Elizabeth: The Golden Age **
Directed by Shekhar Kapur
Written by William Nicholson and Michael Hirst
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
Eddie Redmayne as Thomas Babington
114 Minutes(Rated PG-13 for violence, some sexuality and nudity. )
I've always thought that period dramas were the hardest genre to do after comedy. It's hard enough to make people laugh, but its even harder to make people interested in a historical film without them feeling like they are sitting through a boring high school class. The first film in this series-"Elizabeth"-an Oscar nominee that was released in 1998, managed to tell a history story and make it extremely interesting. It was also well acted and pretty to look at to boot, and well directed. And it also took characters and made them interesting. Sadly the sequel, with has a quite well made and intense trailer, is nothing like the first film. One thing that is needed to make a period drama work is to inject some energy into it-something of interest. The actors here all walk around as if they are reading from cards around the sets. Any interesting things that were put into them in the first film seems to have vanished. This is one of the most forgettable films in recent memory, and also a film that was clearly made to try and score some Oscars.Come on-the formula is there-Cate Blanchett, period film, costumes.
Cate Blanchett does reprise her role as Queen Elizabeth-the role that really seemed to skyrocket her to the top nearly a decade ago. She is faced with the constant threat of the Spanish who wish to end her reign and spread Catholicism around Europe. She is also faced with the seemingly constant thread of assassination, especially by the woman who would get the throne next, Mary Stuart-played by Samantha Morton in almost a cameo. The Queen's most trusted advisor Sir Francis Walsingham-played again by Geoffrey Rush-tells her that she should produce an heir to keep the throne in her bloodline. She doesn't find any suitors that she would like to marry, except for Sir Walter Raleigh-played by Clive Owen-who treats the Queen well because he needs money to finance an expedition. He also seems to fancy another close advisor, Elizabeth "Bess" Throckmorton, who is assigned to keep a watch on him, as the Spanish threat comes nearer and nearer, and England's position of power seems to be in danger.
Period dramas seem to always end up getting a reserved two star rating, because as dull as some of them end up being or as much as some seem like a lecture, there is no doubt about it that many of them look beautiful, especially if you pay careful attention to detail-for example Stanley Kubrick's "Barry Lyndon" may seem to drag at times, but there is constantly something to look at on the screen. Kubrick literally paints a picture with every single shot of that movie. Here there is always something to see-interesting costumes, paintings in the background, set designs. The best scene in the whole movie is at the start, when Elizabeth is getting various men to come to her throne to present proposals-and we see the interesting gifts, the outfits, and at that point you kind of get into the swing of it all-the fun from the first film seems to scatter into this. But then once the plot begins to emerge you loose interest. All of the interesting elements from the first film characters are missing here. The Queen even looks different. And Geoffrey Rush, who in the first film was filled with mystery-complete with thick black eyeliner under his eyes-is resorted to a simple role as her advisor and nothing more. Side characters played by Morten and Rhys Ifans are so brief and quick that you hardly have time to savor them being in it, and to digest their participation in the story. And this certainly contains the worst battle scene in film history-as tension mounts and mounts for half the film, and then the battle is told in a few brief images of violence. This movie also does have a PG-13 and the last had an R, but you shouldn't promise a huge epic scene-including Cate Blanchett in Mel Gibson in "Braveheart" mode, giving a big speech before the fight-and then just gloss over it.
"Elizabeth: The Golden Age" is a rather pointless bit of Oscar bait this award season, obviously made to try and cop a few Gold Statues instead of actually trying to make an effort of love like the first film was, and it certainly does show in the material.