The Woman King (2022)

The Woman King (2022)

2022 PG-13 135 Minutes

Drama | History | Action

The story of the Agojie, the all-female unit of warriors who protected the African Kingdom of Dahomey in the 1800s with skills and a fierceness unlike anything the world has ever seen, and General...

Overall Rating

7 / 10
Verdict: Good

User Review

  • d_riptide


    5 / 10
    “The Woman King” tries to chronicle the true story of the Agojie, a group of female warriors in the 1800s who protected the African Kingdom of Dahomey from colonization and the slave trade. Given Hollywoods insistence on fabricating true stories beyond repair and telling what they want us to see, I had to double check to see if this held water before I saw it.

    Some parts, it does. Other parts, it doesn’t and it’s not always for the reasons you think.

    One of Gina Prince-Bythewood’s greatest strengths as a director, one I noticed in The Old Guard, is her unwavering commitment to emotional heft and it’s the only thing that anchors an otherwise average directional layout with some punches of flair. Editing is stable enough to where it won’t give you a seizure and when the cinematography is not focusing on the action, it’s fairly standard. There’s a thankfully subdued balance with its use of tone and its face-value presentation between Elaborate production design, tactile costume design and a propulsive enough musical score to not bore me to tears. Hearty ambiance is aplenty in the beginning although it drains after the hour mark and once more, Gina’s penchant for melodramatic gestures pays off and plays out exceptionally well with the strength of its cast despite the threadbare personalities of their characters.

    There’s two halves to this story: one boasts the same predictable but well-established beats we’ve seen in other historical epics. And the other is clunky: The actual story of the Agojie sees the fierce women warriors playing a controversial role in the translatlantic slave trade, helping the rise of the trade while also being complicit in the capture, creation, and sale of other African people. Some people have criticized it for minimizing their role in the story and for not going far enough and while the movie does actually mention this a couple of times, not completely shying away from some details, it becomes clear after a while that THAT is not the story they wish to tell.

    In the process, it often feels like the plot constantly ties itself in knots trying to tiptoe around it with the other subplots. Yes, it’s meant to be a character drama first, historical epic second but the two barely feel intertwined with each other; fictional retelling or otherwise, there’s a difference between openly admitting and leaning into a fanciful retelling of real events and blatantly omitting key context to make a group of people more sympathetic then they probably deserve.

    Even without all that baggage, the romance angle is pointless, there were three separate times where it could’ve ended, the runtime actually breaks the pacing and momentum multiple times, and impressive choreography aside, the action sequences are outdone by three fatal flaws: the dreaded seizure-like cinematography watering it down, the spunky VFX and the PG-13 rating censoring and neutering of the violence, 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. Ugh.

    I’m sure there’s somebody out there who’s willing to accept that it’s a fictionalized alteration of the story and enjoy themselves regardless but even without those shackles, emotional heft, elaborate production design and a hearty cast are the only things the film really has going for it.

    I really wanted to like this, guys. I really did…..