Shekhar Kapur's 'Elizabeth' Sequel Tarnishes

Maui Time | October 8, 2007
Displeasing the Queen

Shekhar Kapur’s “Elizabeth” Sequel Tarnishes

Elizabeth: The Golden Age (Two Stars) (515 words)

By Cole Smithey

Disappointment seeps through every element of director Shekhar Kapur’s ineffectual sequel to his superior 1998 precursor “Elizabeth,” which introduced the world to the exceptional acting abilities of Cate Blanchett. In spite of her familiarity and ease as the woman who reinvented 16th century England, Blanchett’s best efforts are routed by an overly compartmentalized script that seeks to add a romantic groundwork to the character. Screenwriter Michael Hirst (“Elizabeth”) teams up with William Nicholson (“Gladiator’) to detail Elizabeth’s jealous relationship with Sir Walter Raleigh (Clive Owen), while giving scope to her ruling abilities in the context of waging war with Spain.

“Elizabeth: The Golden Age” waffles most in pinning its narrative gist on Elizabeth’s vulnerable alliance with Sir Walter Raleigh. Once Raleigh boldly introduces himself to the Queen during a public court, a soap opera tone wafts over scenes of the two skirting around his appeal for her to finance a voyage to America, and her desire to keep his charming company beside her. Since much of Elizabeth’s perceived power lies in her designation as the “Virgin Queen,” there is no place for the plot go. For as engaging as Raleigh is, the part as written casts a shadow of ulterior motives upon him. It’s a gray area that could have provided the story with essential nourishment had the writers bothered to flesh it out. From this corner-painted position, the film distracts with equally benign subplots about things like a misinformed assassination attempt and Elizabeth’s decision to dress in full armor to lead her short-numbered army into combat. The brief battlefield scene comes off as little more than a movie poster photo opportunity.

Elizabeth’s sea battle against the Spanish Armada—led by one very droll King Philip II (Jordi Molla)— co-opts the movie with a CGI infused battle sequence made memorable for its insistence on the significance of a white horse consumed by the ocean’s depths. Whatever metaphorical association the filmmaker is attempting calls too much attention. We can guess that the horse represents Elizabeth’s submerged sexuality, but to what degree we are never informed.

Shekhar Kapur has pasted together bubbles of historic anachronisms—Queen Elizabeth would have been 52 at the time the story takes place--filled with worthy but unjustified performances. The movie wants to be as much about Sir Walter Raleigh as it is about Queen Elizabeth, but the filmmakers avoid investing in his character for fear of upstaging the regal Queen they attempt to make modern—read “human.” The irony is that, in skirting Raleigh’s subplot, his character is automatically relegated to a “subplot.” However, there’s no denying that its performances help compensate for the film’s lack of narrative cohesion. Samantha Morton creates an intriguing character as the Queen’s duplicitous cousin Mary Stuart. Newcomer Abbie Cornish is beguiling as Raleigh’s more tangible love interest, and Geoffrey Rush is ever reliable as Sir Francis Walsingham, even if neither is given sufficient screentime. Here, the Golden Age is converted to pewter.

Rated PG-13, 114 mins. (C)


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