Following the success of the 1998 film "Elizabeth," which brought actress Cate Blanchett to everyone's attention, director Shekhar Kapur and writer Michael Hirst returned to 15th century England almost 10 years later to create the sequel, "Elizabeth: The Golden Age," once again starring Blanchett as one of England's most recognized monarchs.
After having settled the constant dispute as to whether she is the legitimate Queen of England and having managed to bring a sense of peace to the country, Elizabeth (Cate Blanchett) has finally time to focus on the bigger issues of her domain. And yet, there are many who would like to see her fall, most of all the Catholics who have little sympathy for her Protestant religion. Fired up by the King of Spain who openly declares a holy war on her, England is once again separated and it takes all her prowess and cunning to continue to reign her country with a sure hand.
Every bit as lavish and epic as the first film, "Elizabeth: The Golden Age" shows us the benevolent rules torn between doing the right thing for her people and pleasing politic needs. With constant scheming undermining her authority it is hard for her to find a true friend beside Sir Francis Walsingham (Geoffrey Rush). Then, one day she meets Walter Raleigh (Clive Owen) and is immediately smitten by his upfront personality and his achievements. Quickly he becomes one of her closest confidantes as she harbors the seed of passion for him. Could he be the right husband for the Virgin Queen?
Cate Blanchett once again dominates the screen with her portrayal of Elizabeth, giving this historic figure a face and personality in a way no history book could. Her struggles become tangible as we see that behind the façade of this powerful ruler is also a woman with emotions and desires or her own.
Universal Home Entertainment is presenting "Elizabeth: The Golden Age" with a VC-1 encoded 1080p transfer on this HD-DVD, and it is every bit as beautiful as you could hope for. The movie's cinematography is remarkable with great long shots that show the Queen's court, as well as very intimate close-ups that allow us to see their emotions more clearly. The high definition transfer makes sure that every little detail is flawlessly reproduced. But it is the color reproduction that will ultimately make you fawn over this transfer. Rich, saturated colors that never bleed dominate the screen, rendering an image that is vivid and bold. The costumes are mesmerizingly detailed and vibrant, while some of the landscapes are simply breathtaking. Once you've seen a transfer revel in such detail you simply cannot imagine to go back to a standard DVD transfer for films such as this.
The disc also contains a Dolby Digital TrueHD track, accompanied by Dolby Digital Plus tracks in English and French, that is just as impressive. With a tremendous frequency response, the track has a very strong bass extension and clear high ends. No distortion mars the presentation and since the mix makes very good use of the surround channels, you are in for a treat. Whether it's for dramatic effect, for subtle ambient effects or to give the music a wider sound stage, the audio on this disc is always perfectly balanced and a great addition to the movie itself.
The disc contains a number of bonus materials, consisting mostly of featurettes. "The Reign Continues" is an interview featurette in which cast and crew members discuss the conception of the project and how the film finally came to life.
In "Commanding The Winds: Creating the Armada" you get a closer look at the special effects that were employed in the movie to bring to life the incredible fleet of Spanish ships that play part in one of the film's most climactic scenes.
"Inside Elizabeth's World" gives you a behind-the-scenes look at the movie's production design, while "Towers, Courts and Cathedrals" offers some historic insights into the locations that you see in the movie.
The full DVD version, complete with the same bonus materials is also included on the flip-side of the disc.
"Elizabeth: The Golden Age" is a wonderful continuation of Kapur's first film and every bit as lavish. It is a bit heavier on the special effects and has a slightly more polished look, but overall it is a fascinating journey into history, sprinkled with some of the most recognizable people of the era. Clearly, this disc is a keeper!