A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this talky, artistic sequel to 1998's Elizabeth probably won't be a big draw for many kids, even older teens. That said, it liberally interprets the PG-13 rating (the original was R), since it contains some graphic, bloody violence. Images include torture, a tongue being cut out, heads in cages, beatings, shooting, hanging, beheading, and an epic sea battle. Flirtations are more intellectual than physical, though there's plenty of visible cleavage in the colorful costumes. One sex scene is glamorous and shadowy, with a brief image of a passionate embrace. Raleigh brings "natives" from the New World in face paint; though others look on them as novelties, the queen orders them treated like royal visitors. Characters drink occasionally, and the queen smokes tobacco once.
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What's the story?
In Shekhar Kapur's sequel to his own Elizabeth, King Philip II of Spain (Jordi Molla) is determined to bring war against England, all while challenging Elizabeth's rule and non-Catholicism, pushing her to rule ruthlessly. By contrast, Elizabeth is keenly social and, most often, breathtakingly beautiful, and the sheer number of ladies she needs to prepare her for public consumption is astounding. It's not a surprise when Sir Walter Raleigh (Clive Owen) returns from a jaunt to the New World and finds himself attracted to both Elizabeth and her favorite attendant, Bess (Abbie Cornish). But Raleigh isn't just a romantic lead. He also embodies England's drive to explore and to conquer. When Elizabeth is targeted for assassination, a plot ostensibly engineered by her very angry -- and imprisoned -- cousin Mary Stuart (Samantha Morton), she relies on Sir Francis Walsingham (Geoffrey Rush, who practices grisly secret torture to defend his queen.
Is it any good?
Stiff and strange, the movie is full of bravura speeches and dazzling visuals. A gun firing at Elizabeth blasts the screen away into bright white light, and she enacts her plan for the Armada on a floor map with giant gold model ships, spectacularly shot from overhead like a living chessboard. But the beauty is, at last, too ravishing. The movie feels more superficial than significant, like it's stuck behind a pane of glass.
"I pretend there's a pane of glass between me and them. They can't touch me. You should try it." When Elizabeth I (Cate Blanchett) offers this bit of advice to a nervous royal suitor, he smiles obligingly but admits he just can't manage the pretense, not being as strong, independent-minded, or self-absorbed as she is. It's close to a perfect moment in ELIZABETH: THE GOLDEN AGE, for it shows concisely the Virgin Queen's authority and loneliness, her genius and rage.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how the movie depicts its historical characters. Is it more or less realistic than other dramas about the Elizabethan era? How can you tell? How could you find out more about the period? Families can also discuss Elizabeth's choices. How does she deal with being single and powerful? What sacrifices does she make to be queen? How does the film compare her ambitions and cruelties with those of her cousin Mary?
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