That Was No Lady, That Was Good Queen Bess - Complications Ensue
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Monday, October 15, 2007

ELIZABETH: THE GOLDEN YEARS was pretty much of a mess, I'm sorry to say. It was sort-of a love story, but as a love story it wasn't particularly fresh -- the Queen is in love with a pirate, but she can't have him, and she's jealous of the woman he's fooling around with, while for his part, he's in love with the Queen, but fools around with the woman he can have.

Meanwhile there's some political intrigue that is strongly reminiscent of the first movie, but less convincing, because Good Queen Bess is now clearly in charge (as well she should be, 27 years into her reign). And there's creepy, bandy-legged Philip of Spain, the most powerful man in the Western world, who wants to crush Elizabeth so he can root out Protestant heresy and free thinking across England -- all very Dark Lord. Will his ships reach the Duke of Parma's troops in the Netherlands? Or will English pirates stop them?

But it's not clear what Elizabeth does to alter the outcome. We have none of the real Elizabeth's clever alternation between temporization and diplomacy, mild aggression (her pirates stealing Spanish gold to fund her defense against Spain) and the occasional brilliant attack -- as the famous Drake raid on Cadiz destroyed most of Philip's original Armada, forcing him to take time to build a second one. (Not included.)

And what does Elizabeth do about her romance, except toy with Raleigh, wax jealous (and petty) and then forgive him?

And what does Elizabeth do about the threats to her throne? Not much. Her spymaster has long ago infiltrated Mary Queen of Scots' network, so he's able to get her dead to right for treason. All Lizzie has to do is sign her death warrant. (The excellent if nerdy story of how Walsingham's cryptologists broke Mary's code doesn't make it into the movie.)

Kapur even botches the Armada's famous day-long battle with the English fleet, turning it into the single incident of the fireships, which are now made out to be effective weapons, as opposed to the effective scare tactics they really were. (The fireships set practically no Spanish ships on fire, but did get the fleet to cut its anchors, leaving it hopelessly out of formation in the morning. I know too much about this stuff.)

And where is the kamikaze, the divine storm that actually sank the Armada? Merely suggested. You have to know the story to make any sense of the movie at all.

ELIZABETH worked because it was a good story: How Bess Got Her Reign On. THE GOLDEN YEARS fell apart because it's not even several good stories -- it is just a bunch of different events tracked along parallel paths.

Oh, what a disappointment!

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2 Comments:

I was quite disappointed when the reviews started coming out.The Rotten Tomatoes rating is 27%, which for a movie like this, is horrible. Well, I guess it's horrible for ANY movie. I decided, instead, to see Michael Clayton, which I thought was excellent. It's so nice to see a movie that doesn't feel the need to assume it's audience are morons that need to be explained everything. Of course, those that do feel the need to have things explained to them didn't like the movie. Incidentally, Michael Clayton was the only movie in the to ten with a `fresh rating'. Take that as you will.

By Blogger Tim W., at 4:42 PM  

**he can root out Catholicism and free thinking across England --**

Catholicism? Been a while, but wasn't he a Catholic who wanted to root out Protestantism?

By Blogger odocoileus, at 6:10 PM  

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