Elizabeth: The Golden Age

Elizabeth, director Shekhar Kapur's grim and dingy film from 1998, is viewed in retrospect as the origin story of a superhero: the Armored Virgin Queen, faster than a speeding lead pellet, more powerful than a Spanish Armada, able to leap the Tower of London in a single bound. But fear not: Even if you recall little of your history texts, or the film nominated for a fistful of Oscars in a previous millennium, Elizabeth: The Golden Age demands only your loyalty to high-brow camp masquerading as a history lesson soapier than any bottle of detergent. Kapur revisits Elizabeth, once more played by Cate Blanchett beneath towering wigs and a deathly pale visage, some 30 years after her ascendancy to the throne. Only now, England is on the brink of war with Spain's King Philip II (Jordi Molla), who wants England reclaimed as a Catholic stronghold under the rule of Mary Queen of Scots (Samantha Morton). As though any of that matters: The audience should have a very hard time taking too seriously a film in which Clive Owen, as Sir Walter Raleigh dressed in baggy pantaloons, dangles like a romance-novel cover boy from a ship's mast while the ocean laps him like a faithful hound. The Golden Age commingles accepted fact, acknowledged fiction, and wild-ass myth to the point where it's often nothing more than a Fractured Fairy Tale. Blanchett, Owen, and Geoffrey Rush (who returns as Sir Francis Walsingham, the queen's right-hand man) play it so straight you're even more tempted to laugh out loud at every other scene—this is really Rocky Horror Picture Show territory. But, really, you must do the time warp again.

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