When a film as impressive as Elizabeth is followed by murmurs of a sequel, reactions tumble into two opposing camps..
When a film as impressive as Elizabeth is followed by murmurs of a sequel, reactions tumble into two opposing camps. There are the contemptuous: the cinephiles who await the film’s release with a defiance that disdains the triumph of quantity irrespective of quality.
And then, of course, there are the converted, who, still bathing in the afterglow of the first, are ready to welcome a successor with open and uncritical arms. But Elizabeth: The Golden Age is a confusing hybrid, at once confirming your unwavering faith in the talents of both stars and makers, yet leaving you with the niggling sense that some things are better left alone.
The year is 1585, and having reigned for nearly three decades, Queen Elizabeth I (Cate Blanchett) is forced to confront continued assaults on her throne. This time her enemies are the fundamentalist Catholic Philip II, King of Spain (Jordi Mollà), backed by the Church in Rome, together with Elizabeth’s own cousin, Mary Stuart (Samantha Morton).
Meanwhile, Elizabeth battles to reconcile her duties to her country with an unrequited love for Sir Walter Raleigh (Clive Owen), who in turn develops an intimacy with the queen’s favoured lady-in-waiting, Bess (Abbie Cornish).
Evidently a more moneyed production than its predecessor, the set pieces here are majestically drawn and at times irresistibly rousing. As politically incorrect as it may feel, it’s hard not to exalt in Elizabeth’s particular brand of nationalism when so ennobled by Cate Blanchett’s throaty rallying cry for British preeminence.
Yet beneath the trappings of grandeur, comparative weaknesses abound. The storytelling is not as intricate; the intrigue not as insidious; and the love story, though intermittently moving, fails to convey the delicacy and subtlety of the romantic entanglements fashioned by the first film.
Indeed, the love triangle between Elizabeth, Raleigh and Bess reaches a zenith of poignancy only when we are offered fleeting, near intangible flashbacks of the queen’s earlier love affair with Robert Dudley, played in the first picture by Joseph Fiennes.
Perhaps it is misguided to assess the film’s achievements and failings in purely comparative terms, however. Judged as a discrete whole and not a consequent part, Elizabeth: The Golden Age is an exhilarating cinematic journey capable of inducing an afterglow that it can be proud to call its own.
The brilliance of Shekhar Kapur's first outing with the Virgin Queen will have cinephiles drooling down the aisles.
Indisputable. With lust, betrayal and battle scenes galore, it’s a thrill-seeker's paradise.
Out of the heat of the moment, however, this epic may end up leaving you slightly cold.