Director: Martin Campbell
Cast: Antonio Banderas, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Giovanna Zacarias, Raul Mendez, Rufus Sewell, Adrian Alonso and Nick Chinlund
Runtime: 129 minutes
CARA Rating: PG for Sequences of violence/peril and action, language and a couple of suggestive moments
Pop quiz! Okay, so is it a good or bad sign when a hit adventure film spawns a sequel seven years after its initial release? Common sense says this is a bad thing, and I’m not talking about that pamphlet from Thomas Paine, but The Legend of Zorro proves a different truth.
Yes, it is true, The Legend of Zorro is half decent. Go ahead and slap that on your posters, Sony Pictures.
The plot is pretty much the traditional powerful bad guy wants to take over the world, or a sizeable portion of it, with some obscure evil plan that of course will never work. However, a Zorro film does not necessarily sink or swim because of its plot alone.
Remarkable locations, intense action and memorable characters can keep a popcorn film alive, especially one destined to mediocrity from the get-go. Most of these elements are at work here, helping to making the experience enjoyable.
Nick Chinlund, who played the bounty hunter Toombs in the misfire that was The Chronicles of Riddick, plays an effective sadistic henchman with a mouthful of wooden teeth.
Also notable is Adrian Alonso who is only slightly annoying as Joaquin, the child of Zorro and his beautiful warrior wife Elena played by Catherine Zeta-Jones. Thankfully Alonso’s screen time is mercifully limited.
Despite the fact that this Zorro outing is rated PG, the original The Mask of Zorro from the summer of ’98 was a hard PG-13, this new film is perhaps more brutal than its predecessor.
Although blood never spurts out spastically there are numerous instances of people dying, being burnt with fire and even exploding. Also, near the beginning a character falls into a cactus, resulting in a lovely face full of painful needles.
Thus, it is relieving to know that The Legend of Zorro doesn’t quite become the film for little kids its rating and trailers have suggested.
With that said, there is a level of goofiness that rears its ugly head at a few unfortunate spots. Still, the slapstick rarely becomes downright embarrassing, and the stupidest moments are already proudly displayed in the TV spots (I’m looking at you “E Z.”)
In short, this is far from a mature film but it is a successful match to the first film, and chances are if you enjoyed The Mask of Zorro, assuming you remember it, you will enjoy this.
Martin Campbell, the director of the original and of the upcoming Bond movie Casino Royale, keeps the action heavy and quick in this fluffy adventure. The film especially opens with a bang, not wasting any time to get straight into the action.
One aspect of The Legend of Zorro that is somewhat surprising is the beautiful cinematography. Certain shots are really breathtaking, and most of the action takes place in clear day and can actually be followed.
Speaking of this, some of the stunts are eye catching. Refusing to use the popular digital stuntmen of today’s day and age it is refreshing to see a real stuntman doing flips and jumps.
It is probably a double blessing that CG is rarely used, for when it does appear it truly is laughable. There is one computer generated reaction shot of a horse widening its eyes that is so absurd in both idea and execution that, well, it is a very good thing that if you blink you will miss it.
Still, the fight sequences are impressive, if absurd. Banderas himself gets in some wicked sword moves, and the mix of the aforementioned stunt doubles and the actors is well balanced.
That is, except for the stunt double of Joaquin who clearly is an adult. How exactly the child of Zorro even became so talented in fighting remains a mystery. Is it implied that his “Zorro” genes give him the unique ability to do acrobats at age 10?
There are actually many moments that require quite a bit of suspension of disbelief, but with this type of film that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Worse, though, is the two hour plus runtime, as this vapid action adventure begins to wear out its welcome about twenty minutes too early. It doesn’t really ever become terribly boring or unbearable to the point of inducing stress, but some stuff could have been cut. This certainly shouldn’t pretend to be The Lord of the Rings.
With all this said The Legend of Zorro works. Likely successfully because much of the talent from the original film has returned, this film is in the same league as its predecessor. There are more moments that work than ones that don’t.
In the end it can be put bluntly: if the idea of a new Zorro film interests you, you won’t be too disappointed. If it doesn’t, well, this won’t convert non-believers.
Critic’s Conclusion: Although the timing of an action adventure film for Halloween is a bit weird, perhaps The Legend of Zorro will prove to be successful counter programming. If you enjoyed the first film (assuming you remember it), you will enjoy this fluffy but enjoyable ride.