27 thoughts on “Elizabeth (1998): 20 Years on and a Few More Thoughts

  1. I didn’t hate it. The costumes were off but pretty and the Two Good Things were Blanchett and Fuentes. The history or lack thereof had me cringing.

    Best costume IMHO was the coronation gown and robes.

    Comparing this to the Mirren miniseries and the wonderful Glenda Jackson Elizabeth R, isn’t really a comparison. The two had compelling history and Elizabeth’s costumes in the first were based on portraits.

  2. My feeling, now and at the time, is that this is an excellent fantasy movie. I’ve always kind of suspected that Kapur actually wanted to do a fantasy film, and that someone at the studio decided it would sell better as a “biopic”. If Kapur had instead done what George RR Martin did, which was to set his historically based fantasy in a made up kingdom and filed the names and identifying details off of the characters, I think that everyone would have relaxed and enjoyed the film.

    1. One of these days I will have to dig into my theory that what Kapur actually wanted to do with this film, whether or not he knew it, was to make a screen version of Michael Moorcock’s novel Gloriana, which was like an alternate universe version of QEI sort of loosely based on The Faerie Queen if it were a dark fantasy bodice-ripper pulp paperback with pretensions.

  3. My opinion of this movie is not as high as it was 21 years ago. However, the historical accuracy or lack of it did annoy me every now and then. Still does. And although I enjoyed Blanchett’s performance, there were moments when it seemed a bit too mannered for my tastes. However, I still continued to enjoy Geoffrey Rush’s performance. As for the costumes . . . pretty.

  4. I thought Cate Blanchett was amazing in it and still haven’t gotten over the fact that Gwyneth Paltrow won the Oscar for her role in Shakespeare in Love instead of Cate that year.

    1. Me too. Blanchett was robbed. In fact, that was the final straw in my “oscars are rigged’ thinking. Haven’t paid attention since.

      For me, I’m just pathetically happy when a fictional movie or tv show is somewhat accurate. I save my ire for documentaries that get it wrong.

    2. I’m sorry, but I wasn’t pushing for Blanchett. I can think of some of her later performances that I found a bit more impressive. She was a bit too mannered and perhaps a little twitchy. Come to think of it, I had the same problem in “Elizabeth: The Golden Age”.

  5. All of your wonderful commentary, and all I can think of is to thank you for the Kevin Smith flashback.

    1. Kevin Smith was awesome, I can’t believe it’s been 17 years since he passed :( He’s still loved here in NZ :)

  6. I can’t hate on it. Elizabeth was my gateway drug into Tudor history. Well…that coupled with The Other Boleyn Girl book.

    1. Oh no! Not the terrible Philippa Gregory! Her books have done more to give historical fiction a bad name than just about anyone’s! I couldn’t stand the Elizabeth movies for lots of reasons, historical inaccuracy being the main one. The costumes being inaccurate, too, and even the architecture! Tudor buildings were (are, many survive) very claustrophobic, often quite dark, but the Elizabeth movies take place in cathedrals or something, the size of airplane hangars. Bizarre choices. Just make an original movie and leave history alone, is what I think. And the idea that any chapter of the Tudor story is “boring” is ludicrous.

      1. “Airplane hangars”–hilarious! Exactly. Most rooms were low-ceilinged, with heavy, elaborately-carved panelling. Kapur liked to position his cameras up in the vaulting, sometimes dwarfing the actors. Vision! Ridiculous.

  7. I love it. It chaps my historical backside, but it’s gorgeous, Cate is an amazing Elizabeth (she may be my favorite, though it’s hard to choose with so many awesome actresses in the role, from Bette Davis to Helen Mirren), and it’s pure melodrama. I just watch it for the hell of it, and don’t bother grinding my teeth over it too much. The more recent MQoS made me madder. :P

  8. I have no use for directors who dismiss history as “boring,” given that historical fact is usually weirder, and more fun, that anything a modern screenwriter could invent. So I disliked much of “Elizabeth.” But Cate was close to perfect as young E. Tudor (as was Mirren as the older E). That early scene where she’s dancing with her ladies–wondrous. And Rush as Walsingham! Great Tudor-portrait face–Irons as Dudley had that, too.

    (I was trying to explain all this to my 20-something stepdaughter at the time, who just didn’t get why chronology could be as important as, yes, “vision.”)

