The Mask of Zorro

The Mask of Zorro. Tristar/Amblin 1998.

Before watching the movie:

Although this film reintroduced audiences to Zorro in the 90s, I know it’s not exactly an origin story, but in fact a legacy torch-passing. I’m not familiar enough with the story of Zorro to know why they couldn’t make the original Zorro the man they wanted him to be, but maybe it’s just more about the story they wanted to tell.

I’m not sure, but I think this is the movie that made Antonio Banderas a star, though a quick Wikipedia lookup says no. It does seem to be his break into very mainstream films, though.

After watching the movie:

The legendary Zorro, Don Diego de la Vega, is getting too old for heroing. Fortunately, the oppressive Spanish government is leaving the region. But his sworn enemy, Don Rafael, has finally learned his secret identity. Rafael arrives to arrest Diego, in the fight Diego’s wife is killed, and Rafael takes Diego’s baby daughter Elena to raise as his own. Twenty years later, barely infamous horse thief Alejandro Murrieta watches his brother get killed by US Captain Love, and Diego escapes prison. The two men meet, and Diego can see that Alejandro is in no state to take the revenge he wants, so he trains him in the ways of Zorro. Don Rafael has returned to California, working with Captain Love in a dastardly plan to return to power, and in the process of finding out that plan, Alejandro finds himself attracted to Don Rafael’s daughter Elena, but starts to feel held back by Don Diego’s training.

I suppose I can guess at the reasoning for making a torch-passing film. They wanted to work a generation or two later in history, they didn’t want to try to explain how a Spanish gentleman could be the brash youngster they wanted to lead, and/or they wanted to tell a mentor/mentee story, and who better to train Zorro than Zorro? Also, much like, say, the Star Trek reboot, creating a new character called “Zorro” that they can do whatever they like with is more appealing to producers than sticking to all of the previous interpretations.

I don’t have very much to say about this movie. The story is a fairly familiar adventure tale of retribution and redemption, with a focus on the action. It’s so familiar that I didn’t get terribly involved with the characters, but not so familiar I got bored. It’s a very pretty movie to look at, though there’s some kind of wide-angle lens optics that kept distracting me on all the rack-focused shots so that the geometry of the foreground and background warps as the focus shifts.

This is an excellent high-budget popcorn film, with some good chuckles and interesting, if not terribly exciting fight sequences. Not a masterpiece, but it has a high rewatchability value.

Watch this movie: for some fun action and pretty, but not artsy visuals.

Don’t watch this movie: with too much understanding of the Zorro legend.

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