Directed by: Shekhar Kapur
Premise: A sequel to the 1998 film. Ten years after her ascension to the throne, Queen Elizabeth I (Cate Blanchett) faces a potential invasion by the Spanish Empire and a plot to overthrow her by Mary Queen of Scots (Samantha Morton). At the same time she entertains the interest of high seas adventurer Sir Walter Raleigh (Clive Owen).
What Works: Elizabeth: The Golden Age is an unexpected sequel. The original film was not the kind of picture to suggest a sequel but in its best moments The Golden Age recaptures what worked best in the previous film and expands upon the themes and the characters. Blanchett is again great as Elizabeth and the time between the two films works well for her performance. In this film, Elizabeth faces the onset of middle age and her desires for romantic partnership and motherhood play well as they come into conflict with her duties as a queen. Blanchett does a great job conveying these tensions often in subtle moments and her brilliance in both films is to allow Elizabeth, one of the great leaders in the history of Western civilization, a sense of vulnerability. The film also benefits from the return of director Shekhar Kapur and screenwriter Michael Hirst as well as cast member Geoffrey Rush as Sir Francis Walsingham. The carryover gives a sense of continuity with the previous film while the story expands into new directions and includes new characters. Clive Owen’s performance as Sir Walter Raleigh possesses a classic Errol Flynn sense of swashbuckling romanticism that is tempered by a realistic sense of practicality. The story of The Golden Age is very ambitious and in the first and second acts, the film does a very nice job of developing the conflicts and intertwining them so that Elizabeth’s political maneuvers are complicated by her relationship with Raleigh.
What Doesn’t: The third act of The Golden Age is troubled. The film struggles to find an ending that ties together all of its various elements and director Kapur falls into one of his usual traps, beating the audience over the head with the same images and ideas over and over again in the hope that some sort of big message will come out of it, but nothing does. As a result, the end of the film comes up short with some interesting images but not much of a conclusion to its themes or narratives.
Bottom Line: Elizabeth: The Golden Age is a good film and it makes for a solid companion piece to the original picture and to the recent Showtime series The Tudors, which is also co-written by Hirst. Although it’s no Godfather Part II, The Golden Age is still better than most sequels and does its duty to expand on the story and the characters.
Episode: #162 (October 21, 2007)