Wednesday, 6 June 2007

FAL Review: Elizabeth

Genres: Historical drama, Romance, Suspence. Main cast: Cate Blanchett, Geoffrey Rush, Christopher Eccleston, Joseph Fiennes, Richard Attenborough, Kathy Burke. Director: Shekhar Kapur. Writer: Michael Hurst. Length: 119 minutes.

Elizabeth is a visual feast, and a tour de force of convincing acting from many of our times greatest stars. Fantasy fans and roleplayers will recognise Cate Blanchett from The Lord of the Rings and Geoffrey Rush from Pirates of the Caribbean, to mention just a few. Fans of football will recognise Eric Cantona as a french emissary ... and cringe at his awkward and stilted acting.

The events of the movie begin in 1554. The reigning queen of England is Mary Tudor, but she is done in by cancer pretty quickly, putting Elizabeth previously declared a traitor, on the throne. What follows is a very compressed version of historical events. The story of Elizabeth's ascension to the throne and her struggles to maintain it along with her own independance moves at a fair clip, and the plots and schemes to put her down add an interesting edge to the events unfolding in front of our eyes. It is a straight historical movie, no elves, goblins or dragons in sight and no overenthusiastic sword fights that stretch on forever and ever, as is too often the norm today. And that is refreshing. The focus on the people and their interactions fire up my brain with ideas for my games, and should provide many players with plenty of ideas for hamming it up at the table.

So is there anything to lament? Well, yes. I mentioned Eric Cantona, who is a blight on the acting profession. And if you're a fan of historical accuracy, chances are that you will be disappointed. There are several deviations from actual events, several of them for no readily apparent reason apart from fitting some events into the movie a bit easier, such as the death of Mary, Queen of Scots. And even if I myself didn't notice it, I have read that the costumes, while beautiful, are sometimes wildly anachronistic as is the dialogue which has a much more uncouth and modern tonality than that which evidently was used during the actual time period.

Still, to me Elizabeth opened up a deep well of interesting history. I looked up several of the people portrayed in the movie, and found an abundance of inspirational material. Just take a look at the Wikipedia entry of Sir Francis Walsingham! If you don't come away from that page without your mind brimming with ideas, I don't know what would enthuse you.

To sum it up, I loved this movie. As some of you know, and every one else will learn after reading my reviews, I'm a sucker for great visuals and this movie delivers in spades. Its tonality fits WFRP better than D&D, but I believe that Game Masters and players of both games will find great inspiration for plots and characters among the multitude offered.


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