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Movies | Elizabeth offers lazy caricatures

Issue: "A mighty fortress is our sect," Oct. 20, 2007

It's tempting for Christians to lapse into despair in the face of artistic hostility. "Will we be thrown to the lions next?" we wonder while we watch the victorious destruction of crucifix after crucifix as the newly deified Queen Elizabeth (Cate Blanchett, below) presides over the storm that defeats the Spanish Armada.

Truthfully, though, the movie containing this scene-Shekhar Kapur's Elizabeth: The Golden Age (rated PG-13 for violence, some sexuality and nudity)-isn't much of a threat, mostly because the writing is so lazy. Catholics are evil zealots bent on destroying England and Protestants are lukewarm enough to be religious but not worryingly so.

We know that the Catholics are bad because they have too much facial hair, carry around giant crucifixes and rosaries, and threaten with funny accents ("Thair ees a weend combing that will swip ahwey your prite!"). It's the same kind of shallow reductionism that critics have long pointed out in culturally illiterate action movies with Arab baddies. In fact, it's almost the same portrayal.

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For a while, it's easy enough to snicker at the film's pretensions and fact-fudging (Sir Walter Raleigh was apparently a dashing brigand who taught Elizabeth about life and love). As the movie nears its end-and cinematographer Remi Adefarasin finds more innovative ways to show the ominous and terrifying presence of the cross-it becomes harder to retain an ironic remove.

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