Sequels tend to take place on a grander scale than their predecessors because already developed characters allow directors to cover more narrative ground. “Elizabeth the Golden Age,” which comes nine years after “Elizabeth,” exceeds the aspirations of its original. While the first film was not small scale, its story was limited to Elizabeth I’s rise to power amongst England’s conflicting Catholic and Protestant factions. In “The Golden Age,” Elizabeth (Cate Blanchett) faces Catholic Spain and its mighty Armada, decides what to do with her politically dangerous cousin Mary Queen of Scots, and tries to discover whether it is possible for a queen to find love.
Elizabeth’s personal life receives the most attention. Sailor Walter Raleigh (Clive Owen) steals her heart, but she must compete with his desire to leave her court and decide whether her stature as queen allows her a relationship with a man of common background. England’s pending conflict with Spain, who’s zealously Catholic King believes protestant England threatens Europe’s growing Christendom, primarily functions as a stage for this romance to unfold upon. Like he did in the first Elizabeth, director Shekhar Kapur explores the taxing effect that remaining autonomous from romantic interests has on Elizabeth.
Unfortunately, the film has to move too quickly to cover its expansive narrative ground, and the smaller, character driven scenes like those that dominated the first “Elizabeth” can get lost amongst the action. Despite the pacing, Blanchett breathes life into every scene with a performance that contains as much nuance as bravura. Kapur uses too many elaborate camera movements to emphasize dramatic moments, and he should have nixed Elizabeth’s “braveheart moment” when she tries to rally English troops on horseback. However, it’s easy to forgive these few slip-ups from such a commanding film.
Kevin Craft may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.