Shekhar Kapur, the director, envisioned his Queen Elizabeth opus as a trilogy, of which this movie is the second chapter.
I saw the first one back in 1998 and I remember being blown away by it. The story, the acting, the soundtrack, the direction and the technical aspects were amazing.
It was also the first time I saw a movie with Cate Blanchett and I fell in love with her craft on the spot. To this day, she's one of my favorite actresses and I don't think I ever saw a movie in which she didn't do a super good job.
Alas, I cannot be as praiseworthy of Elizabeth: The Golden Age as I am of Elizabeth. Something is missing here. Blanchett turns in an amazing performance, as does the rest of the cast, particularly Geoffrey Rush. Technically, the film is superb and the score by Craig Armstrong and A.R. Rahman, although not as memorable as David Hirschfelder's, is good.
That leaves the direction and the screenplay as the possible culprits for the movie's failure to reach its predecessor's greatness. That being said, I cannot really find much fault in either the script or the direction, so I guess something just didn't work as it was supposed to, but it's hard to pinpoint.
The question that lingers is whether Kapur will be able to direct the third chapter of the trilogy he envisioned, and above all, whether he'll be able to lure back Blanchett for a third time, since she was already weary of appearing in this one. Hopefully the script will be great and the fact that she got nominated for an Oscar both times will be good incentives enough. I believe she tied some other actor for being nominated for playing the same character in two different movies, but it would probably be a first if she got nominated three times. And as the saying goes, third time's the charm...
At any rate, the movie works both as a period film and a history lesson, and if you like Blanchett, you should absolutely watch it.