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After losing everything at the hand of Don Rafael Montero (Stuart Wilson) and getting thrown into jail, the original Zorro (Anthony Hopkins) just disappeared, no longer protecting the Californian people. Now twenty years on and with the return of Don Rafael Montero, a new Zorro (Antonio Banderas) has appeared and the Don’s devilish plan of using the Californian people for his own ends will be tackled by a new masked avenger.

 Mask of Zorro, The
Twelve years old? The Mask of Zorro is twelve years old? Where did that time go? And a bigger question, how did it take twelve years for me to see this movie in its entirety? Sure, I’ve seen segments on TV and I’ve seen the cutting off of Catherine Zeta’s clothes countless times as that’s the only clip the promotion of the movie ever seemed to use, but this was the first time I’ve ever sat down with the intention of watching this movie play out.

With no real idea why I never got around to watching this flick I have to say I was pleasantly surprised with the entire thing. Not only is it a well-paced and full of fun little set pieces, but it really is a fine example of how to remake/re-introduce a classic movie character for a modern audience without reinventing the wheel or over cooking the elements that have worked so well for years. On top of that it was sort of refreshing to watch an action adventure that wasn’t drowning under the weight of its own over use of CG effects.

 Mask of Zorro, The
All the elements just work. There’s a good handful of dramatic arcs that I actually wanted to see pay off. The dynamic between Hopkins and his new apprentice was great but to have the deeper element of the original Zorro trying to reconnect with his stolen daughter added a whole lot of weight to the story and made a relativity straight forward origin story feel like it had a bit more going on. Banderas brought a great deal of charisma to the role as well with his usual likeable charm mixed with a real sense of fun, and was really what kept The Mask of Zorro so enjoyable. On a side note to the lead characters, Catherine Zeta Jones managed to avoid being annoying too. Outside of a few expressions that reminded me why I don’t like her performances usually, she captured the romantic elements needed for this sort of old school swashbuckling adventure really well and what with the discovery of her real father at stake, played a big part in making these characters believable.

I honestly enjoyed the hell out Mask of Zorro as it appealed to the old school adventure movie lover in me. Being Amblin produced it had that Indiana Jones thing about it without the stupidity of The Mummy movies to spoil the results. I think at some point I must have watched the old black and white TV show or sixties movies because I somehow felt accustomed to the finer points of Zorro’s character, (or it could be the references of the character in the Batman comic book mythology), but I guess it’s just that when you see a classic hero doing classic hero stuff this well it just feels good to be around. It may have taken me twelve years to come to this conclusion but The Mask of Zorro is a pretty good movie ain't it?

 Mask of Zorro, The

Video


Well for a twelve year old movie with style that looks decidedly older than the era it was made in, The Mask of Zorro looks pretty bloody great. The opening scenes in the courtyard full of townsfolk is rich in detail and when the contrast of their sandy browns and grey costumes counter against the army's red and gold uniforms, we get to see the colours pop out of the screen.

The exterior scenes with the warm sunlight all come with plenty of texture and detail, and other than the odd over cooked pink skin tone everything looks delightfully natural and clean. Skin details look very realistic especially with Hopkins ravaged twenty years in prison good looks and Banderas shaven jaw against his smooth black Zorro mask is loaded with fine detail. There are some soft scenes, mostly with the Catherine Zeta romanticised Vaseline on the lens shots but even when she’s not shown in soft-o-vision you can tell her skin is purposely meant to look flawless against the rugged swordsmen.

The transfer here is pretty fantastic with only its age showing off the differences between it and more HD sensitive modern movies on the shelves. I can’t imagine the movie has ever looked this good elsewhere although as I said in my review—I’m a first timer—so maybe the Superbit DVD was amazing or something, but however good it may have been, it couldn't possibly have looked like this.

 Mask of Zorro, The

Audio


You know from the opening credits that this movie has a lot to offer in the audio department. The bass of the score and the cougar-roar fire sound effects mixed with the swooshing of Zorro’s sword all sell the DTS HD-Master Audio track well. The opening crowd scenes feel layered and full and everything follows suit as the movie progresses.

Admittedly it’s not the most dynamic of tracks, but with a good balance of sound effects and score throughout, it’s a solid one and the finer effects like the clashing of swords or the cutting of clothes all show off in the track even if they're not emphasised to within an inch of their life.

Explosions are the only bass rockers and there are a good handful of those. Generally though, the fuller crowd moments don't return until the finale but this really is a solid track that fits the style of the movie well.

Extras


‘Unmasking Zorro’ (45:05 SD) is a making of the flick as well as a brief history of the Zorro character. Again this is a nice trip back in time and feels like a whole host of other movie making ofs from the late 90s/early 2000s. It’s nothing new but it was exactly the sort of making of you’d expect from an action/adventure.

 Mask of Zorro, The
There’s two deleted scenes (04:50 SD) which don’t offer much in the way of excitement and the ‘I Want to Spend my Lifetime Loving You Music Video’ (04:51 SD) is hard to listen to even once.

‘The Legend of Zorro: Behind the Scenes Sneak Peak’ (05:02 SD)  is a look at the sequel and the ‘Exclusive Scene from The Legend of Zorro’ (01:45 SD) isn’t much of anything really.

The director’s commentary is a serviceable track, but as with most solo tracks it’s hard to keep the momentum and really only focuses on the technical aspects that he and his crew achieved. It’s upbeat enough but not all that exciting.

Lastly there’s trailers for Julie & Julia, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs and The Da Vinci Code.

 Mask of Zorro, The

Overall


I may not be rushing out to buy the sequel or making Zorro my next fancy dress party costume of choice, but I thought The Mask of Zorro had more in common with the adventure movies of my youth than the poor excuses that knock around nowadays. The refreshing revisit to a time where CGI wasn't the fall back to cover weak storytelling came with an unexpected feel good factor and with a story this well plotted I have to say I was wrong to dismiss this twelve year old movie as "not up my street" for so long.

The Blu-ray has a solid presentation with a good (but nothing new) set of features, so fans might be left wanting a little more but as a catalogue title it's an acceptable effort.

* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.


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