“Elizabeth : The Golden Age”

Samantha Morton

A sequel to one of the most praised films of the 90’s, with the same director, same principle actors, and same writer. What could one expect other than at least a great film. Well, recently the film has received panning review after panning review, and it shows. No longer are prediction sites taking the film seriously, and the same goes for critics. What was at one point in the year the most anticipated by most people, and thought to be the leading contender for Best Picture, is now a disaster in many eyes… here is my review.

The direction by Shekhar Kapur is fine. He chooses some key shots for some great scenarios. One of these would include the lovely head of the battle. The problem is when you think the film is about to pick up, with an intense climax, it just drops dead, and ends up repeating endless, boring plot. This really took away from the ‘enjoyment’ of the film. He gave us good scenes, but with the good came the boring and pointless ones. At times I was just focusing on other things, for the film was just that simplistic.

The scripting of the film by Michael Hirst and William Nicholson (former Oscar nominee on two accounts) was good. The plot was simple, easy to follow, and for it some may find it enjoyable. But with a simple plot, comes tedious dialog. The only thing out of the ordinary was some of the slightly unexpected scenes. These include the lovely chat between “Queen Elizabeth” and “Robert Reston“; which was both well written, and a put a smirk on my face. Although the film seems way too light hearted to be taken seriously, it is a very relaxing film for those that enjoy calm cinema, as opposed to heavy dramatic situations. As I previously stated, some will take to this film horribly, and go right for the negatives, with cut throat, ruthless anger against it. But for those who enjoy light drama/romances (yes, it has it’s fair share of romance), you should be pleasantly surprised. My final thought on the script, is if Hirst and Nicholson wanted this film to be remembered, script wise, they would’ve put in a final confrontation with “Elizabeth” and “Mary Stuart“; which would be remembered as the scene of the year, no doubt.

Onto the fantastic ensemble, containing a lot of the principle actors from the 1998 film. I will only state the performances that stood out in my eyes, for there are far too many performances to comment on.Geoffrey Rush reprises his role as “Sir Francis Walsingham“, the Queen’s most dutiful subject. He does not have a lot of screen time, (due to most of the plot being devoted to the escalating romantic tension between Owen and Blanchett) but he does a very good job with what he’s given. Even though you may know him more for his silly roles in films like Pirates of the Caribbean and Finding Nemo, one wouldn’t suspect him to be such a poetic actor. It seems that every film he’s in, he always brings this mythotical presence with him, creating interest whenever he’s on screen. The great thing about Rush, is that he always owns his roles, and it never seems like anything is forced upon him. I just wish he had more screen time.Abbie Cornish plays “Elizabeth Throckmorton“, Elizabeth’s ‘servant’ as you will. At the beginning of the year, many thought she would be the star of the film, outshining the rest of the cast with her role. Though she was given a fairly substantial role, I felt that her dialog was underwhelming, besides a few scenes. I went into the movie thinking she’d have more of a dominating part, but juxtapose to Jennifer Jason Leigh in Margot at the Wedding, her performance is good, but only a few scenes standout.Clive Owen plays “Sir Walter Raleigh“, the love interest of the Queen in this film. For such a large role, he does not have much to work with, which is a shame, for Owen is one of the most interesting actors to come out of this decade. The dialog that this role contains is just mediocre. All he does is confess love here and there, which is unappealing. The sad thing is whenever he’s given a good scene, he seems to be stuck in his bland character so much that whatever he says is just not as great as it could be, if you understand what I’m saying.Samantha Morton plays “Mary Stuart” (and for those of you who are history buffs “Mary I of Scotland“), the antagonist of the film. Sadly, her role is limited to about 8 minutes on the screen, meaning less time for the best performance of the film to grace our presence. If I were the screenplay writers, I’d of based the film around the attempted assassination of the Queen, rather than give some melodramatic love story a chance to blossom. The story in which Morton is apart of is by far the best part of the film, giving intrigue and suspense at every turn. As for Morton’s role in this plot, she was fantastic. One of the most magnificent limited performances of all time.Onto the big shot of the film, Cate Blanchett as “Queen Elizabeth“. As far as the film concerned, it’s the acting that saves it from being a failure; Blanchett is one of these main factors. As we saw in Elizabeth, Blanchett can hold her own in any scenario, making you believe that whomever she is playing is not Blanchett, but the person them self. Not unlike Morton, her role is full of passion, but unlike, Morton I mean this in more than one sense. She displays rage, lust, and determination as well as any other actor/actress I’ve ever seen before. The great thing about Blanchett is that she can go from being the most loud, terrifying person in one scene, but yet the most joyful, happy in the next. Top notch acting in my books.

Here we are with the technical aspects of the film, which were just lovely.The score, composed by one of India’s most accomplished composers A.R. Rahman and a former Golden Globe winning composer in Craig Armstrong, you’d expect a wonderful score, but alas it is as drawn out and plain as it can get. It adds a melancholic tone to the film, which we need not of, since the film already contains that type of atmosphere. But with that, I guess it goes with how the film is. It’s just I’d of rather preferred something more substantial, to go with such an ‘epic’ film.The visual effects are fine for the budget the film had, but I assume ambition exceeded their budget, or at least I hope so for Kapur’s sake. As I mentioned earlier, when the climax begins to pick up, it is cut short either due to bad direction or just a low budget. But for what it is worth, the scenes in which CGI is used, are good.The costume design, along with the art direction is beautiful. The clothing is as prestigious as you could get, and the same goes for the art decoration. With the costume design, it ranges from lovely dresses to wonderful uniforms for soldiers. With the art decoration it ranges from elegant ballrooms to the ragged insides of boats. What would one suspect more from a film set in the 1600’s?Finally, for the cinematography, Kapur decided to bring back Remi Adefarasin, the award nominated cinematographer for their last collaboration together in Elizabeth. All around, the cinematography is just wonderful. Some scenes are just flat out fantastic, while others are just good. In such a fantastic year for cinematography, I don’t know if this film will be nominated or not in this category, but I’ll sure as hell remember it for being another great achievement.

Nominations for Elizabeth : The Golden Age
Best Actress in a Leading Role – Cate Blanchett (#5)
Best Art Direction (#5)

Rating : 7/10


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