    1. Yes, Cate was exquisite as the young Elizabeth (tho’ once she took the throne often annoyingly dithery). In the past fifty film years: Glenda Jackson rules at all ages, Helen Mirren in middle-age, and Vanessa Redgrave is fascinating as QEI in her dotage (“Anonymous” is also very controversial, but she was amazing). So after 20 years of eye-rolling (poisoned dress?!), the takeaway–the films are just so damned pretty AND watchable!

  9. I knew nothing about Elizabeth I when I saw this movie so I credit it with making me interested enough to learn the real story. I also knew nothing about historic costume and for me the wardrobe went well with the characters.

  10. I saw this for the first time in college a few years ago and liked it, but for some reason with each successive viewing I’ve liked it less and less. I don’t know why! Normally I love re-watching movies over and over but for me it just doesn’t hold up to re-watch.

  11. Yes, the costumes, including the frolicking ladies with their bathing pageant swags . . . ew, BUT what slapped me in the face was FREAKING MOZART’S REQUIEM for the closing credits. MOZART!!!!! UMMM!!!!!! With all the absolutely gorgeous period music that could have been chosen they went for something not only WAY outta context but also an overused excerpt. Cate Blanchett and the other cast members do save this.

  12. Has been ages since I watched it, but I remember being very upset with the Oscars that year, for awarding Paltrow over Blanchett (no matter what you think about the historical accuracy of either film, Cate Blanchett was phenomenal). The Best Picture race wasn’t much better, and again, Elizabeth, even with all the historical mess, is a really solid film.

    All these years later, I’m more apt to notice and call out historical issues, so a fresh rewatch would probably go badly from that angle. And I feel like Kapur was setting the precedent for all Elizabethan and 16th century films and shows from that point forward – many that came before were problematic, but not with the devil-may-care attitude that he espoused and appears to have passed on.

  13. I remember being utterly enthralled by Marie de Guise and thought she could be the center of her on fantastic movie. Her in her armoured cuirass but full skirts and artful scarf on teh battlefield was just too, too fabulous. Historically ridiculous, to be sure, but still.

    One of these days, Mary I will get a movie that does her story justice. Yes, I know she was reactionary and cruel and pretty much one of the world’s greatest female tyrants, but she must have been so, so emotionally and psychologically fucked up by her upbringing and her asshole father.

  14. I watched Elizabeth and The Golden Age about a month ago and while I enjoyed watching some aspects overall I found it really hard to get into. Neither of them really did a great job holding my attention. One of the big reasons for tgat being that they really done Cecil dirty.

    I knew I KNEW as soon as I saw how they threw him away in the first one, how much it would RUIN the sequel because it messed up the flow of the story.

    That fact that Cecil was only JUST older than Elizabeth when she took the throne is really important, I think. In a lot of ways he really was her only actual friend and the only person she fully trusted. I think they had a fascinating relationship and the MQoS storyline suffered for it because just watching Elizabeth pace around shouting about how she wanted it stopped was somuch less interesting than the actual backlash of her finding out that Cecil had completely ignored an order she sent him and just executed mary any way. Cate did a fantastic job, but she would have done even better with a script that respected history.

  15. Honestly? I would rather stick to watching the likes of Glenda Jackson, Flora Robson and Helen Mirren portray Queen Bess. They’re not as twitchy. On the other hand, I feel that both Blanchett and Bette Davis were.

  16. I never watch any movie starring Joseph Fiennes. There’s something really sleazy about him. I just can’t accept him as a love interest

  17. Hated it then and since – but I grew up on Glenda Jackson. Above all, my beloved Durham Cathedral, wonderful NORMAN building, used as a Renaissance palace? I don’t think so.

  18. I really liked it at the time–gorgeous costumes, good acting, and Joseph Fiennes (three elements I still appreciate in movies). I was young when it debuted and didn’t know enough history to nitpick over accuracy. It worked as a piece of cinema. That said, I’m speaking about it from fond memories. Nothing about the movie enticed it to become one of my favorites that would invite numerous re-watchings. La Reine Margot (Queen Margot), on the other hand, I could watch again and again and again. So, in answer to your question Sarah, I don’t feel that you are betraying anything by appreciating Elizabeth for what it is–a film.

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