Where I Watched It: iTunes
English Audio Description Provided By: Media Access Group
Narrated By: Leilani jones Wilmore
Watching the evolution of the Woman King,at least through other movie pundits, was a ride. There was this concept that perhaps the movie wouldn’t be any good (because of it’s September release date), and then there was concern over the subject matter (slavery), followed by the utter surprise at the glowing Rotten Tomatoes score, and then box office over performing. That was followed by the realization that perhaps this film was an Oscar contender. Not just for Viola Davis, but in multiple categories. Hell, Gina Prince Blythewood managed a Best Director nomination at the Critic’s Choice! Lashana Lynch made the Supporting Actress shortlist for teh BAFTA’s. The reach of this film is sprawling beyond that of just Davis, who is Oscar’s favorite Bridesmaid at this point. It’s so easy to nominate her, but even when all signes point to this being her year, she loses. This year, it’s not her year, so maybe she’ll win?
But, I know the internet has been waiting to find out how a blind white male critic felt about The Woman king. Dying. That’s why I rented this. Because I knew, one more white guy talking about the Woman King was exactly what the internet needed… and to be blind on top of that? That means, all those cool stunts… did i even follow them?
The answer is Yes. Leilani Jones Wilmore and her team at media Access Group really did a great job trying to immerse us as much as possible in what is likely a visually stunning film. From the very beginning, this is an action film. It never should have strayed from that. There’s something so cathartic about a kingdom where the women are the feared protectors who devote themselves to the craft of hand-to-hand combat, when we are so used to seeing armies full of men.
Here, we are introduced to the world through a new recruit, almost like a Training Day format. But, somehow not. She’s got a lot to prove, and Viola Davis is on top, and very much not having it. Of course, there’s some history there that needs exploration, which we get, but this is all about this complicated group of warriors, and that’s where the film comes into it’s finest.
It gets distracted when it tries to balance historical relevance, or join the ranks of the action dramas like Braveheart and Gladiator that were these terribly long epics with grand battle sequences, but also moments of history woven in. I still have no idea what the purpose of Malik was in this film. His character felt a little all over the place. He’s coming off a slave ship, as a mixed race man, like he doesn’t have a care in the world. he steps foot on Africa like he’s returned to the motherland, but is totally ready to bring some slaves back with him. but then, his character starts getting complicated… and he starts learning the error in his ways… but it’s so unnecessary. Malik takes away so much from the women of the film, who could all be getting fleshed out in scenes left on the cutting room floor. We could be learning about more women, in the same way Top Gun maverick made us feel like every single one of those 12 possible pilots mattered.
History is a distraction. men are a distraction. Viola Davis is a goddess. The supporting ensemble is amazing. The action sequences are tremendous. The direction from Gina Prince Blythewood continues to impress me, and she has got to be nominated at some point. She’s so consistent. i remember reviewing beyond The Lights when I could see, and expecting nothing from that film going in, and getting so much out of it.
Here, I expected some weird Oscar bait, but i got a female empowerment epic. if we could just embrace that, we’d all be fine. Is it worth Oscar consideration? in 2022? Why not? We’re already throwing around Top Gun Maverick, Avatar The way of Water, The Glass Onion, Black Panther Wakanda forever, The Batman, Nope, and a bunch of atypical films, so why not a film about African Women who inspired the very badass women in that Black Panther series everyone loves so much.
It’s not in my Top 10 for the year, as a film, though I expect it to show up somewhere, and I won’t be mad if it shows up in Oscar categories. For me, my white blind man ass, this film needed to stay focused on the action, and put Malik back on that boat like he never even arrived. Malik, and his villain friend, were the weakest part of the entire film. John Boyega is in this, but he knows this film is about women, and he’s not one, so he never takes away from anyone.
This is a pretty easy recommendation, and for my blind friends out there, Leilani Jones Wilmore’s audio description is quite involved in these action sequences, as well as trying to catch as many choices made to the characters, costumes, and set. It’s really well done.
Final Grade: A-