I have no excuse.  There were warnings that the Elizabeth sequel was terrible, but I made the mistake of seeing for myself.  This is a perfect example of why movie reviewers are necessary.  You really should take Chris Orr’s word for it: it’s bad!  If anyone is tempted to go see it, just don’t.

When it isn’t painfully boring (which is most of the film), it’s sappy, and when it isn’t sappy it veers into some weird fusion of Patriot-esque speechmaking and retrojected values of liberal tolerance.  As Orr noted, the dialogue is often unpardonably lame.  At one point Elizabeth even gives a little talk on the evils of the Inquisition and England as the bastion of liberty of conscience and thought.  Since pretty much no one today likes the Inquisition, this is an easy way to make her the sympathetic champion of Freedom (her appearance before the assembled English soldiers does have a bit of the Gibsonian “they may take our lives…” element in it), but pretends as if “liberty of conscience” were some universal principle here rather than an invocation of Protestant polemic.  

The director, Shekhar Kumar, has stayed strangely faithful to the original Elizabeth’s studious reproduction of Protestant and English nationalist historiography on film.  Indeed, in the sequel Kumar has ratcheted up the anti-Catholicism of the first movie.  You could just as easily call this Black Legend: The Movie or The Catholics Are Coming To Get You.   

The portrayal of Philip, were it done to an American or British historical figure, would throw certain people into fits of hysteria.  The treatment of Mary Stuart was hardly any better.  The take-home message seemed to be: “The dagoes and Scots are trying to take away your freedom, so you have to kill them.”     Since English historians have long wanted to ignore the fact that Philip II was also briefly Philip I of England, it would hardly bother many to show Philip, as the movie shows him, as some sort of decrepit, superstitious eunuch who is afraid of the sunlight and talks to himself, or whatever it was we were supposed to conclude about him.

This was also the king who sent a significant portion of the fleet that won at Lepanto over the Ottomans, and who was probably among the most accomplished, albeit flawed, monarchs of the early modern period.  Naturally, Elizabeth’s apologists and myth-makers have always had to tear him down to make their heroine appear more important than she was.  This movie is just one of the more recent and execrable efforts along these lines.   

The opening “historical” introduction manages to ignore completely the contemporary Dutch rebels, whose resistance to Philip’s rule was the reason for Philip’s wars in northwestern Europe.  “Only England stands against him,” the writers pompously tell us.  The Dutch role in defeating the Armada is also ignored.  The Golden Age is the English version of Fred Thompson bombast: England stands alone for freedom!  Never mind that the Dutch kept fighting and dying against the Spanish for another two decades after the Armada was defeated and that Spain’s bankruptcy was related to its constant continental warfare against France to protect the Milan road.  We mustn’t diminish the reputation of the most overrated monarch in English history. 

P.S. Even Mike Potemra agrees on the anti-Catholicism of the movie, so it must be pretty obvious.