Posted at 4:48 PM on March 2, 2008
by Euan Kerr
I am a sucker for stories set during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I of England. (We Scots like to point that the current Queen Elizabeth is for us Elizabeth I as the union of the crowns didn't come until Liz of England pegged out without an heir, and they had to head north to Edinburgh to find James the 6th and 1st to sit on their throne.) It was a time of daring exploits, political intrigue and fascinating scientific and artistic exploration.
So I was quite looking forward to "Elizabeth: The Golden Age." And now I am disappointed.
Oh yes, it looks beautiful and Cate Blanchett is great as she reprises the role as the Virgin Queen. But beyond that it's a pretty flat retelling of a pivotal time in the history of Europe, which altered the way the New World was settled.
Recent scholarship has uncovered that Elizabeth was notorious for changing her mind and also held very tight to the treasury purse strings. Courtiers who did get her to agree to pay for something learned to grab the cash and leave London as fast as possible, before she changed her mind. (Check out Neil Hanson's "The Confident Hope of a Miracle" for a comprehensive telling of the story behind the defeat of the Spanish Armada.)
While Elizabeth: The Golden Age" is first an foremost entertainment, it would have been much improved by a little more actual history. With Sir Walter Raleigh (Clive Owens) being a central character, for example, wouldn't it have been at least worth a final subtitle to mention that he was eventually beheaded by Elizabeth's successor James, in part for having ransacked a Spanish settlement?
The ahistoricity of the movie is one of its major problems, the other is that it seems obsessed with style over substance.