The Legend of Zorro
directed by Martin Campbell
(Sony, 2005)

The Legend of Zorro is actually a great movie, one which I never expected to be so thoroughly entertaining. I would have been content just looking at Catherine Zeta-Jones for a couple of hours, but this is a swashbuckling good time from beginning to end.

Sure, it stretches credulity at times and plays fast and loose with American history, but it succeeds admirably in its purpose to capture the viewer's imagination and show him/her one wild, action-packed adventure. I must admit I haven't seen The Mask of Zorro, nor have I seen more than bits and pieces of old Zorro shows and movies over the years, so I can't put any of this in a proper Zorro context. All I can do is tell you how much I liked the movie -- and why.

You can't complain about a weak or nonexistent storyline here, as The Legend of Zorro is packed to the gills with story; not counting the credits, the movie runs a good two hours, but it really doesn't seem that long, largely because the story never pauses long enough to start dragging.

There's always a dichotomy somewhere in the mind of any masked hero, and a "when you come to a fork in the road, take it" philosophy no longer works for Alejandro de la Vega (Antonio Banderas), the man behind the mask. On the one hand, the people still need Zorro, particularly right now as the residents of California embrace the process of entering the United States as a free state. On the other hand, he has a wife and son now, and his wife Elena (Zeta-Jones), who used to fight alongside him, is not happy when he breaks his promise to put away the mask forever.

The people really do need Zorro, though, for an ill wind has blown into town in the form of a greedy, murderous preacher-man and, much more insidiously, a fancy-schmancy Frenchman who threatens to take away everything de la Vega cares about -- including Elena, who suddenly divorces him. It's bad enough when you lose your wife, your son (not knowing your secret identity) thinks you're a coward, and you feel like you've lost the edge you need to be the people's champion. It's hundreds of times worse to know that your possible downfall comes at the hands of a Frenchman.

You can't keep a good, masked legend down, though, especially when you're wooing his ex-wife. Suspicious of his motives (and clueless as to what Elena could possibly see in him), Zorro is determined to get to the bottom of Frenchie's secrets. There's a lot going on he doesn't know about at first, but it all comes together to reveal a plot of national -- nay, global -- importance. There are a number of things I would like to talk about in terms of the plot, but it's impossible to do so without giving too much away. Let's just say that some of it is out deep in left field -- yet it does all hold together, which is what's most important. The action's important, too, of course, and there's plenty of it.

Rest assured that Z's will be carved into bad guys' shirts on more than one occasion, as Zorro's trademark swordsmanship is put on display fairly often. Heck, everybody gets in to the fight at some point. All the early battles, which are rather exciting in and of themselves, are mere skirmishes leading up to the extended fight scenes near the end (in, on and around a speeding locomotive). It's especially interesting to watch Zeta-Jones open a few cans of you know what -- her mechanical fighting style isn't that impressive, but it's a hoot to watch all of her facial expressions as she fights.

Banderas and Zeta-Jones are really terrific in their roles, but young Adrian Alonso steals the show time and again as de la Vega's son Joaquin. He's an impish little fellow who obviously has a healthy portion of Zorro blood running in his veins. His restless, action-oriented nature gets him in trouble and even puts him in danger on occasion, but the lad has all 31 flavors of spunk.

The Legend of Zorro just about has it all: swashbuckling action, adventure, gunplay, sword-fighting, explosions, romance, human drama, suspense, mystery, comedy, superb acting from top to bottom, etc. It's just a well-paced, thoroughly entertaining film that I enjoyed immensely. I daresay you'll get your money's worth with this one.

by Daniel Jolley
16 September 2006

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