Cinderella Man is among my favorite films, at least I believe so. One of the major proponents of that film is the sport of boxing, which, while irrefutably violent, has some beauty surrounding it. When We Were Kings was something of a back-up plan today, as the original film was much longer and I ended up watching it fairly late. Thus, I thought to myself, “Why not kick back and watch something on a boxing legend?”
Seeing as I don’t have a lot of time, I’ll keep this fairly short.
When We Were Kings is a boxing documentary… in part. It is also, in part, a documentary about Muhammad Ali, about George Foreman, about a fight these two figures had, and about African culture. There are a lot of deeper implications behind the fight—political ones—that enhance the experience of the documentary. It feels much bigger than a simple fight, with the course of the documentary naturally swaying into the nuances between the fighters, their personality, and what they (perhaps by circumstance) represented in their time in Africa. This perspective alone makes this feel like more than a documentary, but an intriguing perspective on the nature of human sports and the intimacy it could represent to an entire nation.
It’s not too deep into any opposing factors or into the perspective of Foreman, specifically, which I think hampers the experience slightly. There’s some rough edges to the structure of the documentary that makes it feel more basic, almost as though the progressive aspects that came with the direction almost happened unintentionally. It’s tremendously slow starting off, letting the details fester without adequate levels of sunlight. It feels both general and deep; I almost wanted to score this documentary lower, but I really do like the African perspective. It’s one I don’t often see interwoven with sports documentaries.
Even if boxing or sports aren’t your thing, I would recommend When We Were Kings just for the emphasis on the humanistic side of sports and the figures within the field. Muhammad Ali was an absolutely charming individual, cockiness and all. His legendary fight with George Foreman, whom everyone believed would destroy the much-older Ali, is a classic “Past vs. Future” scenario, with an added boost of interesting socio-political commentary. Be sure to know this, however, or maybe not! I thought I’d just be seeing a fight. I ended up seeing something much more.
Final Score: 8/10
The rating for all other films can be found at Letterboxd.
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Thank you for your time. Have a great day.