This sequel to the highly acclaimed 1998 Elizabeth is a historical costume drama with far more emphasis on the costume than the drama.
It begins in 1585, when strong-willed, independent Queen Elizabeth I (Cate Blanchett) with her wily adviser, Sir Francis Walsingham (Geoffrey Rush) faces her biggest challenge from across the Channel. Backed by the Pope and the Inquisition, Philip II of Spain (Jordi Molla) is determined to conquer Protestant England, utilizing his mighty Armada, and to place Elizabeths treacherous Catholic cousin, Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots (Samantha Morton), on the British throne.
Meanwhile, at court, the dashing explorer Walter Raleigh (Clive Owen) returns from the New World, bearing gifts like live Indians, potatoes, tobacco and gold – and intrigues Elizabeth with his tales of adventure, while clandestinely seducing her favorite Lady-in-Waiting, Bess (Abbie Cornish). Predictably, when Elizabeth discovers that Bess is pregnant, jealousy overwhelms reason.
Melodramatically written by William Nicholson and Michael Hirst and pretentiously directed by Shekhar Kapur, its lavish but as emotionally barren as Elizabeth herself. Resplendent Cate Blanchett still rants and raves but comes across shriller. While Her Majesty ages, Blanchett obviously doesnt the fact that the Queens now 52 is obviously irrelevant. Clive Owen oozes charisma, this time channeling that swashbuckling rogue, Errol Flynn.
Trivia buffs note that Bette Davis also played Queen Elizabeth I in The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939) and The Virgin Queen (1955) with young, pre-Dynasty Joan Collins as Bess.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, Elizabeth: The Golden Age is a shallow, cliché-filled, deafening 6. Theres simply no excuse for Craig Armstrong and AR Rahmans musical score to be so overpowering except, perhaps, to keep you awake when you might be inclined to nod off.