Rated: PG-13 Reviewed by: Jim Release date: October 7, 2007 Released by: Universal Studios, Inc.
Luxuriant and irrepressible, Elizabeth: The Golden Age has romance and treachery in late 16th century Britain. Yet, not of the quality to lace it as a compelling historical thriller.
Cate Blanchett looks great in her corset, reprising the part she originated in the seven-time Academy-Award nominated original.
Here, her willful Queen Elizabeth I and trusty, cunning adviser Sir Francis Walsingham (Geoffrey Rush, also back from Elizabeth) have to go against a deadly foe from Europe.
The script by William Nicholson and Michael Hirst involves Spain's fundamentalist Catholic ducat Philip II (Jordi Molla of The Alamo and a self-trained painter) having full support by the Pope and the Inquisition. His scheme will utilize the powerful armada in order to have Elizabeth's traitorous cousin Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots (Samantha Morton of The Libertine and Lassie) assume the throne. Walsingham will catch on to this insidious plot as Elizabeth becomes taken with handsome explorer Sir Walter Raleigh (Clive Owen of Shoot 'Em Up).
Owen's character has a swashbuckling Errol Flynn about him, as he has gifts from the New World, which includes Indians, besides gold and tobacco. The adventurous Raleigh becomes quietly enamored with Elizabeth's favored lady-in-waiting, Bess (Abbie Cornish of A Good Year). It leads to the Queen's crusade to control love, eradicate enemies, and remain a lauded figure in the West.
As directed again by India's Shekhar Kapur, The Golden Age hardly intrigues or dazzles as the melodrama feels hastily executed and story schematic. The emotions are more shrill as evinced by Blanchett in a role that calls for more acceptance of a complex woman. She almost comes across as a "Joan d'Arc", but Her Majesty isn't aged to comply with the film's time line. Owen engages more in ways that would have made his King Arthur work better, having some notable scenes with Cornish and an early rapport with Blanchett.
Still, even as Rush, Molla, Morton and Rhys Ifans as sneaky Robert Reston provide able, but unconvincing support, the result feels gloriously desolate. The efforts of Guy Hendrix Dyas and Alexandra Byrne in the production and costume department seem to overwhelm interest in where the bloodlust and betrayal for the throne is going.
The regal, pristine Blanchett can't channel the power she exuded in Elizabeth as once Bette Davis played The Virgin Queen with effective backup by a young Joan Collins as Bess. What may be most lingering this time for those trying to keep up with all of the threatening behavior is the bombast of sight and sound whether looking from a cliff to an explosive horizon or holding a newborn.
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