Cate Blanchett is the best thing that ever happened to Shekhar Kapur. Nine years ago, their Elizabeth was a modestly produced portrait of The Virgin Queen’s rise from tentative ruler to ruthless monarch. The film has its fans, but I’m not one of them; yes, the performances are uniformly great, but Kapur’s overheated direction smothers what should’ve been a slightly above-average costume drama in needless, unmotivated style. It plays like a two-hour audition reel for one of Jerry Bruckheimer’s lamebrained period epics.

While Blanchett went on to establish herself as one of the greatest actors of any generation working today, Kapur made The Four Feathers, a muddled take on the moldy A.E.W. Mason novel that was delayed for close to a year due to… creative differences between the director and Harvey Weinstein. The $80 million production was finally released in September of 2002 and failed to crack $20 million at the U.S. box office. Kapur was sentenced to Hollywood Solitary Confinement.

Elizabeth: The Golden Age is Kapur’s first film since The Four Feathers, and I’m guessing that the impressive production value shown off in the below trailer has everything to do with Blanchett’s considerable clout (and the casting of Clive Owen). I’m still skeptical about this film, but there’s no doubting it will be a huge contender in this year’s awards derby. Academy voters have been desperate to atone for the 1999 Weinstein-induced Best Actress Oscar awarded to Gwyneth Paltrow; they know they got it wrong, so what better way to make amends than to honor Blanchett for the same role?

Elizabeth: The Golden Age opens October 12, 2007.