ELIZABETH: THE GOLDEN AGE
**1/2 (out of 5)
October 12, 2007
Cate Blanchett as QUEEN ELIZABETH I
Geoffrey Rush as SIR FRANCIS WALSINGHAM
Clive Owen as SIR WALTER RALEIGH
Samantha Morton as MARY STUART
Rhys Ifans as ROBERT RESTON
Jordi Molla as KING PHILIP II OF SPAIN
Directed by: Shekhar Kapur
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
Do you remember the public demand for more movies about Queen Elizabeth? The first, or the second, it doesn’t seem to matter.
I don’t remember such an outcry, but someone in Hollywood must. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have the deluge of royalty cinema out there right now. This has led to the production of “Elizabeth: The Golden Age,” which is a sequel to the 1998 Oscar-nominated “Elizabeth.”
Like any good series (e.g., “Star Wars” or “Indiana Jones”), we have many of the same players in this film. Cate Blanchett returns as the virgin queen. Geoffrey Rush comes back as her closest advisor. And all of this is led by returning director Shekhar Kapur.
Where “Elizabeth” was the story of the queen’s rise to power, “Elizabeth: The Golden Age” is the story of her holding onto that power to become one of the most famous British queens in history. Facing opposition from the Catholics, Elizabeth has imprisoned Mary Stewart (Samantha Morton), much to the chagrin of King Philip II of Spain (Jordi Molla).
As the queen must answer questions about her lack of a husband, or an heir for that matter, she becomes infatuated with the pirate Sir Walter Raleigh (Clive Owen). However, he has eyes for someone else in her court. Rather than a traditional piece of royalty fiction, “Elizabeth: The Golden Age” shows the inner emotional struggles that the queen feels as she tries to keep her country solvent and protect it from the encroaching Spanish Armada.
Anyone who saw Kapur’s “Elizabeth” no doubt got the sense that he was making a love letter to her. That adoration is layered on even thicker in this film. The focus is on Elizabeth throughout the movie, even when it should be on more exciting matters, like two fleets of ships clashing in the English Channel.
Kapur’s biggest flaw is that his love letter soon becomes a puff piece, portraying Elizabeth with unending sympathy, and painting King Philip in the devil’s make-up. Seriously, the only thing missing from this guy is a pair of horns and a pitch fork.
The only elements of this film that get more attention than the inherent greatness of the queen is the costumes and sets. “Elizabeth: The Golden Age” is an overblown costumer drama that is desperately clutching at the Oscar statuette. As fabulous as the costumes and set design are, it starts to get a little pathetic in the end.
Still, if you’re a die-hard fan of historical drama, this film is right up your alley. However, if you aren’t well versed in the original story, you might want to hop on Wikipedia and read up on the Spanish Armada and Mary Queen of Scots (which, I warn you, doesn’t quite jibe with what happens in the film, but it’s worth it to get the background).
Ultimately, by focusing too much on the title character and not enough on the plot and action, the film falls apart at the end. During the climactic battle between the British Navy and the Spanish Armada, we are treated to scant few action sequences.
Imagine seeing “Star Wars” in the theater for the first time, but instead of the great assault on the Death Star, Lucas showed us this… X-wing fighters flying in formation, cut to Princess Leia telling a general they’re losing ships, several shots in slow motion of tie fighters exploding, then Princess Leia looking into the sky at the huge cloud of dust that was the Death Star.
Sigh… I suppose they should have spliced in a bit from the finale of “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” and improved both films.