Langreview Kurzkritik English Version Fakten + Credits

The People’s Republic of Benin is still considered a very young state. It was founded in 1975 and is located between Nigeria and Togo in the western part of Africa. About 100 years earlier, the approximately 260-year-old Kingdom of Dahomey was located in the same place, which was conquered by French troops only a short time later and incorporated as part of French West Africa. Gezo and his son Glele were the last kings to rule the country freely. Fighting for that very independence was a rather unusual army, which was partly made up of regiments of women, commonly called Agojie, composed of unmarried women.

The Woman King Filmstill

The Woman King ©2022 Sony Pictures

LETZTENDLICH SIND WIR DEM UNIVERSUM EGAL Producer Maria Bello learned of this history during her travels through West Africa and was so fascinated by it that, in the process of creating the film together with Cathy Schulman, she eventually got in touch with Viola Davis and pitched her the idea of the film. Davis, who had previously appeared in THE SUICIDE SQUAD, among others, was immediately taken with it and fired up the development process in which Gina Prince-Bythewood eventually took over as director, thus completing the almost exclusively female team.

That’s what it’s all about

Nawi was supposed to be forcibly married, but as a rebellious young girl she flatly refuses. As an unmarried woman, she is given the opportunity to leave her terrible life behind and join the Agojie, thus serving her country. The hard and exhausting training brings her to the edge of her abilities, but at the same time she finds a new family among the others. But her rebellious stubbornness gets her into trouble again and again, and she must painstakingly learn that she is no longer the helpless lone fighter, but must now live the team idea as part of her combat troop. Together they face a difficult enemy, for General Oba Ade is willing to enslave and oppress the kingdom of Dahomey in order to increase his own fortune in trade with the Portuguese. How are the Agojie to bring this superior force to its knees?

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THE WOMAN KING hasn’t quite started yet, and we’re already getting our first vibes of STAR WARS, as a rough outline of the historical setting is presented to us via ticker tape. Whether this is really a sensible choice is immediately questionable, because it is precisely this fantasy association that ensures that the plot is initially classified as not real and the impression is maintained for a long time that it is a fake history. But regardless of whether it is real or unreal, Prince-Bythewood picks up an interesting story here that, despite being produced in the USA, for once places the full focus on the African way of life and devotes itself entirely to female strength. Thus, the film is already clearly eye-catching at this point, as for once the white male point of view is not centralised.

The Woman King Filmstill

The Woman King ©2022 Sony Pictures

Instead, we are taken visually and acoustically into a world that is probably foreign to most Europeans and therefore has some exciting and fascinating elements to offer. In addition to a grandiose costume design that at least attempts to imitate contemporary costumes and a score that combines modern sounds with African vibes, we also get a cast that not only consists of overpaid American stars, but also features performances by South African actors in supporting roles. Although such praise should still be enjoyed with caution, since a significantly larger African cast would certainly have been possible without having to accept qualitative restrictions, at least the beginnings of a broad-based team are worth mentioning.

Game of Thrones

The director’s great goals in developing a showcase film for the empowerment of PoC women in international productions are clearly recognisable, but are somewhat lost in the effort to create a film that proves that men do not necessarily have to embody the leading roles in all action dramas. Even if this works well in large parts, THE WOMAN KING unfortunately loses credibility and sense of purpose massively elsewhere. Instead of creating a strong and epoch-making work, which would be expected from a running time of around 135 minutes, the film loses itself once again in an entertaining drivel that fails to find a feeling for the right timing of its own narrative and at the same time only rattles off a story that we have already seen hundreds of times. Thus we go through an ordeal reminiscent of THE NORTHMAN and thus open the barrel of slavery and popular oppression wide open again.

The Woman King Filmstill

The Woman King ©2022 Sony Pictures

Even though the leading actresses give their characters the right energy, it is hard to believe until the very end that such banal training sessions shape powerful warriors out of spindly women. While some of the mimic work of the actresses is really fantastic and shows what grandiose actresses are hiding behind the roles, it is already clear from the far too cut fight sequences that physical strengths are only required here to a very limited extent for exciting choreographies. Instead, the audience is made to know that the female warriors can easily keep up with and even surpass male strength, which may be the case in exceptional cases, but is usually already difficult to achieve biologically. So instead of relying on advantages such as light-footed agility, speed or excessive combat intelligence and thus creating a meaningful story, the team makes use of rather unrealistic wishful thinking. Too bad.

Stilisierter Negativfilm mit roter Ziffer 6Conclusion

In a film that is far too long, we are thus presented with an exciting and entertaining story that is fantastic both visually and in the score and showcases the acting talents of the stars in the best possible way, but in the end can neither be described as historically valuable nor as outstanding in terms of direction. Thus, it can only be stated that THE WOMAN KING is quite suitable for an adventurous evening at the cinema and thus ranks just ahead of the recently released BEAST, but still remains meaningless.

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