A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

The Mask of Zorro

November 9, 2011

The Mask of Zorro

About a year ago we picked up The Legend of Zorro as part of a big lot of movies we bought. Only when we went to watch it one night did I realize that it was not, in fact, this movie (which I enjoyed in an innocuous way back when it first came out on DVD) but its sequel. I didn’t mind owning that sequel, but it seemed foolish to watch that and not this movie first. So it has languished unwatched on a shelf until we eventually picked up this movie.

Of course I have always loved Zorro. I remember watching the old Errol Flynn version as a lad and enjoying the swashbuckling fun. Who wouldn’t enjoy a masked warrior for the people with a sword who slices his iconic Z into his victims? Clearly inspired by Robin Hood, and just as clearly the inspiration for Batman. He is the ultimate outlaw, a champion of the common man, his alter-ego a dashing playboy.

Of course this movie is not so much a big budget re-telling of the classic Zorro story as a sequel in its own right. It’s sort of Zorro TNG. It starts out with Zorro’s triumphant victory as he leads the people of California in their successful revolution over the evil Spanish governor who has held them under his bootheel. After Zorro, actually the suave Don Diego De La Vega rides triumphantly into the sunset to re-join his young wife and his newborn daughter he finds himself confronted by the deposed Don Rafael Montero, who has guessed his secret identity. During the confrontation De La Vega is captured, his wife is killed and his daughter is taken by Montero to be raised as his own.

Twenty years later Montero returns to the shores of California from his exile in Spain with a nefarious plot to regain power. De La Vega breaks out of prison and soon finds a drunken young thief bent on vengeance upon the sadistic army captain who slew his brother. He takes this young but inexperienced and unpolished lad in as his apprentice and trains him through a quick montage to be the new Zorro in his place.

I enjoy this movie a lot. I first owned it when I got it from some Columbia House DVD club I belonged to in the late nineties, and I watched it a few times back then. In the end though I eventually sold it during some purge of my collection because, let’s face it, this isn’t a very spectacular movie. I would say that it is a movie well aware of just how utterly unambitious it is.

There is not a shocking or surprising moment in this entire film. It is Utterly predictable and plays out like one long series of cliches strung together to make a single plot. What amazes me is how little I end up caring. The movie doesn’t have to do any dramatic heavy lifting or involve any cool plot twists – it just had to create a plausible excuse for a series of action scenes, sword fights, cool stunts and snappy dialog. In that regard it succeeds wonderfully in every way.

There is an impressive amount of high difficulty stuntwork in this film. Acrobatic leaps and bounds, flips, dives and jumps from great heights. One chase scene in particular, as Zorro defeats a whole cadre of soldiers by knocking them off of their horses in creative ways, involves some of the greatest trick riding I have ever seen. The sword duals are plentiful and enjoyable.

Also enjoyable is the great cast the producers have brought in to fill the space between stunts and swordfights. Anthony Hopkins plays Zorro the elder with his usual panache. In the role of his daughter, raised in Spain by his mortal enemy is Catherine Zeta Jones, and she has just the right combination of sultry bravado and believable innocence. Then there’s Antonio Banderas. If ever there was an actor born to play Zorro this is he. I never really bought the notion that he learned to imitate a suave Spanish aristocrat in a single afternoon, but that doesn’t make it any less fun to watch him trading quips and crossing blades with everybody else in the film. Hopkins lends the film a sense of gravitas and Banderas provides that essential sense of fun.

In no way is this a great movie, but there’s no denying that it can be an entertaining way to spend a couple hours. Maybe not worth owning, or worth buying twice as I now have, but nonetheless perfectly entertaining mindless fun.

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November 9, 2011 - Posted by | daily reviews | , ,

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