|Elizabeth: The Golden Age|
|HD DVD Drama|
|Written by El Bicho|
|Saturday, 01 March 2008|
As the film opens, the year is 1585. Devout Catholic King Phillip II (Jordi Mollà) of Spain, the most powerful empire at the time, has thrown Europe into a holy war. The only thing that stands in his way is England and its Protestant Queen.
Elizabeth’s cousin Mary Queen of Scots (Samantha Morton) is in prison at Fotheringhay Castle. She is next in line, has a son unlike The Virgin Queen, and is considered the rightful ruler of the country by Catholics. There is a fear among Elizabeth’s court that Catholics are likely to assassinate her in order to place Mary on the throne, which is why her advisor Sir Francis Walsingham (Geoffrey Rush) suggests she marry and have a child who will be her successor.
Elizabeth grows tiresome of hearing about the nuptials society has expects from, yet she goes through the routine of meetings suitors, who are royalty of other countries. On her way to the scheduled introductions, Walter Raleigh (Clive Owen) gets her attention by laying his coat down over a puddle. Later, he arrives at the palace and interrupts the proceeding. He announces he has returned from the New World where he has named Virginia after the Virgin Queen. He presents gifts of food, tobacco and gold stolen from Spanish ships, to the infuriation of the Spanish ambassador. Elizabeth remains intrigued by him, but continues with the protocol and goes through the motions of requesting a visit from an Austrian archduke in who she has no interest.
Elizabeth spends time with Raleigh and they grow very fond of each other. She appears to want to fall in love with but can’t or better yet won’t allow it to happen, even after he confesses his love for her. Elizabeth’s distance leaves the door open for Bess, her lady-in-waiting. She too is attracted to Raleigh, but has the advantage of being able to fully allow her feelings to flourish. Bess eventually becomes pregnant with Raleigh’s child and he marries her. This enrages the Queen, who has them thrown in jail.
Robert Reston, leader of a Jesuit revolutionary group, is scheming with King Phillip to kill the Queen. Walsingham’s brother William is a member. Mary is kept updated through a messenger who discreetly keeps her in contact. During an attempt on her life, Elizabeth willing turns to face the gunmen. With arms outstretched, she appears ready to give up the bondage that royalty has placed upon her, but the attempt was foiled in an intriguing manner that is revealed later in the film. Mary is discovered to have a hand in the events and is charged with treason. Elizabeth is conflicted on what to do, but follows Walsingham’s advice and sentences Mary to death.
Backed by the Vatican, King Phillip declares war on England proclaiming that God’s anointed queen has been murdered. He unleashes his massive navy known as the Spanish Armada. When both fleets meet, the Armada begins doing great damage to the English forces. The Queen goes out to the coast with the army to prepare for battle. The roughness of the English Sea drives the Spanish to drop anchor. The English set ships on fire and ram them into the Spanish ships, doing massive damage and winning the battle.
While not historically accurate and at times melodramatic, "Elizabeth: The Golden Age" is an interesting tale although the number of liberties taken will likely disappoint history buffs. Much like last year’s "The Queen" starring Helen Mirren, the audience gets to learn the enormity of the responsibility that have been unfairly bestowed upon these women as the Queen of England. Many personal sacrifices have to be made in the best interest of the country. The film is also timely as the storyline of warring forces driven by their religion is still a major component in many of the conflicts around the world today.
The High Definition video really allows the work of the wardrobe department and set designers to shine through. The vibrant colors are fantastic to behold. No matter if it’s the elaborate costumes, the ornate architecture, or even when Elizabeth and Raleigh ride through fields of gold in the countryside, there’s always something that shines brightly.
The Dolby True HD sounded very good. The dialogue was clear. The surround speakers were put to good use as they allowed the sound design team to create the openness of the voluminous halls. The cannon fire and gun blasts sounded powerful.
The Special Features offer a lot of behind-the-scenes information about the creation of the film and are available on both the DVD and HD DVD. Kapur delivers a commentary track that reveals what motivated his decisions. There are eight deleted scenes, many of which are so short, it’s hard to see why they were cut. Not that they needed to be placed back in, but there was so little to them it only would have added less than nine minutes.
There are also four featurettes. “The Reign Continues: Making 'Elizabeth: The Golden Age'” is 10-minute documentary where elements of the film are discussed. Director and actors provide insight to the motivations behind the choices made. “Inside Elizabeth’s World” shows the creative process of production designer Guy Dyas, who didn’t work on the first film. “Towers, Courts and Cathedrals” reveals the historic locations that were used in the film and the work that had to be done to make them appear how they would have in the 16th Century. “Commanding the Winds: Creating the Armada” demonstrates all the work that went into creating the naval sequences. A ship was built in the studio and the crew researched and executed details that might not have been caught, such as what types of knots would have been used. The special effects team then got in and took the studio footage and through their technical wizardry placed the ship in the water.
While the story certainly could have been better, “'Elizabeth: The Golden Age' offers some very good performances and some amazing production design that are worth seeing. If that’s not enough to interest you and you weren’t a fan of the original, you would be better served skipping it altogether.