Saturday, 19 September 2020
Elizabeth: The Golden Years
Written by Sandra Fitzpatrick   
Wednesday, 17 October 2007 00:00
Scripted and filmed with all the pomp and pageantry of the Elizabethan court, Elizabeth: The Golden Age is pure cinematic enjoyment for those of us who love a good costume drama. While it is true that director Shekhar Kapur may have strayed from historical accuracy in favor of romantic embellishment the result is still magical and beautiful to watch.

This is a sequel I certainly was not expecting to see, nearly ten years after the first films release. Elizabeth (1998) propelled Cate Blanchett to stardom and should have won her an Oscar, had Gwyneth Paltrow not been the sweetheart of the year. In any case, it earned her the undying respect of critics and fans alike for her stunning portrayal of the controversial royals’ early years from girlhood to the young and coolly intelligent queen.

In Elizabeth: The Golden Years both the character and the actress have matured. Lonely years of ruling alone and childless have embittered Elizabeth who must deal with the scorn of her subjects. Gossip abounds about the Virgin Queen along with speculation about lovers, suitors, barrenness and worse. She gives little credit to these accusations and has no intention of taking a husband, although her interests are peeked by the rakish Walter Raleigh (Clive Owen). As an explorer of the New World, Raleigh represents all of the freedom she can never have, and of course his rugged good looks and roguish attitude certainly don’t hurt either!

But Elizabeth’s heart mustn’t win over her head, which at the time is very preoccupied. With Spain vying to have her dethroned and return England to Catholicism, and with her cousin Mary Queen of Scotts (Samantha Morton) in the offing conspiring to rule in her place, Elizabeth must rally the support of her people and fight for her throne.

The film has much to offer other besides Blanchett’s strong performance. Of course there is the opulent set, which showcases the glories of Elizabethan England to the extreme. From the rich colors of fabric, to the detailed architecture, everything on screen is a feast for the eyes. The beautiful costumes especially are a treat. It’s not everyday you get to admire the strange, ornate wigs that were so popular in those days.

Going hand in hand with all this detail is the cinematography, which is designed to showcase the craftsmanship and employs some very interesting camera angles. Sweeping landscapes and dramatic lighting round out the visuals creating some beautifully artistic scenes.

Technically speaking my biggest complaint would be the overpowering score that never seemed to let up. Even during quiet moments the instrumental track would pipe up with some dramatic keening. A well-done soundtrack will blend with the scenery, heightening your emotions while remaining subtle. In this film it can be a bit overwhelming.

Elizabeth: The Golden Years is an entertaining piece of historical drama. Although the script suffers a few moments of awkwardness, the overall effect is fun to watch if only to see the formidable Cate Blanchett do her thing once again. I give it 7 out of 10 stars.