LEGEND OF ZORRO, THE
Time has passed since Alejandro Murrieta (Antonio Banderas) took on the Mask of Zorro (1998). (He received his training at hands of the original Zorro (Anthony Hopkins), from whom he has inherited the mansion and the noble lineage.) He is now living as Don Alejandro de la Vega (Antonio Banderas), married - but only just - to Elena (Catherine Zeta-Jones), with whom he has a 10 year old son, Joaquin (Adrian Alonso). It's 1850 and California is about to join the Union as the 31st State, escaping from oppressive landlords and crooks under the protection of the United States. Unless someone can derail the formalization and create havoc for their own good reasons - like an agenda to weaken the US in favour of their own clique of European powerbrokers. Such a one comes along in the form of French aristocrat Armand (Rufus Sewell) - armed with a revolutionary new weapon.
Review by Louise Keller:
The music, the scenery and the indelible silhouette of the swashbuckling Zorro on horseback against a crimson sunset are the payoff for The Legend of Zorro, a sequel that works only on some levels. Sure, there's sultry Antonio Banderas and curvaceous Catherine Zeta-Jones flaunting an extravagant wardrobe and exaggerated cleavage. Plus there's Zorro's scene-stealer of a black stallion, which prefers being spoken to in Spanish, tosses his rider on cue, drinks wine out of a bottle and even smokes a pipe. If that's not enough to make you gape, the stunts will - they're as flamboyant as the legend. But that's where the cantering buckets to a halt: Martin Campbell's direction lacks a light touch, and the script is as pedestrian as the Mexican peasants. It's all overdone - and Rufus Sewell's accent as the French aristocrat is atrocious.
The film starts well with a thrilling set piece, showing Zorro as lithe as ever, displaying acrobatics coupled with his signature mischief. His foe is a wooden toothed, heavily scarred bandit (Nick Chinlund) who together with his band of ugly men, uses heavy handed tactics to terrify the locals. Never mind that there are a hundred candles already lit when Zorro heads home to Elena. There's obviously trouble in paradise and their obvious passion doesn't console Elena that her husband is not ready to hang up his mask for once and for all and be a hands on father.
Despite the fact that Banderas and Zeta-Jones look as though they are munching on an apple when they kiss, there's plenty of charisma between the two and they do make a handsome couple. And eleven year old Adrian as Joaquin is appealing as their son who gets into the equivalent of sword fights with his ruler at school. The Mexican scenery is spectacularly rugged with barren cliffs and vast plains, while the settings of sprawled out villas decorated with richly coloured climbing bougainvillea and ornate gardens are breathtaking.
There are sword-fights, acrobatics, explosions and a thrilling climactic sequence on a steam train involving Zorro and his horse. But it all goes on for much too long, and there's never much at risk - it's all theatrical. Even so, it's hard to shut out that haunting score as you leave the cinema.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
So Zorro has this marital problem in which the wife is sick of his being away, derring doing while their son doesn't even know he is Zorro. As the couple split amidst sharp words, California is trying to hitch itself to the Union, as a means of establishing freedom for the citizens, protected from the lawless opportunists that roam the land. (Cheap crack: they never could have foreseen that they would end up with the same crowd, albeit ghettoed in Hollywood ...)
The accusations fly: you're just doing this for your own ego, she says. This is who I am, he replies. Meanwhile, the baddies are trying to muscle their way into some land so they can build a railroad, so they can carry their supplies of (insert explosive new weapon) to conspire against the United States, which has been getting uppity and the old French aristocrats who run a secret organisation don't like it.
This tosh might even have worked with a bit more respect for audiences; I really enjoyed The Mask of Zorro (1998) which was made by the same team (plus Anthony Hopkins as the ageing Zorro handing over to Banderas), with a few writers changing places, but this adventure is a mix of careless bravado and moments of attempted political relevance. Reality is so totally shut out that we just don't care.
Zorro's 10 year old son, Joaquin (Adrian Alonso) and Rufus Sewell's Armand are the best things in the film, both for acting reasons, but the story and the execution are so crude and simplistic as to be dull. Not even his magnificent horse, which drinks and smokes, can tap dance the film into my heart. Thank goodness the music has been retained; at least you can revel in the score.
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LEGEND OF ZORRO, THE (M)
CAST: Antonio Banderas, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Adrian Alonso, Rufus Sewell, Alberto Reyes, Julio Oscar Mechoso, Gustavo Sanchez-Parra, Nick Chinlund, Giovanna Zacarías, Carlos Cobos, Michael Emerson, Shuler Hensley, Pedro Armendáriz Jr, Mary Crosby
PRODUCER: Laurie MacDonald, Walter F. Parkes, Lloyd Phillips
DIRECTOR: Martin Campbell
SCRIPT: Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Phil Meheux
EDITOR: Stuart Baird
MUSIC: James Horner
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Cecilia Montiel
RUNNING TIME: 129 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: December 26, 2005