The Legend Of Zorro

The Legend Of Zorro


Reviewed by: Anton Bitel

If ever there was a film that did not require a sequel, then The Mask of Zorro (1998) was it. Hardly a relevant "updating" of the noble swordsman's adventures, and workmanlike to a fault, just about all that the film had going for it was a winning combination of big name players - Antonio Banderas, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Anthony Hopkins - whose presence on the marquee was alone enough (at the time) to guarantee a sizeable audience. Yet, with Hopkins' character killed off at the end and Banderas and Zeta-Jones arguably no longer rising stars, the real question is not whether the seven years it has taken for the sequel's release is too long a wait, but rather whether it is long enough for the blandness of the original to be forgotten.

In fact, The Legend Of Zorro is set in 1850, a full decade after the events of the first film, at a time when California is on the verge of becoming the 31st State and the American Civil War between North and South is beginning to brew.

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Don Alejandro de la Vega (Banderas) is torn between his struggle, as the masked hero Zorro, to lead Californians to freedom and his devotion to his neglected wife Elena (Zeta-Jones) and their 10-year-old son Joaquin (Adrian Alonso). Apparently fed up with his endless escapades, Elena serves Alejandro with divorce papers and within three months has set herself up with the French count and winegrower Armand (Rufus Sewell). Yet, all is not as it seems, and as Alejandro finds himself fighting a racist Southern preacher man, named McGivens (Nick Chinlund), a pair of shadowy spies, a global conspiracy (under the banner of some grammatically incoherent Latin) and his own pigheadedness, he comes to realise that his rival in love is also a threat to national security.

Apart from the Zorro capers, Martin Campbell is best known for directing James Bond films, such as GoldenEye (1995) and the forthcoming Casino Royale, and, without doubt, something of 007 has found its way into The Legend Of Zorro, with its foreign villain who harbours global ambitions, its underground factories producing the latest in weapons technology, its Oddjob-like henchman sporting hidden blades, its killer whose fatal flaw is to gloat at length before dispatching the hero and its seemingly endless chase sequences and action set-pieces.

Despite featuring feats of derring-do on a half-built bridge, in a burning barnyard and atop a speeding train full of high explosives, The Legend Of Zorro fails to get its grip on the viewer. The characters are unengaging, the actors never called upon to produce anything beyond pure ham (although they do it charmingly enough). The occasional jokes are only occasionally funny and the seen-it-all-before kiddy subplot succeeds only in underlining the film's confusion over its target demographic.

Bizarrest of all is the attempt to reflect the post-9/11 landscape. There may be a certain postmodern frisson to be had in Armand's plans to use a concealed weapon of mass destruction in a "pre-emptive strike" against Washington, but in choosing France as the true enemy of American freedom, the film betrays as shaky a grasp of contemporary geopolitics as of 19th century American history, which could, of course, be excused in the name of good clean fun, except there is not too much of that in this excessively lengthy, swashbuckling-by-numbers exercise in tedium that fills the cinema with entirely the wrong kind of zs.

Reviewed on: 26 Oct 2005
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Sword-fighting sequel, sees Zorro take on a racist preacher.
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Angus Wolfe Murray **1/2

Director: Martin Campbell

Writer: Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci

Starring: Antonio Banderas, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Adrian Alonso, Rufus Sewell, Giovanna Zacarias, Raul Mendez, Nick Chinlund

Year: 2005

Runtime: 130 minutes

BBFC: PG - Parental Guidance

Country: US


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