Robbie K here with another movie review and this time one focused on the game of…chess? Disney Studios latest creation Queen of Katwe is a tale on a Phiona Mutesi’s journey to becoming a chess master. As there are few movies where the board game is the focus, I was interested in seeing what the entertainment giant could do with such a tale. As always, I’m here to give my thoughts on the tale. Let’s get started.
- Good Chess Montages
- Major Character Development
When it comes to sports movies, we always enjoy seeing scenes that involve the game right? The same thing can be said for a movie about a board game loved by so many. Disney will do their fans justice and give players plenty of shots at our players bouts on the board. Phiona’s numerous challenges are shown throughout the two hour time limit, each showing her evolution into a chess champion. If you’re not a fan of the game, don’t worry too much as the sequences move fast enough to keep it exciting and are often accompanied by her fellow chess players reacting to each move.
But Robbie, I hate chess and therefore will certainly hate this movie! No problem my friend, Disney’s got you covered. Queen of Katwe is far more than just moving piece on a board. A large part of the plot is focused on Phiona’s life, especially on the struggle she and her family faced. Drama lovers will eat up the family tension between mother and daughter, or perhaps get caught up in how many people looked down on the young girl and her obsession for a title. I myself appreciated the other characters’ tales running in tandem with Phiona’s tale, especially watching the coach and her fellow players grow alongside her. The intermingled tales, alongside great actor chemistry, brings a complete tale that makes you feel a part of the Katwe Pioneers.
Amidst the drama and chess though, one will certainly find some inspiration buried in the film. Like all Disney movies, our writers have gone through great lengths to motivate their audiences to accomplish great things. Queen of Katwe is no different, as it uses orchestral work, ideal camera shots, and well written dialogue throw the emotional punch. The coach in particular preaches these lessons, using various analogies and life experiences to make his point across. Whatever message comes across to you, know that Queen of Katwe has a future place in many classrooms and Sunday Schools.
- Editing/Plot Gaps
- Intense focus on close ups instead of the game
- Family extremes are a little too extreme
The major dislike for this reviewer is how unbalanced the editing was in this movie, especially in terms of the plot. As mentioned, Phiona’s tale has a lot of moving pieces, some of which have a lot of buildup and focus such as tensions with her sister or the fears of her fellow teammates). After such focus you would expect a decent wrap up right? To me, many of these plot points were dropped or hastily concluded, probably to allow more “suspenseful” game scenes or another celebration montage to premier. While this helps expand the diversity of the movie, this move weakened the story and made some of the drama kind of pointless in the end.
Plot points aren’t the only editing blunder though. Queen of Katwe’s chess scenes also suffer at times, especially in terms of making dramatic tension in the game. If you remember movies like Bobby Fisher, you got caught up in the game as you followed each of the protagonist’s moves, with someone explaining the maneuver. The Queen however, sometimes lost that suspense either due to the quick pace they played, or that they chose to put their focus on the player’s faces. Yes, if you wanted to see numerous close-ups of people looking tense, disappointed, and occasionally happy, you’ve come to the right movie, as our director thought this would bring more suspense. For me though, it only provided more drama and less of the game I wanted to see.
Finally the family extremes were a little too much for me. You will find in Queen of Katwe that most of the characters are stuck to one major quality, some of which are good and others that get used a tad much. What do I mean by this? One example is Phiona’s lack of smiling or expression at all, her lines and flat attitude doing nothing to help me relate to the character. Her mother on the other hand, lost her cool at the slightest drop, yelling at everyone, pouting, or dropping to her knees at the drop of a hat. I understand this had much to do with the harsh life, but to be subjected to these and other extremes for two hours didn’t help entertain me as much.
Queen of Katwe gets props for the inspirational power contained in its writing and cinematography. Phiona’s tale is one with many complex pieces that revolve around character developing drama and the thrill of the game. I have no doubt many audience members will find motivation in this movie and use this to teach generations to come. Unfortunately the editing and direction take away from this tale, and proves yet again that too many things in one movie reduces the quality. Is it worth a trip to the theater? I can’t say it is, but check this one out when it hits shelves in a few months.
Movie Overall: 6.0