Elizabeth's Not-So-'Golden' Sequel Actress Cate Blanchett was a movie newcomer in 1998 when the Oscar-nominated biopic Elizabeth established her as an international star. Now, she returns to the role in Elizabeth: The Golden Age.
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Elizabeth's Not-So-'Golden' Sequel

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Elizabeth's Not-So-'Golden' Sequel

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Elizabeth's Not-So-'Golden' Sequel

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ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:

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."

Bob Mondello says the sequel has her facing down the Spanish armada and her screenwriters.

BOB MONDELLO: There is, let's acknowledge, enough historical detail in the life of the first Queen Elizabeth that no director could cover all of it in a single movie. Nine years ago, 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 conversation.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE "ELIZABETH: THE GOLDEN AGE")

CATE BLANCHETT: (As Queen Elizabeth I) How many Catholics are there in England, sir?

Unidentified Actor#1: Immense numbers, Majesty.

Unidentified Actor#2: Half the nation cling to the old superstitions.

BLANCHETT: (As Queen Elizabeth I) What would you have me do? Hang half the people of England, or just imprison them?

MONDELLO: Imprisoning seems to be the general consensus. 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, apparently with prayers for fair winds and hope?

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE "ELIZABETH: THE GOLDEN AGE")

CLIVE OWEN: (As Sir Walter Raleigh) Pure, naked, fragile hope.

MONDELLO: Judging from the goo-goo eyes the queen's making at him, he had her at naked. Alas, 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.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE "ELIZABETH: THE GOLDEN AGE")

BLANCHETT: (As Queen Elizabeth I) Tell him if he wants to shake his little (unintelligible). We're ready to give him such a bite; he'll wish he'd kept his hands in his pockets.

VIDAL SANCHO: (As Spanish Minister) You see leaf fall and you think you know which way the wind blows. Well, there is a wind coming, Madam, that will sweep away your pride.

BLANCHETT: (As Queen Elizabeth I) I, too, can command the wind, sir. I have a hurricane in me that will strip Spain bare if you dare to try me.

MONDELLO: 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 on the battlefield 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 Clive Owen, whose Sir Walter Raleigh, more or less single-handedly destroys the Spanish armada. I'd always thought a storm did that. Maybe that hurricane that Elizabeth was yelling about. But never mind, there are tempests enough in this script to make even romantic moments windy.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE "ELIZABETH: THE GOLDEN AGE")

BLANCHETT: What do you do in a storm when you're facing your death?

OWEN: (As Sir Walter Raleigh) The closer I come to death, the more I want to live, the hungrier I am for life.

BLANCHETT: Yes, to live right to the end.

OWEN: (As Sir Walter Raleigh) Why be afraid ready tomorrow when today is all we have?

MONDELLO: 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."

I'm Bob Mondello.

SIEGEL: And you can find reviews, interviews and more about the movies coming to your local theaters at our Web site, that's at npr.org/movies.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIEGEL: This is NPR, National Public Radio.

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