Back Comments (8) Share:
Facebook Button
Sequels are generally made with the intention of cashing-in on a popular theme or concept. There are, of course, exceptions—like where the original movie was based on one of a series of books (as with the Bourne, Rings and Godfather trilogies—a rule that was shamefully ignored for the purposes of the masterpiece Man on Fire, which could have gone on to become a tremendous franchise for Denzel Washington), but when the significant time lapse and failing lead’s career come into play, it becomes apparent that the sequel is merely being used as a vehicle to change that state and revitalise said individual’s career. Stallone is trying his best with promises of Rambo IV and Rocky VI is the near future and here we find Antonio Banderas trying the same thing with a follow-up to the hit 1998 feature, The Mask of Zorro.

The Legend of Zorro

Feature


After a decade of fighting crime and injustice on the front line and trying to bring peace to California, Zorro (a.k.a. Alejandro de la Vega) is finally contemplating hanging up his hat and sword. After all, he has a ten year old son to take care of and a wife, Elena, who misses him dearly every time he escapes away on another dangerous adventure. So with the arrival of new Marshals to police the state, it would seem that the retirement of his antiquated masked alter-ego was long overdue. Unfortunately, with California on the eve of becoming a free state, vastly powerful and dastardly evil villains are plotting away in the shadows to profit from the situation, to the detriment of the poor and vulnerable. Of course, this is a job for Zorro and he cannot help but get involved, although the conspiracy is much deeper than he expects. With the lives and loyalties of both his wife and son on the line, he has to draw deep on his inner strength and faith, trying to regain the passion and power that he once held when he put the mask on. Will Zorro regain his former glory or merely become a legend who fell in combat?

I never really expected to see another Zorro movie come into existence (or at least, if it were to be, I would have expected it to more swiftly follow the original) but I can completely understand why so many returned to cash-in on the popularity of the original and, of course, the Zorro name itself. The director, Martin Campbell, was still reeling from his success at bringing Bond back into the limelight with the superior action-thriller, Goldeneye when he took on the original movie, The Mask of Zorro, and he did a very decent job there too. Much of the credit should really go to Anthony Hopkins, the real star of the show and the ‘original’ Zorro, but Banderas did not do a bad job at stepping into his shoes and Catherine Zeta Jones was suitably feisty and glamorous as the love interest. Campbell painted quite a solid tale of the fabled swordsman and his heritage, offering up a decent starting-block for a potentially lucrative franchise.

The Legend of Zorro
The Legend of Zorro sees Campbell returning to directorial duty and bringing with him his two main leads, but is it as good as the original? With all the best intentions in the world, this sequel clearly shows that some spark has been lost over the years, not only in terms of plot, but also in energy from the leads and from the director. They try really hard, but there success is questionable. In essence, The Legend of Zorro is a solid kids’ movie, telling a wholesome family adventure with decent morals, a clear line between good and evil, no blood, no swearing and mostly comic violence. Unfortunately the choice to angle it quite so severely towards a younger generation does have a significant impact on the dramatic tension and sheer gravitas of the movie.

Sure, nobody really watches Zorro for ‘gravitas’ but Hopkins did bring some quality acting to the first adventure and, with his departure, it appears that everybody else involved has simply given up on taking themselves (or anything else) seriously. I cringed on numerous occasions when Banderas made silly gestures, wholly un-witty retorts and clowned around, often midway through potentially serious swordfights. Even if you could excuse these annoyingly over-comical moments, the action scenes are so totally implausible that even for this kind of popcorn adventure it is still impossible to suspend disbelief. Normally involving a horse (who Zorro treats more like a cross between Kitt from Knightrider or Battlecat from He-Man), we get scenes involving horses riding through fire, jumping onto moving trains and so forth. It’s all a little bit too much even for Zorro and the CGI is far too apparent (I hate the overuse of effects in movies like this these days—leave the CGI for Spiderman, because that’s where it really works).

Antonio Banderas and Catherine Zeta-Jones try their best to carry the plot (which isn’t actually that bad) and look better in the roles than anybody else would, but they have distinctly limited material to work with, particularly in terms of script. Younger fans of the first film are probably going to be too grown up now to fully enjoy this new adventure, so I guess its true market appeal lies in a new generation, but unfortunately this more child-orientated effort definitely leaves older viewers out in the cold. If you really switch your brain off (and particularly if you’re watching it with your kids) then there are far worse ways to while away a couple of hours of your time, but be warned that it does not have anywhere near the depth or dramatic tension of the first movie (which was not exactly a great deal anyway) and has lost some of the spark and intensity over the years that have passed. The Legend of Zorro is a good effort, but it does not quite hit the mark.

