Elizabeth: The Golden Age
Film review by: Witney Seibold
Cate Blanchett reprises her Academy Award-nominated role of Queen Elizabeth I in Shekhar Kapur’s follow-up film to his acclaimed 1998 hit. She’s nominated for another Academy Award this time too. I think because the Acedemy couldn’t think of any other women to nominate in 2007. This is not to sat Blanchett does a bad job; indeed, she throws herself into the role with more energy than last time, and saves a few of the screenplay’s horrible lines of dialogue from camp trashiness. But The Academy seems to see the woman as a go-to Good Actress these days; A lazy and automatic choice when you don’t want to really think about it. Kind of like saying “Citizen Kane” is the best movie ever. Sure, it may be arguably true, but… c’mon use your imagination.
That said, “Elizabeth: The Golden Age,” – which explores the invasion of The Spanish Armada, a smoky and treacherous romance with Sir Walter Raleigh, the famous intrigue with Mary Queen of Scots, and Elizabeth’s ticking biological clock – is a clunky and bloated piece of melodramatic flotsam. The screenplay is bogged down with line after line of old film cliché and romance novel exposition. There is even a courtly intrigue in which Raleigh toys with Elizabeth while secretly boinking one of her courtiers (Abbie Cornish). Walter Raleigh is played by Clive Owen who, according to my old roommate, is “so hot he makes my teeth sweat.” He smirks and sparkles, and even, in one scene, hangs dramatically off of the side of a ship, the ocean breeze fluttering through his hair, his limpid blue eyes flashing with love and excitement, his heaving chest… Oh never mind.
Geoffrey Rush (reprising his role as Sir Francis Walshingham) and Samantha Morton (the poor decapitated Mary) give it their all, but ultimately have little to do in their respective roles. And what’s with Blanchett’s costumes. I know designers like to flex their creative muscles some, but did they have to constantly perch goofy-looking bird hats all over the poor queen? She flounces through grand corridors like a walking aviary.
I recently wrote an essay on “Master and Commander: The Far Side of the world” and in it, I pointed out the beauty and grace of the ship’s special effects in that film. In “Elizabeth: The Golden Age” we are treated to the influx of the Spanish Armada, and, in comparison, it looks like a cheaply-animated Saturday morning cartoon. In fact, many of the battle scenes near the film’s end are obviously cheating, keeping the camera low and close to show that they couldn’t scare up enough extras to fill a battlefield. Then we’re treated to a battlefield speech on horseback from the queen herself. Was the queen really the one, Henry V-style, to spur her troops into battle?
How is it “Elizabeth” seems so much more dynamic and epic in comparison to its sequel, despite the same people being involved? Why does this one play so fast and loose with history, when the first stuck a little closer to the facts (even though it did, admittedly, stray a bit here and there). Rumor has it that Kapur intend to make a third and final Queen Elizabeth film. In this one, she’ll – I dunno – fight werewolves or something.