Director: Gina Prince-Bythewood

Starring: Thusu Mbedu, Viola Davis, Lashana Lynch, John Boyega

Year: 2022

The Woman King is basically two scenes done about 10 times each, filling over two hours of plot in a movie that feels like it goes on for an eternity.  The same fighting scene, the same talking scene, rinse & repeat & call it a film.  Gina Prince-Bythwood is no amateur, but neither is she accomplished, with a couple movies directed, but nothing that stands out.  This was her biggest test, this was her moment perhaps, and, unfortunately, the thing that stands out the most about The Woman King is how poorly crafted it is, and how much of it falls absolutely flat.

West Africa in the early 1800s was a place of constant war and of budding slavery, as the Europeans traded for human flesh, making the local kings rich but at a terrible cost.  The kingdoms would then war with each other, selling captives into bondage, feeding into the greed of the Americans, the Brazilians, all those looking for slave labor.  Two powerful armies faced each other for control of the region, but the mighty Dahomey had a fighting force of women who were elite among warriors, and were fighting not for slavery but for their people, their land, and the right to be free.

This story is based on real events, including the King and his all-woman military group.  They rose to power and eventually attempted to move to trading palm oil, not humans, although they would also be stopped from slave trading by the British an ultimately defeated by the French.  There is interesting history here, but that’s about as far as the film will capture any attention.  The Woman King is extremely boring, a repetitious two-step that goes nowhere and does nothing.  The film is forced into genres by love stories, orphan stories, and the like, each time feeling more fake than the last, until you wish the film would switch back to the other side of the coin, the battles, until those fail as well; unrealistic, overdramatic, silly, and redundant.  This film is simply poorly made, it’s not necessarily poorly executed, it just never stood a chance.

My rating: ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