Elizabeth: The Golden Age
Cast : Cate Blanchett, Clive Owen
Direction : Shekhar Kapur
Rating : ***
They’ve done it before. Director Shekhar Kapur and Cate Blanchett, who gave us the beguiling Elizabeth nearly a decade ago, recreate vast swaths of 16th-century British history for the sumptuously-mounted sequel.
It’s an eye-filling spectacle but eventually, soulless. It’s as if we were re-reading a history book with gilded pages but that’s it. Set circa 1585, Elizabeth: The Golden Age the narrative hinges on the Protestant queen being challenged by the ultra-Catholic king of Spain.
As she prepares to go to war, the ageing queen also has to sort out her tempestuous relationship with the dashing young explorer Walter Raleigh (Owen). Desperate to keep him at the court, Elizabeth encourages a lady-in-waiting (Abbie Cornish) to befriend Raleigh. But the strategy backfires; the couple marry and have a child.
And we know what that means. Plenty of fire and brimstone. Kapur takes some dramatic licence in interpreting history --- Raleigh <b1>wasn’t involved in the decisive sea-battle with the Spanish armada. Obviously, such points are sought to be glossed over by the overpowering pomp and pageantry lensed by Remi Adiferasin. Needless to add, the chic coiffure, ceremonial costumes and shimmering production design, add to the sumptuous look associated with most British historicals.
The background music score by Craig Armstrong and our own AR Rahman, is much too thunderous though. Also, the excessive arty angles and high overhead shots tend to jar. And a slow-motion beheading is ineffective.
Geoffrey Rush, the only other actor to reprise his role from the original, is strikingly in character as the spy-in-residence. Newcomer Abbie Cornish is fairly efficient. Clive Owen attacks his part with relish.
Expectedly, Cate Blanchett dominates the show, often conveying the agony and the ecstasy of the Virgin Queen with considerable eloquence. It’s more than likely that Oscar glory will beckon.
Incidentally, Kapur has suggested the possibility of a threequel. Here’s hoping it doesn’t take another decade to come to fruition, and is somewhat less self-consciously bombastic.