The Legend of Zorro

Video


The Legend of Zorro is presented in a sumptuous 2.35:1 aspect ratio anamorphically enhanced widescreen transfer. The detail is generally very good indeed, with only a few moments of softness (no doubt to smooth out the age of the leads) and some marginal grain that can largely be ignored. There are a couple of obvious shots that showcase edge enhancement, but again these are quite negligible. The colour scheme really brings the movie to life, full of deep crimsons, brown oaks and solid blacks, and that’s just during the night-time sequences. Sunset, sunrise and glorious sun-blessed daytime shots all look even better. The transfer itself exhibits absolutely no signs of any print damage and it is a generally solid video representation of this recent sequel.

Audio


The main audio track is a decent Dolby Digital 5.1 effort, with clear and coherent dialogue throughout, coming largely from the frontal array. The effects are fairly keenly observed, whether the smaller nuances like footsteps in gravel, neighing horses and blazing fires or the bigger blasts like steam trains, gunshots or even explosions, often bringing the surrounds to life (and even giving us a little bass). The score is a fairly rousing effort, totally in-line with the style of the production and rounding off a perfectly decent audio representation. There is also an alternate English audio descriptive track for those who should so require it.

Extras


First up we get an audio commentary from the director, Martin Campbell, and director of photography Phil Meheux. They interact quite well but, as you would expect from these two, tend to focus a bit too much on the technical side of things. We get loads of information about locations, weather, lighting and how it was filmed, but less about the narrative (apart from a few editing titbits) and character design. Still, overall it is a reasonably interesting offering that should satiate avid fans.

The Legend of Zorro
In the featurettes section, there are four options: stunts, playing with trains, Armand’s party and visual effects. Each run for about ten minutes’ duration with contributions, respectively, from stunt coordinators, costume designers and visual effects supervisors. We also get to hear from Martin Campbell himself, as well as some of the main cast members. There is plenty of background footage, offering an alternative pre-effects view of some of the major stunt sequences, different angles on key scenes and lots of behind the scenes shots. Banderas talks about working with fire and doing many of his own stunts (although I would have liked to hear what the horse had to say about his involvement) and it is nice to see him in action rehearsing and hear how he is actually as good a swordsman as many of the stuntmen who were drafted in for the movie. After dissecting the all-important train-set finale, rounding off the featurettes with one specifically focussing on visual effects does unfortunately lead to a little bit of cross-over, but otherwise these extra offerings are rich and informative, with very little final film footage and plenty of behind the scenes shots and even storyboard comparisons to illustrate them.

We get five deleted scenes each running between one and three minutes in length and each with commentary by the director. The alternate opening and closing sequences have fixed commentary, where he explains how these scenes were supposed to bookend the story and show how Zorro handed over the mantle to his son. ‘Alejandro Drops off Joaquin’, ‘Chinatown’ and ‘Symphony by the Bay’ are deleted scenes with optional commentary explaining why they were removed, although when you watch them you are likely to already understand why. There’s no extra information here, no significant dialogue and certainly no extra action.

The multi-angle section offers two sequences presented in a multi-angle format, allowing you to compare rehearsal footage, behind the scenes footage and the final scene from the film by alternating through them using the angle button on your remote. The two main scenes they focus on are Armand’s party (three minutes) and the winery fight (one minute) and the best ‘angle’ is clearly the three-way split-screen option which shows you all three versions at once. Seeing Banderas and Zeta-Jones rehearsing the movies is easily the most interesting of the views.

Finally we get a series of trailers, including the upcoming Tom Hanks movie, The Da Vinci Code, Fun with Dick and Jane, Lords of Dogtown, the new Pink Panther movie, Zathura and the cinematic rendition of Rent.

The Legend of Zorro

Overall


The Legend of Zorro is a reasonable and enjoyable sequel, which won’t convince audiences that Antonio Banderas is back, nor persuade critics that Zeta-Jones can do anything other than look good, but will certainly please children across the world with its Sunday afternoon style family action-adventure. The DVD release boasts a decent transfer and soundtrack, along with a bunch of nice extras covering just about everything else you would want to know or see about the movie.


Links: