What makes a good historical epic? Is it the costumes, the photography, the colours, the lighting? If so, the unofficial Elizabeth sequel should excel - a blissfully visual experience that takes the powerful images of its predecessor a step further - but is this enough to distract us from dialogue, plot, and underlying message?
The potential for this historical period has been squandered in, what was essentially a rehash of the original, with misguided attempts to put the queen through exactly the same quandaries, and story arch as her younger self. It does not site right, and neither does the awfully scripted romance between Elizabeth and Raleigh.
I am not going to start considering the historical inaccuracies (personally, I prefer accurate history, but even Shakespeare re-wrote history for the sake of drama), or the lazy depiction of the Spanish as scheming fanatics, and focus on perhaps a greater cinematic sin, that of creating a film with no dramatic weight. One moment we are watching the deliberations of Blanchett as she frets over Owen's seduction of her handmaiden, then the tacked on melodrama of the execution of Mary Queen of Scots, and then, suddenly, there is the crowbarred in Armada.
We feel no connection with her plight, only that the audience is told how awful it all is. The most we see of the English military force, is a little group of soldiers standing on a hill, with Blanchett giving a patented Rousing Speech (a la Kingdom of Heaven, Troy, Return of the King, and sadly not - as was intended - Henry V) on an unruly horse/metaphor.
We are also entirely detached from the naval battle that makes up the finale. If there had been a little more running time devoted to letting the viewer know the actual details of the battle - that the English ships were tiny in comparison, or that Drake used his knowledge of the sea against the vast fleet - we may have forgiven the depiction of the engagement through the eyes of just one man, Raleigh.
There is an incredible film to be made about this period in history, we can only hope that someday someone does.