For about 20 minutes of Shekhar Kapur’s new sequel, Elizabeth: The Golden Age, Cate Blanchett in her lead role captures the radiant brilliance that excited so many people in the 1998 predecessor, Elizabeth. She lords over her court, bolt rigid, but allowing for a subtle wink or smile for those who please her. Like Brad Pitt in the new The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, she can practically read what her courtiers are thinking, and plays with those thoughts like a hand of poker.
But when she meets the dashing explorer Sir Walter Raleigh (Owen), she begins emoting all over the place, dropping all of her control and essentially showing her hand. It’s as if Hannibal Lecter suddenly started talking about his feelings.
Elizabeth gets jealous when her lady-in-waiting Bess (Cornish) also falls for Sir Walter, decides to execute Mary, Queen of Scots (a shamefully underused Samantha Morton) and then must put her feelings aside when the Spanish Armada attacks. Geoffrey Rush was somehow coaxed back from the original film to play Elizabeth’s advisor (perhaps he could have advised her not to agree to bad sequels). Things worsen when Blanchett isn’t on camera. Kapur unveils a catalog of various leering villains who lurk and plot behind her back, trying to sound even vaguely human.
Every so often Kapur shoots from behind a partition or mounts his camera 50 feet above the action, often parked partially behind a huge stone column or pillar; most of these pillars exhibit more personality than the movie. As the film rolls on toward the final battle, Kapur’s direction and the amateurish editing totally crumble. It’s impossible to figure out which ship is which, and where they are in relation to one another. A truly awful musical score thunders and chants louder and louder throughout. It gets even more confusing when Elizabeth suddenly takes off her battle armor, changes into a nightie, walks to the top of a cliff and lets the ocean surf spray all over her. With luck she’s cleansing herself of this entire movie.
Elizabeth: The Golden Age
Cate Blanchett, Clive Owen, Abbie Cornish, Geoffrey Rush, Samantha Morton, Tom Hollander, Rhys Ifans
Directed by Shekhar Kapur