The latest bit of historical bio-pic entertainment from Kapur (dir. of Bandit Queen, ugh). And it’s not great. One huge weakness is the writing. The writer of the original was here joined (very unsurprisingly) by the writer of Gladiator, so we’ve got very fakey-Hollywood-period-pic dialogue. Katy says this movie defeats the ending of part one, which showed Elizabeth’s transformation into the powerful virgin queen, by having her act all girlish and weak and man-crazy over the (admittedly dreamy) Clive Owen. Owen plays Sir Walter Raleigh, and Abbie Cornish (Stop-Loss) is a lady of the court who ends up with Owen after being practically thrown towards him by the Queen who wants to vicariously experience love, but the queen flies into a rage when Raleigh and the court girl marry. Most of the movie is concerned with this love triangle, but Spain also forms their Armada and attempts to conquer England before being singlehandedly defeated by Clive Owen. We also get a miniature version of the Mary Queen of Scots story (first filmed in 1895, updated in ’71 with Vanessa Redgrave, soon to be updated again by Phillip Noyce & Scarlett Johansson), played here by the great Samantha Morton.
So yeah, we’ve got Clive Owen, but all he does is look dreamy and act cool, even during battle scenes. We’ve got generic loud symphonic music, some bad CG effects and some confusing storytelling. But there are also very good performances (Blanchett, Morton) and some plain-good ones (Geoffrey Rush, Spanish ambassador William Houston), awesome (oscar-winning) costumes, great set design, but nothing tying it all together. Katy didn’t like it either, so I’m free to complain all I like.
Apparently the same love-triangle story was previously filmed as 1955’s The Virgin Queen with Bette Davis and Joan Collins.