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Thursday, 5 January 2017

Retro Review: The Mask of Zorro (1998)

The Mask of Zorro
Cast: Antonio Banderas, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Anthony Hopkins, Stuart Wilson
Genre: Swashbuckler
Worldwide Box Office Gross: over $250 million 

Plot: A young thief, seeking revenge for the death of his brother, is trained by the once great, but aged Zorro, who also pursues vengeance of his own

'Swashbuckling Adventure Where The 'Z' Hits The Spot'

Before I'd seen this film, there was a short-lived TV series of Zorro that aired in the 1990s when I was a teenager; it wasn't too bad, but nothing much to speak of. The Mask of Zorro was released towards the mid-late 1990s on the big screen, in an attempt to revive interest in the classic franchise and to breathe new life into it. And suffice to say, not only did it work wonders but personally speaking, I enjoyed it a great deal. 

The film is set in 1821 in Mexico with the original Zorro, Don Diego De Le Vega who pits his wits against his arch-rival and governor, Don Rafael Montero. When Rafael discovers that Don Diego is THE Zorro, he kills Zorro's wife, imprisons him and abducts and grooms Le Vega's daughter, Elena as his own. 20 years later, Elena has grown up into a beautiful woman and Rafael goes ahead with his plans to turn California into an independent republic. Elena is unaware of her actual heritage and of the fact that Diego is her real father. Don Diego, meanwhile, enlists thief Alejandro, of whom as a youngster did a favour to Zorro, to help him defeat Rafael; thus, exacting his revenge against the guy, Captain Love (who has a face that looks a lot like WWE wrestler, Chris Jericho) who killed his brother, and also grooms Alejandro into an avenging masked man. Alejandro then takes on the new mantle of Zorro. 

Antonio Banderas couldn't be any more fitting to play Zorro's successor and filling in his shoes - Zorro is like the Spanish Robin Hood, and it's great seeing the old guard teaching the new guard a few tricks. As the younger Zorro, he has a lot more swagger and just as much Spanish charm. Catherine Zeta-Jones as Elena plays a pivotal role in the film, but it just seems as though the writers didn't make the most out of her inclusion and develop her character further. However, I enjoyed her individual scenes with Anthony Hopkins and Antonio Banderas.

Banderas and Catherine Zeta-Jones are a perfect match as the would-be on-screen lovers; both complement each other, really well. Their playful scenes together are brimming with chemistry. Such as the sizzling tango/flamenco sequence. It's also great to see Anthony Hopkins on screen; the last major role he had before this film was as Hannibal Lector in Silence of the Lambs. He also played a pivotal role in 1996's Amistad. It's astonishing to think that Sean Connery was originally touted to play Don Diego, only for that role to go to Hopkins. Hopkins as the original Zorro exudates a charm and suaveness that goes with his swashbuckling antics. He makes his character almost real and genuine.

The antagonists, however, are the least developed,- although to be frank, I don't watch this film for them; therefore, the fact that they lack personality didn't make a huge amount of difference, nor affected my enjoyment of this film. 

It's interesting to see that even when they are fighting with swords, there isn't much blood drawn out. The film plays out more as a tribute to its origins, more than as a straight-up reboot. As well as the relationship developing between Elena and Alejandro, there is also the developing relationship involving Alejandro and Don Diego, and especially as they each have personal scores to settle with.

The training sequences are fun to watch and whilst it does get formulaic, there is more than enough entertainment and enjoyment that acts as pure escapism and joy to behold as we watch Banderas, Zeta-Jones and Hopkins take charge. Although much of the second half and beyond is dominated by Banderas and Zeta-Jones. The action is terrific and sometimes one cannot help but get caught up by it. 

Final Verdict:

Thoroughly entertaining throughout with effective and scene-stealing performances by Antonio Banderas, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Anthony Hopkins, The Mask of Zorro is not lacking in action and intrigue along with a great story. The casting overall is perfect, even if the antagonist bad guy characters lack personality and of whom are not much to ponder. 

Borrowing elements from other films, it carves out a film of its own making, and it's a rendition of Zorro that will appeal to everyone and not just the younger demographic. 

A swashbuckling romp that as old school and classic as it exuberates in its feel and seeped with tradition, this action- adventure is just as enjoyable and brilliant as I last saw it. The Mask of Zorro is a well-crafted effort and fun too, with a clear emphasis on adventure, love and mature wisdom and satisfaction.

It is an unofficial follow-up to The Legend of Zorro, and a follow-up that serves its legendary predecessor all too well, not to mention it hits the spot perfectly. 


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