Sadly, I must agree with the reviewers who had problems with this movie. For one thing, if I'm noticing the camera work? That's a bad sign.
Secondly, I never thought I would say this but...there was too much Clive Owen. Too many close-ups of Clive Owen. Yes, he's good looking and a heck of an actor, but at a time when there was so much going on, I could have used less of Sir Walter Raleigh. (After the movie I went to the fast, if not always accurate, source of info, Wikipedia, to find out what the dealio was with Raleigh. Apparently his wife carried around his embalmed head for 29 years. Some may call that devotion. I call it, "Eeeuuuw!")
I really got the impression the director was more interested in making pretty pictures/tableaus than telling a good, or even coherent, story, let alone being historically accurate. The execution of Mary Stuart stands out in this regard.
Now, to give the director a break, there was a lot going on in this period of Elizabeth's reign, so there was a lot to choose from, and you can't please all of the people all of the time. However, he's apparently decided to make a trilogy about Elizabeth and that, I think, added to the problem. Things are introduced here and take up time/space for no apparent reason except to set up the next film -- or at least I'm assuming little Isabella of Spain will figure prominently in the next film, or else what the heck was she doing so much in this one?
And if you're talking about the Armada, shouldn't we at least get a glimpse of, oh, say, Sir Francis Drake, if not the guys who really did the planning and the fighting instead of Sir Walter?
But really, one of the things that bothered me most was the portrayal of Elizabeth as a woman on the edge of a breakdown. Or like the worst stereotype of a menopausal female (although they gloss over Elizabeth's actual age). I get that you might want to show her as a normal woman, with fears and doubts and longings. In fact, one of the best parts of this movie for me harkened back to the first, and showed her fantasizing. I could get buy that. But the hysterics seemed over the top for a woman who held her own in what was very much a man's world for so long.
All in all, I was disappointed and not even the excellent actors could save this film for me. I kept thinking about the wonderful version of Elizabeth's reign, Elizabeth R, starring Glenda Jackson, although I haven't seen it in a very long time. It was a six hour mini-series made for TV, so there's more room for history and character development. I've put it on my Christmas list. I will not be asking for Elizabeth: The Golden Age.