but entitlement, and I loved the makeup evolution deepening on the scene as it brought those cultural moments to life for me.

The Setting: Small shot at this, but wow were the shots beautiful of the coast and plateaus of the kingdom. I'm not sure about all the set pieces and CGI work given the blend to this film, but the cinematography at moments is breath taking to see the world to such a degree as what they got.

The Action: By far my favorite part of the movie, the action of this film proves for the most part that we still have directors who understand dances of death. The Woman King has at least four action scenes I would call worth it, with a few micro moments to fill in the gap. In these moments, you get different feels for the moment, and the variety works very well to give these moments more of a reason than what many actors do. And in almost all the fights, the choreography is insanely good, with acting, moves, and stunt work blending together to really give the warrior's edge. I loved so much about this movie's battling, especially the epic fight about 75% of the way through the movie and feel that the bar is raised again for action choreography to follow.


A Little Scattered: The movie's plot is not perfect though, and like so many films requires more time to really capitalize on all the stories they tried to tell. The Woman King jumps around a bit at times, with several transitions diluted, or limited to these quick asides that in the grand scheme of things did very little to elevate the story. Not being mean, but so many stories does often lead to incomplete usage and there were potential stories that needed more fluff.

John Boyega's Accent: It's a bit cheesy, it's a bit forced, but that doesn't mean I hate it. Boyega does his best with the accent given, and it's not as cheesy as some might have you believe. However, there were better ways to take the character if I'm being honest.

The Villains Are A Bit Simplified/Extreme: What this means is that the Woman King's great character development arc did not extend to the antagonists of the film quite as well. Where Nanisca, Nawi, and Izogie hold so many layers to them, the other guys are just simply extreme bad guys that are lightning rods of hate to put your ire against. In addition the stereotypical moments really shine in these characters and I had liked more time to give them some depth given the power they held.

Some Hard To Watch Moments: Pertinent to the story? Yes they are, but that does not make some of the moments easy to watch if you can't handle the unfortunate truth of those times. Sensitive fans need to prep themselves for some hard to watch moments that might make the bile in your gut rise. I won't say much, but you've been warned that some details might be hard to watch.

The Final Fight is Poetic, But Not As Climactic: After the amazing fights and usage of the story elements, the final fight was a little bit of a letdown for me if I'm being honest. Sure, there are great moves at times, and there is a bit of edge to the madness, including some awesome moments of justice. But that fight before it was a thousand times better and I had liked a little more f that same coordination to make it feel like the film had not been rushed. Again, it has its own element and feel, but that last fight with so many things happening could have used a touch more time and planning for me to really call it the fantastic end it deserved.

The VERDICT:The Woman King had a lot of potential to be another political movie, but what I got was a great balance of many things that just needed more time to be perfected. While female led, there are plenty of other characters with side stories that work together quite well. It's a movie that pulls culture, visuals, costumes, and acting together to really create the tribe you expect to see. And the pacing of the tale, especially the utilization of action, might be some of the best I've seen in a very, very, very, long time. Sure, handling so much resulted in some stories not having the same kick I wanted to see, and there are shortcuts taken to compact it to 120 minutes like it wanted to do. However, the movie really did make a great theater experience for me and is worth the trip if you've got the time. My favorite movie of the three I watched, this reviewer gives The Woman King:

Action/Drama/History: 9.0Movie Overall: 8.0-8.5.