Elizabeth's Not-So-'Golden' Sequel

Elizabeth (Cate Blanchett).

Actress Cate Blanchett was a movie newcomer in 1998 when the film Elizabeth established her as an international star. Now, she returns to the role in Elizabeth: The Golden Age. Laurie Sparham/Universal Pictures hide caption

itoggle caption Laurie Sparham/Universal Pictures
Elizabeth (Cate Blanchett) on a horse. i i

Elizabeth (Cate Blanchett) readies her men for war. Laurie Sparham/Universal Studios hide caption

itoggle caption Laurie Sparham/Universal Studios
Elizabeth (Cate Blanchett) on a horse.

Elizabeth (Cate Blanchett) readies her men for war.

Laurie Sparham/Universal Studios
Elizabeth I (Cate Blanchett) has a moment of intimacy with her loyal subject, Sir Walter Raleigh (Cl i i

Elizabeth I (Cate Blanchett) shares an intimate moment with her loyal subject, Sir Walter Raleigh (Clive Owen.) Laurie Sparham/Universal Studios hide caption

itoggle caption Laurie Sparham/Universal Studios
Elizabeth I (Cate Blanchett) has a moment of intimacy with her loyal subject, Sir Walter Raleigh (Cl

Elizabeth I (Cate Blanchett) shares an intimate moment with her loyal subject, Sir Walter Raleigh (Clive Owen.)

Laurie Sparham/Universal Studios
Elizabeth (Cate Blanchett) i i

From battlefield to bedchamber, Elizabeth's costumes are fit for a queen. Laurie Sparham/Universal Studios hide caption

itoggle caption Laurie Sparham/Universal Studios
Elizabeth (Cate Blanchett)

From battlefield to bedchamber, Elizabeth's costumes are fit for a queen.

Laurie Sparham/Universal Studios

There is, let's acknowledge, enough historical detail in the life of Queen Elizabeth, that no director could cover all of it in a single movie. In the first Elizabeth, director Shekhar Kapur barely managed to get through the scheming that put his heroine on the throne at 25, a protestant, in an age of Catholic succession.

So perhaps we should be grateful that he skipped the next couple of decades before picking the story up again — especially since the queen and her advisers still seem to be having the same conversations about Catholic subversives threatening her reign.

But how can a queen be expected to keep her mind on affairs of state when a handsome adventurer has her pondering affairs of the heart? Played by Clive Owen, Captain Walter Raleigh is all hooded eyes and seductive tales of how one survives long months at sea, with nothing more than prayers for fair winds and — as he puts it — "pure, naked, fragile hope."

Judging from the goo-goo eyes the queen's making at him, he had her at "naked." The problem is that he isn't trying to seduce her; he's just trying to get her to send him back to Virginia, the colony he named after his virgin queen. Luckily for him, Elizabeth has those pesky Catholics distracting her, including Spain's King Philip, who has sent an emissary with a bad Spanish accent to "duel" with her. Their weapon of choice: metaphor.

Now, I should mention that Cate Blanchett looks pretty great as she's barreling from battlefield to bedchamber, in high lace collars, acres of brocade, and a truly regal assortment of wigs. The most elaborate is a long flowing one that makes her look like Botticelli's Venus on the half-shell — in armor — on horseback. The director bathes her here and elsewhere in a blazing white light that gives her the appearance of a goddess among trolls.

Those trolls are mostly involved in really preposterous plotting — and I mean plotting in both the subversive and the narrative sense — but the movie is so scattered, that the only things really registering are the queen, the costumes and Owen, whose Sir Walter Raleigh more-or-less single-handedly destroys the Spanish Armada. I'd always thought a storm did that? But never mind, there are tempests enough in this script to make even romantic moments ... windy.

To be fair, this was still a couple of years before Shakespeare showed up to bring poetry to things Elizabethan. Maybe Blanchett and her director can tackle that story next in, say, Elizabeth: The Rest is Silence.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.