“Elizabeth: The Golden Age” is part two of director Shekhar Kapur’s proposed trilogy about Queen Elizabeth I. With a 10-year-gap between the first “Elizabeth” and the second, hopefully we won’t have to wait another decade for part three. Even though we know how Elizabeth’s story ends, a final wrap-up would complete the sequence. And hopefully too, the amazing Cate Blanchett will again agree to play Elizabeth Regina.
“Elizabeth” detailed how the young princess went from exiled heir to the throne of England when her half-sister Queen Mary died and her early years as sovereign ruler. Woven through this story was Elizabeth’s affair with the dashingly handsome Robert Dudley. At the end of “Elizabeth” the queen cut her hair, smudged on Kabuki-style face paint and became “the Virgin Queen”. Any resemblance to statues of the Virgin Mary was strictly non-coincidental! (Elizabeth as icon is laid on as thick as her white makeup in “The Golden Age.)
This time around, the queen is under pressure from her advisors to marry (again).(Never mind that historically, Elizabeth would’ve been about 52 by then, well out of the marrying and begetting an heir market.) The imprisoned pretender Mary Stuart schemes for her cousin’s throne, plotting with King Philip II of Spain. As well, the Spanish king is threatening England’s shores with his powerful Armada. And lonely Elizabeth falls for another dark and handsome rogue. This time it’s adventurer Walter Raleigh, played by the dashingly handsome Clive Owen.
Raleigh first makes his presence known by throwing down his cape over a puddle for the queen. This cuts no ice with her. He fares better when he appears at court with gifts from the New World: potatoes, tobacco and two visiting aboriginals. Raleigh lays on the charm, enchanting both the queen and her chief lady-in-waiting, Bess Throckmorton. If one Elizabeth can’t have Raleigh…
While the queen secretly lives her fantasies through her lady-in-waiting, Bess gets the real thing. At one point, Kapur shoots Raleigh and Bess dancing by the queen’s order, framed by the posts of her huge bed. Uh-huh. We get the picture. And Hades has no fury like a queen scorned, when, shortly before the Spanish invasion, Elizabeth finds out Bess is both pregnant by, and married to, Raleigh. As if she didn’t have enough on her mind… It’s almost embarrassing to see the queen drop her regal persona to smack around her servant. Raleigh is arrested and imprisoned but later released to fight the Spanish, leading the English to victory.
“Elizabeth: The Golden Age” has a sumptuous feel about it with the rich costumes, the lavish meals (a stuffed bird complete with feathers comes to mind) and some stunning imagery. The destruction of the Spanish Armada via the English “fire ships” makes an exciting climax.
As with “Elizabeth”, historians and other purists will have a heyday picking out historical inaccuracies. Also, this movie has several plots and counter-plots similar to the prequel. Unfortunately, they are not resolved as well as they were in the previous film, giving the story a choppy feel.
Kapur keeps everything trotting along at a fairly fast clip. This diminishes the relationships among the characters, moving them along too quickly. As a love story, this is more of an intriguing adventure tale. The age may have been golden but compared to its prequel, this flick is just gold-plated.