Friday, October 12, 2007

Elizabeth: The Golden Age

se·quel - Something that follows; a continuation.

Director Shekhar Kapur‘s follow-up to 1998’s Elizabeth is something of a train wreck, a lush and well acted train wreck to be sure, but a train wreck none the less.

Where the first movie chronicled Elizabeth’s (Cate Blanchett) rise to the throne this film splits in focus in many directions including the Queen’s fascination and friendship with the explorer Sir Walter Raleigh (Clive Owen), court intrigue and her relationship with one of her ladies in waiting, the “other” Elizabeth (Abbie Cornish), Sir Francis Walsingham (Geoffrey Rush) investigating and torturing traitors, the plot to assassinate the Queen and to put Mary Queen of Scots (Samantha Morton) on the throne, the machinations of King Phillip II of Spain (Jordi Molla), and the war between England and Spain. If that’s not enough we also get subplots including Elizabeth’s (Cornish) brother (Steven Robertson), Walsingham’s son (Adam Godley), a burgeoning relationship between Elizabeth (Cornish) and Raleigh.

Much of the film is well done; much being the operative word. The film tries too hard to force too many events and plot threads into one film (and one under two-hours, though it feels much longer). There’s enough material here for a full mini-series, but all crammed into a single film it’s just too much. The scattershot approach might make for a good trailer but there simply isn’t enough time to fully develop and examine all the film’s threads and so each gets slighted and none of them get the attention they deserve.

Despite my issues with the film I am still recommending it for the performances of Blanchett and especially Clive Owen who practically steals the film in every scene in which he appears; the movie lags when Sir Walter isn’t around. Aside from the acting, the art design, look, costumes, and style of the film are all first rate. There is a terrific scene between Elizabeth and her generals as the plot strategy on a gorgeous marble floor map of the world. However, when the film’s most memorable moments are almost all based on costume and set design you know there’s something missing.

When you get right down to it the film, despite it’s high quality and impressive look is still a sequel, and like so many sequels, fails to add much new or surprising to the original. As with all sequels you will ask yourself, “Did this film really need to be made?” Is it better than your average Hollywood sequel? Sure. Is it a good film where you will get your money’s worth? Yes. Is it a great film? No. What it does come off, sadly, is a vain attempt to try and win Blanchett an Oscar for a role many think she deserved, though oddly enough her performance isn’t the film’s best. Oscar bait maybe, but not really a great film (even for a sequel).

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