Friday, March 14, 2008

Movie Review: Elizabeth: The Golden Age (2007)

Should I see it?


Short Review: Queen Elizabeth I longs for the embrace of Sir Walter Raleigh but he starts to diddle the help and gets one of Lizzy's court members knocked up. This puts Lizzy in a tizzy and - wait, there was something about some Spanish Armada or something and something else about some loony chick in Scotland or Ireland or Vermont or something...anyway, so Raleigh is like real hot and...

Just because something is interesting doesn't mean its worth watching. This clumsy film about the private life of Queen Elizabeth I (played quite well, again, by Cate Blanchett) does hold some moments of passing interest but the piece as a whole poorly framed and a waste of time. The story tracks the budding love interest between Elizabeth and adventurer (read pirate/thief) Sir Walter Raleigh (not played quite well by Clive Owen) and the international dealings between England and Spain. The real focus of the piece is the love relationship. Despite the advertisements pushing the war with Spain scenes, including the image of Elizabeth donning armor in the film's poster, there is surprisingly very little of the war in the actual movie. Much of the movie is Owen and Blanchett breathlessly stating their lines while trying to show how much of a drag it is to be queen.

The screenwriters William Nicholson (
Gladiator) and Michael Hirst (Have No Fear: The Life of Pope John Paul II) seemed to be battling with one another for dominance - assuming Nicholson handled the historical Elizabeth stuff and Hirst managed the theological. It doesn't matter because at the helm, director Shekhar Kepur (Elizabeth, Four Feathers) couldn't help but allow his meandering style muddy the works. I find it interesting that a film that sells itself as being about a fight between Catholics and Protestants is controlled by a man who appears to have no connection to either denomination. From the text of his website, it would appear Kepur isn't even Christian. While his non-involvement in the faith doesn't automatically disqualify him from being able to work on a film like this (it is of course possibly for a non-believer to have valid opinions on the faith), it is still worth noting considering how poorly rendered the faithful are in the piece. Given the historical, and still existent, tensions between Catholics and Protestants, being so frivolous in dealing with the conflict is a sign of arrogance and stupidity.

Ultimately, this film spends so much time working the rom
ance angle it fails as a whole. When the Spanish invasion comes, there's no time left and the whole war is handled in a passing series of scenes as if they were a distraction for the Queen. Ten thousand people dead is one thing but darn it! The Queen is lonely! Don't be fooled by the trailer, don't be mislead by your expectations, this is a mishandled work and your time is best spent elsewhere.

Click on the Queen to see the movie trailer

I give away some points of the film going forward, although none of it will really hurt viewing this film too much - but you're warned just the same.

The Catholics in this film are represented by King Phillip II of Spain. Phillip is shown as a dark version of Snidely Whiplash twilling his mustache waiting to pounce. Elizabeth isn't presented as being a Christian of any real depth and only makes passing references to her faith, just enough to oil the plot. The Queen is shown more as a secular, very material woman who must fight against the imposing forces of theology and control. The minor Catholic characters in the piece are all wild eyed terrorists or nuts. Mary Stuart (Samantha Morton) is shown to be a hapless, loopy, birdbrain - which may have been the case, but Morton overcooks the character and completely saps her of any humanity. What is being done here is that the faithful are shown to all be horrid, evil folks while those more aligned with humanism are shown to be the real saints. When Elizabeth finds her confidants are disloyal she transforms into this odd super human. She "marries England" - having defeated the Catholics and her own need for human love (she's defeats God and human needs); she becomes a bride of the state. She gives herself to her post and sacrifices her self for the sake of her country. She is then shown in one of the more heavy handed scenes I've seen in a long time (and this is coming from someone who has seen Michael Moore's works), Elizabeth is shown with angel wings standing in a shaft of light glimmering from the heavens.

From what I can tell, the film asks us to trade one set of oppressing set of values (using the film's definitions here) for another. One is set by the church the other by the state. I'll cast my lot with God, thank you very much. Overall, this film is a disappointment. I'd like to see an adult version of this piece done where a fair depiction of the conflict between Catholics and Protestants is handled. It is good for both sides to honestly look at our differences and a film is a great place for this to happen. As it stands, this work only serves to spit on both groups in favor of offering vacuous secular remedies that help no one.

This film has some violence including torture. There's a good deal of blood. There's some sensuality but nothing you wouldn't see on television...wait, I take it back, it's not that harsh.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

My suggestion, watch the movie. I mean really watch it! Let me say on thing, I am catholic and by friend have you thought about the blood, pain and wars that have been commenced in the name of Christ and religion.

IF you are really open about it, you might wanna stop this religious extremism.