Disappointment seeps through every element of director Shekhar Kapur’s ineffectual sequel to his superior 1998 precursor Elizabeth, which introduced the world to the exceptional acting abilities of Cate Blanchett.
In spite of her familiarity and ease as the woman who reinvented 16th century England, Blanchett’s best efforts are routed by an overly compartmentalized script that seeks to add a romantic groundwork to the character.
Screenwriter Michael Hirst (Elizabeth) teams up with William Nicholson (Gladiator) to detail Elizabeth’s jealous relationship with Sir Walter Raleigh (Clive Owen), while giving scope to her ruling abilities in the context of waging war with Spain.
Elizabeth: The Golden Age waffles most in pinning its narrative gist on Elizabeth’s vulnerable alliance with Sir Walter Raleigh. Once Raleigh boldly introduces himself to the Queen during a public court, a soap opera tone wafts over scenes of the two skirting around his appeal for her to finance a voyage to America, and her desire to keep his charming company beside her. Since much of Elizabeth’s perceived power lies in her designation as the “Virgin Queen,” there is no place for the plot go.
As engaging as Raleigh is, the part as written casts a shadow of ulterior motives upon him. It’s a gray area that could have provided the story with essential nourishment had the writers bothered to flesh it out.
From this corner-painted position, the film distracts with equally benign subplots about things like a misinformed assassination attempt and Elizabeth’s decision to dress in full armor to lead her short-numbered army into combat. The brief battlefield scene comes off as little more than a movie poster photo opportunity.
Shekhar Kapur has pasted together bubbles of historic anachronisms ““Queen Elizabeth would have been 52 at the time the story takes placefilled with worthy but unjustified performances.
The movie wants to be as much about Sir Walter Raleigh as it is about Queen Elizabeth, but the filmmakers seem to avoid investing in his character”“probably for fear of upstaging the regal Queen they attempt to make “human.”
However, there’s no denying that the actor’s performances help compensate for the film’s lack of narrative cohesion”“ Samantha Morton creates an intriguing character as the Queen’s duplicitous cousin Mary Stuart while newcomer Abbie Cornish is beguiling as Raleigh’s more tangible love interest, and Geoffrey Rush is ever reliable as Sir Francis Walsingham”“even if they are not given sufficient screentime.
Here, the Golden Age is converted to pewter. MTW