The Woman King

The Woman King ★★★

Wakanda it is not. It has casted masterful actresses but all in all, there's something quite inauthentic about it, and it feels like a gimmick. You don't get the feel of African involvement despite the historical references and despite being written by [white] women, it's as if it's written from the view of a missionary male gaze. (Note: I do realize that it's largely Americans and not Africans behind Black Panther, but they still managed an appropriate cross-cultural depiction of a fantasy world).

75% of the dialogue is standard war movie hackwork, and you probably wouldn't blink an eye if the same words were spoken by white male soldiers in the barracks of a mediocre war pic. There's something missing about the female experience and bonds within, and I can't speak with authority on this... But probably a lot of the POC vantage point as well.

The greatest war movies have at their centre not just battle and preparation for battle, but a strong sense of fraternity and brotherhood... And often romantic ties or hopes for the future which keep them going. Despite some endearing moments here and there (and coming too late in the script), there isn't the equivalent sense of sisterhood or comradery in general here. The character development and relationship establishment - with the bare bones minimum - comes almost halfway, and despite the long runtime it is not emphasized and prioritized even when it's introduced - and at which point, in truth, I had started to lose interest. There's also no comparable post-war vision which separates them from combat automatons.

The convent-like chastity and rigidity of the army - if that were even based on the historical reality and not some inaccurate slant - should have been explored on a more emotional and societal level. Again, it doesn't feel deep or intimate, and feels like a male, albeit sort of stoic, perspective. It's almost as if they were unable to portray a strong woman without stripping her of her womanhood and essentially having her talk and act like a man. There are no strong women with feminine traits? That seems at odds with many strong women I know... And even some strong men.

The script somehow doesn't have the right formula and it lacks depth. Even the historical basis which could have been alluring, was only touched on and not expanded or explored in a way which was compelling. For such great subject material, it isn't executed in a way in which I could become personally invested, and for the most part it felt long and dry.

There possibly was enough substance cumulatively in the script to concoct a great epic, and a reordering of the scenes and adjustment of the pacing and chronology might have produced a better product.

The three stars I give are for the impeccable actresses, the wonderous sets and the costume design.

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