Elizabeth: The Golden Age (12A)

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The Independent Culture

Elizabeth: The Golden Age is set 30 years after Shekhar Kapur's 1998 hit, Elizabeth, although to look at Cate Blanchett you'd think that no more than, well, nine years had passed. The Queen is remarkably well preserved for a fiftysomething in the 16th century, but, since the last time we saw her, she's learnt to rule with calm condescension, and she's acquired the speaking voice of Margaret Thatcher.

Meanwhile, over in Spain, King Philip (Jordi Molla) keeps spitting the Spanish for "whore", and is plotting to replace Elizabeth with her imprisoned cousin, Mary Stuart (Samantha Morton). Luckily, Geoffrey Rush is back as the Queen's omniscient right-hand man, so someone's going to be locked in an iron maiden sooner or later. As for the Iron Lady, she melts at the sight of Walter Raleigh (Clive Owen), who swaggers back from the New World and presents Her Majesty with a tobacco leaf. "Very stimulating," he smirks, like James Bond handing some duty-free to Miss Moneypenny, before, in true 007 style, nipping off to bed with a younger beauty: the Queen's maidservant (Abbie Cornish).

Elizabeth: The Golden Age – they couldn't call it "Elizabeth II", I suppose – is an even grander, more luxuriant spectacle than its predecessor. But it's not very satisfying, largely because the Virgin Queen does so little in the story but moon over Raleigh, wail about Mary and beg her astrologer for reassurance. It's as if she has to spend so long putting on all of her many gowns and wigs that she has no time left to do any ruling.

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