Film: The Mask of Zorro

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Film:

The Mask of Zorro

Director: Martin Campbell
Honors:
Genres:
Distributor: Sony Pictures

In this day of movies in which one can’t tell whether the action was manufactured by computer generation or by a cookie cutter, The Mask of Zorro is a grand throwback. It recalls and celebrates the fantasy workshop that Hollywood was and can be at its best. It’s an audience pleaser in the best sense of the word, combining great-looking performers with gorgeous vistas and production design, a story that is familiar yet never insults the viewer’s intelligence, and plenty of eye-popping action.

Anthony Hopkins stars as the original Zorro, a masked…

Reviews

Amazon.com

In this day of movies in which one can’t tell whether the action was manufactured by computer generation or by a cookie cutter, The Mask of Zorro is a grand throwback. It recalls and celebrates the fantasy workshop that Hollywood was and can be at its best. It’s an audience pleaser in the best sense of the word, combining great-looking performers with gorgeous vistas and production design, a story that is familiar yet never insults the viewer’s intelligence, and plenty of eye-popping action.

Anthony Hopkins stars as the original Zorro, a masked vigilante protecting his people from official corruption in Mexico and what will become California (from Hannibal Lecter to Merchant-Ivory to action hero—is there nothing this man cannot do?). He’s imprisoned for his troubles, and upon his release, mentors an impetuous pupil (Antonio Banderas, more suave than ever) in the fine arts of swordplay and triumphing over evil. Catherine Zeta-Jones capably portrays the beauty linked to both men—Zorro I’s daughter, Zorro II’s object of desire.

The plotting contains few surprises, but the interplay between the three leads is always winning, and the winks to the swashbuckling genre are playful without ever being heavy-handed or campy. —David Kronke

A lusty and rousing adventure, this calls to mind those glorious costume dramas produced so capably by the old Hollywood studio system—hardly surprising, in that its title character, a de facto Robin Hood in Old California, provided starring vehicles for Douglas Fairbanks and Tyrone Power, the ‘50s TV hit, and dozens of serials and features. Zorro, a pop-fiction creation invented by Johnston McCulley in 1918, is given new blood in this fast-moving and engaging version, which actually works as a sequel to the story line in the Fairbanks-Power saga, The Mark of Zorro. A self-assured Anthony Hopkins is Don Diego de la Vega, a Mexican freedom fighter captured and imprisoned just as Spain concedes California to Santa Ana. Twenty years later, he escapes from prison to face down his mortal enemy, a land grabbing governor played with slimy spitefulness by Stuart Wilson. Too old to save the local peasants on his own, he trains bandito Antonio Banderas to take his place. Much swashbuckling ensues as Banderas woos Catherine Zeta-Jones, becomes a better human being, and saves the disenfranchised rabble. Director Martin Campbell wisely instills a measure of frivolity into the deftly choreographed action sequences, while letting a serious tone creep in when appropriate. This covers much ground under the banner of romantic-action-adventure, and it does so most excellently. —Rochelle O’Gorman

Barnes and Noble

One of moviedom’s most venerable heroes makes a rousing return in this sumptuously produced swashbuckler, a superior example of the genre crammed with atmosphere, action, drama, and romance. Anthony Hopkins portrays the original Zorro, a hero to the downtrodden masses of 18th-century California, finally unmasked and imprisoned by the tyrannical Don Rafael Montero (Stuart Wilson), who compounds his crimes by stealing Zorro’s infant daughter and raising her as his own. Twenty years later, the aged Zorro returns, training the penniless bandito Alejandro (Antonio Banderas) in the use of whip and sword and enjoining him to don the mask of Zorro and lead the battle against Montero. In the process, Alejandro falls in love with Zorro’s now-grown daughter, Elena, played in spirited fashion by the ravishing Catherine Zeta-Jones. Director Martin Campbell (Goldeneye) manipulates the Zorro legend ever so slightly to suit the demands of his sprawling story, but his tinkering is more than offset by the exuberance of his thrilling action set-pieces, the most elaborate ever filmed for a Zorro movie. The film contains plenty of humorous, tongue-in-cheek moments but never descends to the level of camp. All in all, The Mask of Zorro is an eminently worthy successor to earlier films featuring Johnston McCulley’s fabled “Curse of Capistrano” and makes sterling entertainment for the entire family. This DVD Special Edition includes a commentary by Campbell, the documentary Unmasking Zorro (which touches on the character’s illustrious history), deleted scenes, a music video for the film’s hit song, “I Want to Spend My Lifetime Loving You,” a gallery of costume-designer sketches, and numerous trailers and TV spots.


Ed Hulse

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