Elizabeth – Art 2/5 Ent 5/5 Worth 3/5
Elizabeth: The Golden Age – Art 1/5 Ent 3/5 Worth 2/5
Although the first film is more worthy of a watch than the latter, and my goddess Cate Blanchett is brilliant in everything she does, even acting aside Bruce Willis, I’m comfortable with the recurring critique that these are both empty costume dramas that do much to trivialize history and cast more than a trifle amount of sweeping ignorance over the audience. Director Shekhar Kapur is seriously out of his depth, and seemingly only gleaned the majesty and regnant awe of the period, and none of its significant cultural and political transformation. Whatever excuses I could have made for the first film’s obeisance to its historic muse flipped to disappointing disregard with alacrity as soon as Kapur groveled to supplicating knee for a Matrix-like circular sweep around Divine Virginia Elizabeth Tudor, with glowing angelic lighting and glitzy renaissance couture. Come the fuck on. The emptiness suddenly forms into substance: diarrhea.
The majority of the redeeming aspects are in the first film. Though Cate’s princely contrasts and vulnerability is pitch perfect through both films, her uneasy rise as Queen is cause for more interest in a superhero origin story kind of way. The now prevalent Godfatheresque story of impossible inevitability with a princeling challening the status quo, and settling all scores in the penultimate scene was not so prevalent and boring back before Sopranos, Deadwood and Boardwalk Empire. Geoffrey Rush is perfect playing the mordantly Machiavellian Sir Francis Walsingham, in service to the Protestant Queen Elizabeth in the trio faculties of candid realist counsel, grand state vizier and chief assassin. Richard Attenborough, reprising his role from Jurassic Park, is the ever avuncular oaf. Joseph Fiennes, Vincent Cassel and Fanny Ardant are their usual best, and a litany of soon-to-be’s are scattered in minor roles: Emily Mortimer Daniel Craig, James Frain, Kelly Macdonald.
One of the few things that work in the sequel is an intimacy with the Queen, who is no longer a person but the state – a living, breathing, egotistical and daydreaming state. The journey from graceful to a shambles is an elegant but short counter-reformationist two step. Speaking with one of her creatures leering over her in the bath, Cate doles out romantic advice in the tone and self-assured omniscience of Aphrodite. As Athena in her speech to the English soldiers at Tilbury opposing the Spanish Armada. And yet, the mortar in the shit brickhouse of renaissance majesty is a paranoid and insecure tenderness. Nobody could pull it off but Cate, especially when one considers the alternating hackneyed or bland dialogue. Rhys Ifans and Samantha Morton both give pocket-sized performances that succeed, but for some reason Mary, Queen of Scots is speaking like a Scot, and not a French girl like she actually was.
Through both, an unpalatable lack of history, missing for a poor poet’s cheap license, pop a dud out of the cannon. The political significance of the Tudor dynasty’s shift from Catholicism to Anglicanism and the germination of being one of the first European nation-states is too much to handle in a two hour movie, I’ll grant them that (even 12 hour tv series have problems with saying anything culturally significant), but to not even touch upon it a little, and instead focus on a changing of the interchangeable guards in a shallow dance of royals is dreadfully boring. Together with the second film, Elizabeth barely provides for anything more than a 4 episode cycle of The Tudors.