The Legend of Zorro Review
The Mask of Zorro, to which The Legend of Zorro serves as a follow-up, was a fine piece of unpretentious entertainment. A return to the long-forgotten swashbuckler with a dash of the Western thrown in for good measure, the film combined director Martin Campbell’s post-GoldenEye action movie savvy with an irreverent take on its eponymous hero. As portrayed by Antonio Banderas, this particular big screen Zorro was equal parts Douglas Fairbanks dash and Speedy Gonzales wisecracking self-deprecation.
Seven years later, or ten in narrative terms, and the main players have all returned. Campbell is once again at the helm, Banderas revisits the lead role and Catherine Zeta-Jones reprises her part as Zorro’s love interest and all round eye candy. Furthermore the likes of composer James Horner, production designer Cecilia Montiel and director of photography Phil Meheux have also decided to return to their original efforts. Yet whilst we have so many participants coming back for more, in each and every case they appear to be suffering from delusions to grandeur. Seemingly, The Mask of Zorro wasn’t just a moderate piece of fun which passed the time quite agreeably, but some grand epic or modern masterpiece. As a result they’ve now come up with an effort which is smug, self-satisfied, oversized and consequently bloated.
Returning to 19th century San Francisco, The Legend of Zorro attempts to co-exist with the politics of the time. We arrive in California just as it is about to become a free state and join the rest of the union, an event which should allow Zorro to retire were it not for the various Pinkerton agents and Confederates around the place. Indeed, the history is all rather indistinct and unimportant; the real point of interest as far as the filmmakers are concerned are the villains of the piece, in this case Rufus Sewell reprising his A Knight’s Tale turn as a European Count and his various unsavoury cohorts.
All of which would herald few complaints were it not for the fact that Sewell and co get lost in the somewhat bigger picture. Part of the reason for setting the film ten years later would appear to be because it allows for Banderas and Zeta-Jones to have a cute, wisecracking pre-teen son. Moreover, he also prompts a fair dosage of sentimentality given that he doesn’t know his father’s true identity even though he treats Zorro as an idol. Add to this a marital crisis for the central couple as a means of giving Zeta-Jones something to do as well as various bits of backroom skulduggery – blackmail and the like – and the result is a lumpen, unwieldy mess.
Indeed, The Legend of Zorro is actually shorter that its predecessor, yet proves considerably heavier and something of a slog. It waddles turgidly from scene to scene desperately seeking some kind of direction. One moment there’s Zorro’s horse smoking a pipe for a cheap laugh, the next a pointless polo match there solely to eat up some time. In fact, it often seems to be running through genres in an effort to recapture some of the original’s verve: as well as the Western and the swashbuckler, we also descend into bedroom farce and even get a drunken Banderas routine which appears to have strayed in from his modern screwball Two Much (although that film had a much lighter touch). Ultimately it’s only the brisk action sequences such as the opening set piece, despite their added flamboyance, which remind us why The Mask of Zorro proved to be so much fun in the first place.
Coming to the UK courtesy of Sony, The Legend of Zorro gets the kind of DVD release you’d expect from such a new venture. In presentation terms, the film comes across absolutely fine. The original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 is preserved and comes anamorphically enhanced. The print itself is in spotless condition and presents no problems. And technically, there are no problems to speak of. We get superb clarity and detail throughout, whilst Meheux’s cinematography is ably recreated. As for the soundtrack, here we find a DD5.1 in equally excellent condition. Crisp and clean throughout, it copes well with the sundry explosions and swishing blades, not to mention Horner’s over the top scoring.
The extras tend to err towards the technical side. The commentary which pairs Campbell and Meheux (who did likewise for the Mask of Zorro disc) is a chatty affair but generally concentrates on sets, the second unit, blue screen technology and the like. Each of the featurettes, which titles such as ‘Stunts’ and ‘Playing With Trains’, break down the more technical side of things and tell how the bigger were mounted. And the multi-angle scenes do likewise by allowing us to switch between rehearsals, B-roll footage and the final cut on two of the film’s set pieces. Indeed, it’s only the deleted scenes, including an alternate opening and closing which saw a grown-up Zorro’s son retelling the story of his youth, which offer a different perspective. That said, these prove to be brief and even without Campbell’s optional commentary readily apparent as to why they were cut.
Last updated: 19/04/2018 06:11:08