My first encounter with Zorro, the masked, sword-wielding outlaw, who fights injustice in the Spanish-era California, was the Disney produced TV series which originally ran from 1957 to 1959. It was shot in black and white and starred Guy Williams as Don Diego de la Vega, the man behind the mask, who was fond of leaving his mark—a triple swish of his blade creating a distinctive Z—in anything that took his fancy, often the seat of the pants of the bad guys.
There have been dozens of TV shows and movies about Zorro, including the classic silent version from 1920 starring Douglas Fairbanks, The Mark of Zorro, remade in 1940 with sound starring Tyrone Power, and then remade again in 1998 starring Antonio Banderas, Anthony Hopkins and Catherine Zeta-Jones. The latter version was a surprisingly successful blend of action, comedy, romance and snappy dialogue.
The sequel, The Legend of Zorro, once again stars Banderas and Zeta-Jones, and reunites them with director Martin Campbell, who is pencilled in to direct the new Bond movie, Casino Royale. The Legend of Zorro continues from the last film and finds the new Don, Alejandro (Banderas) married to his feisty wife Elena (Zeta-Jones) and with a young son Joaquin (Adrian Alonso, a ten year old Mexican actor, who couldn’t speak English until cast in the role). There is something of a domestic crisis in progress with Alejandro promising to give up his alter-ego Zorro to spend more time with his son, but the call of the people proves too strong.
Alejandro is served with divorce papers which sends him into drunken and ill-behaved depression, while Elena is wooed by the slimy French aristocrat Armand (played with relish by Rufus Sewell). Meanwhile a preacher, turned villain, McGivens (Nick Chinlund) appears in town, attempting to wreck the vote that will allow California to join the fledgling Union. At the beginning of the movie he and his posse of rogues are given a sound beating by Zorro, but it’s not the last we see of him.
The plot creaks along in a pleasant enough way, with no real surprises in its modest twists and turns. There is a possibly ill-advised attempt to draw modern parallels, with Armand being a member of a kind of pseudo Knights Templar organisation dedicated to destroying America and the American Way of Life. Oh and did I say Armand was French?
However, the movie is boosted by the performances of all the actors, especially Banderas, who is a fine comic actor, and brings the right amount of cheese to this movie fondue. Combined with the superb action set-pieces and imaginative fight chereography, which are reminiscent of an older Hollywood where stuntmen aren’t replaced by digital doubles, the movie is a delightful slapstick crowd-pleaser.
It’s a fun, frothy movie which never takes itself too seriously. It just wants to entertain and delivers enough action and witty dialogue to delight the most jaded of film fans. It’s not high art, but a worthy sequel and a refreshing, old school slice of cinematic spectacle.
The Legend of Zorro (2005)
Dir. Martin Campbell
Stars: Antonio Banderas, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Nick Chinlund, Rufus Sewell, Alberto Reyes
Genre: Action, Comedy
Recent Movies Reviews