October 11, 2007


The new sequel to the Oscar-nominated 1998 film "Elizabeth," with Cate Blanchett as the Tudor Queen, "Elizabeth: The Golden Age," features Clive Owen as Sir Walter Raleigh, who legendarily laid his cloak across the puddle for Elizabeth to walk across. In this movie, Sir Walter Raleigh is shown defeating the Spanish Armada by setting fire to English ships and having them blown into the midst of the vast Spanish Navy.

Wouldn't you love to read a transcript of the story conference where, no doubt, some producer sprang on the screenwriter, who had spent months doing research, the idea that it would really simplify the story if Sir Francis Drake, the actual conquerer of the Armada, and Sir Walter Raleigh were simply combined into one character named "Sir Walter Raleigh." I bet he said something like, "After all, everybody reads about Sir Francis Drake and Sir Walter Raleigh in World History class in high school, but who can remember which one was which? All anybody can remember in their names is the 'Sir' part at the beginning and then they stop paying attention."

In 400 years, Hollywood will probably make a movie set in late 20th Century America in which a character named Michael Jordan moonwalks his way to slam dunks while singing "Billie Jean."

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer


Udolpho said...

Yes, but Elizabeth (the first movie) was so atrociously stupid that this conflation of historical figures sounds relatively minor. One of the worst movies I have ever seen, of course complete crap as history but also complete crap as fictional drama.

Steve Sailer said...

Yes, get the Helen Mirren miniseries of Elizabeth I instead. (She's also good as Elizabeth II in The Queen.)

The director Kapur's remake of The Four Feathers was lame as well. I kept wondering if the projectionist had gotten the reels out of order, as happened at a legendary screening for critics of Death Wish IV, in which a character who was decapitated suddenly reappears hale and hearty. (Of course, very few of the critics figured out what had happened.)

cabrolet said...

"Elizabeth (the first movie) was so atrociously stupid"

The 1998 Elizabeth was indeed "fictionalized". But it was good drama. IMDB scores it a very respectable 7.6/10 after 10 years. Rottenapples scores it good but not great also. But udolpho gives it a -50?

That movie contained a very strong politically incorrect message: Elizabeth was forced to abandon all pretense of matriarchy and embrace ruthless patriarchy in order to survive and prosper. Bravo.

On the other hand, Oscar-winner Shakespeare In Love had the inventive screenplay but was also packed with politically correct feminist, tranvestite and homosexual messaging. Plus the Bard was made to look dusky as a Moor or a Turk. Or perhaps a Sephardic wanderer.

Is the latter the better film? What say you, critic udolpho?

Anonymous said...

"In 400 years, Hollywood will probably make a movie set in late 20th Century America in which a character named Michael Jordan moonwalks his way to slam dunks while singing 'Billie Jean'"

Reminds me of this PBF strip.

Colby Cosh said...

I just can't wait for the definitive movie about Charlie Chaplin and his Nazi regime and how the UN un-Nazied the world forever.

The KnickerBlogger said...

I like the trailer but as Steve knows trailers are often better made than the films they advertise.
I do like Clive owen as Drake/Raliegh it reminded me in some ways of Errol Flynn in the golden age swashbucklers like the Sea Hawk where they just chose to rename Drake/Raliegh Geoffrey Thorpe (in the scene where the "Sea Hawks" (actually sea dogs) enter they use the real names : hawken, ect.
Now that you remind me that its the four feathers guy....I wonder, will it be some diatribe- against the English - as the FF turned out to be - a wise muslim black man guiding him?!) the theme of many indian directors is 'looks nice (which makes you want to see it), but it was really rotten to the core'.

John of London said...

Udolpho and Steve: I couldn't agree less about Elizabeth. While obviously not accurate event-by-event, I thought it conveyed the essential truth of QEI's accession and the struggle against Spanish/RC agents. It was clearly influenced by "La Reine Margot", but why not.
As for mini-series (BTW, what's a maxi-series?) go for Glenda Jackson as QEI. Even if you can stand the sight of Helen Mirren simulating sex, E did find time for other activities and was not exclusively motivated by jealousy.
Incidentally, is it generally understood in America that the defeat of the Spanish Armada was as important for the future United States as Yorktown or Gettysburg/Vicksburg? If the Armada had won, the most likely result would have been that America north of the Rio Grande would have consisted of just more Latin American dictatorships or pseudo-democracies. Or don't you agree?

meep said...

Well, it's not like Shakespeare didn't combine historical characters when it tightened the plot. Happens all the time in his war of the roses plays.

Anonymous said...

The Armada was done in by an unfortuitous storm, not the English Navy.

The KnickerBlogger said...

The Armada was done in by an unfortuitous storm, not the English Navy.
Wow, and the second one two? and the third (1596, 97) and Drake sacking Cadiz just a lucky wind? And Trafalgar, Battle of the Nile, centuries later,
Sounds like someone's been educated in multicultural Britian.

tommy said...

Steve and Udolpho are too hard on Elizabeth. Granted, I don't expect much in the way of historical accuracy from Hollywood (should anybody?) and I've never seen the Helen Mirren miniseries so maybe I don't know what I'm missing, but Elizabeth wasn't all that bad. I certainly am less miffed when movie-makers take the sequence out of order than when they make the sort of egregious historical errors that riddle a movie like 300.

beowulf said...

Just got back from seeing the new Elizabeth. Clive Owen was excellent, the rest of the cast was pretty good but the script sucked. Elizabeth's "Henry the Fifth/Braveheart/Alamo" speech to to the troops-- wearing shiny armor that looked like something out of an Abba video-- was really bad.

