Of all the subjective or objective measures we talk about when evaluating a film, one of the most powerful traits that can compensate for shortcomings is a film’s inspiration effect. A passionate audience with agitated emotions is very forgiving. Many Aspects, Great and Small, of Gina Prince-Bythewood The female king could be debated or exposed as flaws. In the end, they won’t matter. The story told and the dedication garnered to tell it carries more weight than art or craft.
The female king seeks to present the 19th century legend of the Agojia warriors of the Kingdom of Dahomey in what is now the country of Benin in West Africa. Dubbed by a white slave trader in the film as “the bloodiest female dogs in Africa”, they were a special and feared military unit made up of thousands of female warriors who would become a source of creative inspiration for the Wakandan. Dora Mijae by Marvel Comics Black Panther. The Agojie frequently outmatched their male counterparts in battle and were held in greater reverence in the eyes of their people and outside visitors.
This reverence at the citizen level is an important part of their first impression in The Woman King. Seen returning victorious from a hostage rescue opening sequence, the adoring audience is not allowed to look up or close their eyes to any of them as they roam the streets of their kingdom. This slight genuflection of their right attention comes from esteemed respect more than fear from tales of their exploits. People know very well who protects them and their king, and acknowledges him at every opportunity.
The year is 1823 and the Agojie defending their homeland are commanded by General Nanisca (Academy Award winner Viola Davis), a stern and powerful woman who molded hundreds of her peers into warriors and leaders. She has the respect of her educated and decadent sovereign King Ghezo (Breakup‘s John Boyega) as one of his potential brides. Nanisca is flanked by two senior lieutenants, the witty Amenza (Sheila Atim of Bruised) and the dedicated Izogie (no time to dieby Lashana Lynch). Their most recent skirmish with the Oyo Empire, a larger clan led by the ruthless Ode Ade (Jimmy Odukoya of After) ready to use guns and horses on the Agojia’s simple spears, clubs and blades, means more battles are coming and new recruits are needed.
One of these new faces is the rule-breaking teenager Nawi, played by Thuso Mbedu from Underground Railroad made his film debut. His stubborn attitude to fend off his father’s arranged suitors threw Nawi out of the house into Agojie’s lineup. There, she becomes competitive and close with the other contestants while winning Izogie’s favor and catching Nanisca’s disciplinary wrath. Meanwhile, the threat of encroachment from Oyo is associated with the recent arrival of Portuguese slave traders (embodied Hero Fiennes Tiffin de After and Jordan Bolger of Boba Fett’s Book) who play both sides of the turf war.
The Dahomey region is scarred by the triangular trade exploiting slavery and resources. Like many African tribal monarchies (and not often mentioned in your textbooks) that waged war with their neighbors and competitors, Dahomey amassed great wealth through its complicit participation in the Atlantic slave trade by selling off defeated rivals , prisoners and their own wrecks overseas. . It was, unfortunately, a more lucrative business than their vast palm oil farming efforts. However, the ever-increasing demand for human capital from Europeans increased tensions in the region and internal pressure on the king.
It should be known, as if it were not obvious, that a large part of The female king is fictionalized story. Knowing ahead, viewers can enjoy the radical adventure below. Screenwriter Dana Stevens (Paternity, shelter) uses the setting of King Ghezo’s reigning period and his 1823 victory over the Oyo Empire as cornerstones of an epic more interested in theater than in concrete facts. The film doesn’t shy away from showing the ugliest parts of the old economy and the overwhelming acquisition of wealth and power. Still, the film could have called out the alien colonizers more than it did.
Content-wise, some of the ugliness of the old raw realities is cleaned up. Moreover, in order to achieve a profitable PG-13 rating, vivid blood remains in the veins of these bodies hacked and lacerated with deadly steel. These efforts undermined a visceral honesty and an appropriate level of brutality that could have hardened The female king louder without sacrificing inspirational impact. In a way, the movie is a little too long for those who want the action and the bloodshed more than anything else, and, even when they get it, it’s watered down.
The voluminous middle act of The female king is dedicated to Nawi’s growth arc and the entire kingdom’s posture for a two-pronged conflict. The Agojie adhere to a code where, unlike other women’s positions, they are paid and their opinions are heard as long as they do not take a husband, have children and swear to fight or die. . The female king is infused with riveting ritual demonstrations of many of these core principles, allowing the many actresses in the set to show off their physique alongside the inspiring emotional expressions of being powerful women.
Closer to 60 than 50, Viola Davis is a titan of screen presence and a storm of determination in the lead role. Looking at the list of comrades 57 year old actorsone would be hard pressed to find a star willing to cast like she does in The Woman King. If Viola is the rocky exterior, then Lashana Lynch is the crystal core within. Her loyalty, bravery, and kinship, especially to Mbedu’s main rookie, makes her the heart and soul of the entire film. She will make new fans of this film.
Around them are dozens of other performers gifted with scintillating nerve wielding violence and indomitable spirit in equal measure. At the time of the fight, Grant Powell’s stunt and fight coordination team (Mauritanian), Daniel Hernandez (The gray man), and Johnny Gao (The old guard) outdid themselves. Together they put together some of the best melee scenes in recent memory, mixing weapons and techniques of all kinds, sizes and speeds.
Director Gina Prince-Bythewood has endeavored to employ as many female designers and department heads as possible, from the director of photography and editor to production assistants and drivers. Placing the representation in its place resulted in a rich and unique overall look using minimal digital effects. Some of the notable efforts include the fabulous costume work of Gersha Phillips (Star Trek: Discovery), the enveloping cinematography of Polly Morgan (A Quiet Place II), and the intricate choreography of Zoyi Lindiwe Muendane. The icing on the cake theme for The female king comes from an often lush score by Spike Lee’s jazz maestro, Terence Blanchard.
The movie’s catchy quote “You are powerful, more than you even know” sends a message to women not to give their power to mistakes, bad choices, an oppressor or a man. It was followed by the edict of “Relentlessly we will fight”. It’s a mainstay worth supporting for the target demographic that welcomes this film. This very liberating aspect is perhaps the most inspiring quality of all The Woman King. To see these women in front of and behind the camera taking this opportunity to tell a little-known story of profound heroism is beyond precious. Every impressionable young woman who emerges from this empowered, committed film is a bigger win than any box office dollar.