Role fit for a queen

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 20 January, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 20 January, 2008, 12:00am

Historical drama saved from mediocrity by Cate Blanchett's stellar performance

Despite its obvious shortcomings, Elizabeth: The Golden Age is so loud and extravagant, it can't help but be an enjoyable and emotional rollercoaster ride.

The sequel to Cate Blanchett's 1998 star vehicle stars Blanchett as Queen Elizabeth I of England. Assisted by her favoured lady-in-waiting Throckmorton (Abbie Cornish) to sort out her sumptuous costumes and her canny political adviser Walsingham (Geoffrey Rush) to check on her enemies, the queen has everything except love.

Passion comes in the form of the explorer Walter Raleigh (Clive Owen). Having returned from the New World, he presents the queen with potatoes, tobacco and Indians.

Charmed by Raleigh's charisma and tales of adventures, the queen finds herself losing control of her emotions and falling for him.

Meanwhile, Roman Catholic Spain, the most powerful country in Europe in the late 16th century, sees England as its prime enemy and is preparing to wage war on the Protestant country.

Working with a Jesuit group in London to assassinate Elizabeth, the Spanish Armada sails towards England.

They intend to take over the country and install Elizabeth's cousin, the imprisoned Mary Queen of Scots, as the new ruler of England.

The historical drama, directed by Shekhar Kapur and written by William Nicholson and Michael Hirst, is far from perfect.

Rife with restless camerawork, melodramatic twists and turns as well as overly rich colours, the film is like an over-ambitious festive meal.

It's too much for even gluttonous moviegoers addicted to extravagant visuals and deafening film scores.

The sea battle, which is supposed to be one of the most important events in naval history, is also disappointing. It comes too late in the movie and ends before the audience knows what's happening.

The portrayal of the defeat of the Spanish Armada looks like a board game played by two children.

But Blanchett is at the height of her powers and is obviously relishing her queenly role. She single-handedly saves the movie from degenerating into less-than-lukewarm entertainment.

The lines written by Nicholson and Hirst are nowhere near being Shakespearean, but they sound beautiful when delivered by the magical Blanchett, who lends her character a majestic aura that befits the legend of the Virgin Queen.

Elizabeth: The Golden Age is not a classic, but it's far from being a flop. It's a testimony to the art of a great actress who can work magic on any role she plays in. For movie buffs, Blanchett is the queen.

Elizabeth: The Golden Age is now showing