The worst part was the last shot with the text, Elizabeth 1633-1603. The trouble is, the story takes place in 1685 and I could hear other audience members audibly calculating her age-- 52 (Cate Blanchett is in her 30's).

It does make biological sense that Drake would choose another woman (a man who wants children will pick the hot poor girl over the menopausal queen every time). But learning the Queen's age at the end was jarring and made hash of the plot line that Elizabeth is searching for a husband to produce an heir with.

tommy said...

The Wikipedia article on Elizabeth covers some of the films historical inaccuracies. I saw this film as a teenager and didn't think it was all that bad. Maybe I'm being too kind.

Anonymous said...

Too bad no one liked Elizabeth. Since Steve hates all the movies he reviews or almost all (good thing I'm a Helen Mirren fan), I'm left free to enjoy them without being hindered by Sailer-style distortion of the artistic merits. But Elizabeth seems to be a stinker by all accounts.

BTW, how does anyone really know the Virgin Queen was a virgin? Not like those in the know are gonna say she had a different knight every night...

Udolpho said...

I have not watched Shakespeare in Love, it sounded a bit too dumb for me.

As for Elizabeth: The Movie, it committed the inexcusable crime of getting its central subject completely wrong. Anyone who has read a single book about Elizabeth I will be gobsmacked by this snivelling weakling portrayed by Blanchett--strong casting undermined by an idiotic screenplay.

But even if you don't care whether that's what Elizabeth was really like--and of course we can never entirely separate the truth from legend--why would anyone find compelling a drama about a comically inept and diffident regent who must be led everywhere by Walsingham, to say nothing of the absurd Godfather II ending where the English mafia dispatch all her enemies in one stroke? The subplot concerning Leicester was skin-crawlingly awful as well.

Elizabeth as history has her was a shrewd, strong-willed, and very intelligent woman, one of the few truly interesting female heads of state--traits she demonstrated even as a teenager, when she stood a good chance of going to the block as one of Henry's out of favor heirs. What the movie gives us is a hopeless, feeble dishrag of a woman who couldn't run a quilting club. Oh, and a cursory (and stupid) portrayal of religious politics of the period, with which the movie does absolutely nothing.

It's as if the director was motivated out of loathing for Elizabeth and 16th century England.

James Kabala said...

Anonymous and Knickerblogger: Knickerblogger is right that the English defeated the Spanish fair and square in open battle. A storm did wreck much of the Armada afterwards, however, and this was acknowledged as important by the English of the time, who dubbed it "the Protestant wind."

Beowulf: I believe you mean 1533 and 1585. Also, Elizabeth really did make a famous speech to the troops before the battle - does anyone (I haven't seen the film) know if the speech in the film was based on the real one or (like John Quincy Adams's speech in Amistad) made up out of whole cloth?

Cabrolet: I don't know all of Joseph Fiennes's family tree, of course, so there may be Jews or Southern Europeans in it, but Fiennes, despite its non-English sound, is actually a distinguished English surname, the family name of the Barons Saye and Sele. The Fiennes brothers are, in fact, distantly related to the royal family as well.

John of London: I believe there is a pretty good chance that Elizabeth actually was a virgin; it would have been very dangerous for her to have been engaging in non-marital sexual affairs. If the Mirren miniseries involves simulated sex, it probably is historically flawed in other ways as well.

DT said...

The director's response to this little detail, extracted during a presser at the Toronto film festival (source is a self-described "Afro-Canadian webmagazine"), was amusing, and revealing. (8th-from-last para)

Reading Steve's post I also thought immediately of that Perry Bible strip ("Now Showing: World War 2").

Neil said...

Any bets on Queen Elizabeth 1.5?

Anal retentive said...

Yes, get the Helen Mirren miniseries of Elizabeth I instead. (She's also good as Elizabeth II in The Queen.)

Definitely! When portraying history, simplifications and mistreatments of facts are something I can't simply stand, good drama or not good drama (unless the writer is a Shakespeare or a Schiller). With Mirren as Elizabeth though, I forgive the inclusion of a meeting between her and Mary Stuart, which in reality never happened.

Even Downfall with Bruno Ganz wasn't completely accurate, some parts kept nagging me. Films like Pearl Harbor or Enemy at the Gates are downright unwatchable.

John of London said...

james kabala: "Elizabeth really did make a famous speech to the troops before the battle".
Yes, E made her famous "heart and stomach" speech to the troops at Tilbury, but as in most naval battles the troops played no part. The speech was an ealy example of spin by a head of state, and was printed and distributed before it was delivered. The stunt with the armour reminded me of something, but I can't think what.
I'm guessing that the film doesn't show that due to E's parsimony the English fleet nearly ran out of ammunition.
Elizabeth I is probably, quite rightly, the most examined and analysed woman in the English-speaking world; but I've never come across any discussion of the effect on her of her father murdering her mother when E was 3. Has anyone?

James Kabala said...

John of London: That's an interesting point. It's worth noting for comparison's sake that James I, although a staunch Protestant who had barely known his mother, was always resentful and angry about her execution. He disliked Spenser's The Faerie Queene because of its denigration of her and approval of her execution. He built Mary Stuart an elaborate tomb in Westminster Abbey and stuck Elizabeth in a shared tomb with her hated sister Mary Tudor. One would think Elizabeth might have had similarly negative feelings about her mother's execution, but you are right that as far as I know she never praised her mother or denigrated her father in any way.