05 September 2021 480 Views

#CrimeoftheScene: LEGEND OF ZORRO (2005)

by James Murphy

What’s wrong with this picture? Well, rather a lot. But it hinges, as ever, in this series, on one particular thread. 

 

 

1998’s MASK OF ZORRO was a triumph. It felt like a new Indiana Jones (apt as Spielberg produced it and leading man Antonio Banderas is now on supporting cast duties in the 5th ‘Indy’ adventure). Sequels were inevitable, given a warm critical reception and solid commercial success to that first outing.

Quite why they waited SEVEN YEARS to make another one? Dunno. But it most certainly was not in the bid to craft the perfect story /plot. Because for some bizarre reason, 2005’s LEGEND OF ZORRO hinges on the conceit that Mrs Zorro (Catherine Zeta Jones; lovely as always) must ‘divorce’ Mr Zorro (Banderas: committed to the role and brilliant).

The contrived reason for the divorce charade? Brace yourselves. The Pinkerton detective agency has deduced Zorro’s identity and they therefore blackmail his wife into leaving him so that she can seduce a new baddie on the block (Rufus Sewell: so underused and underrated on film it’s a crime).

I know. A 12 year old could come up with a better pitch, surely? And this movie includes a kid who can probably do so. (I honestly do not mind them using Zorro Junior, but given that there was no third film, the family setup and torch passing now seem redundant add-ons. ‘My pappy is gonna kick yer..’. Etc. ).

Terrible shame. Because some genuine thought clearly went into researching the history of the period in which the film is set. There is in that sense a kind of continuity to the first film and some respect for the ‘legend’ of the title. The villain’s plan is genuinely epic and Bond movie worthy (notice director, Martin Campbell, helmed GOLDENEYE and CASINO ROYALE). There is some solid action. A few laughs and thrills. Zorro was so close to perfecting the second, difficult album.

But that whole ‘divorce’ angle ruins everything. Seriously. It sours the entire film. In part because the logic deployed surely would have allowed Pinkertons and Mrs Zorro to simply ASK Zorro to go along with their plan? There was little to any need for the subterfuge.

And in any event, if this is a script into which historical research has been invested (so it would seem, anyway)..are we absolutely SURE that ‘divorce’ even existed in the strictest sense, back then? Presumably, also, Zorro is a strict Catholic, too? So divorce a no-no?!

Anyway, Antonio/Zorro/De La Vega ‘buys’ into his wife’s deception? Or does he? It’s THAT badly executed one is never quite sure. He even goes through the paces of winning her back to reignite a chemistry and courtship that worked in part 1 but did not need a retread as filler for its own sake. I

t’s tragic because the movie wants viewers to invest, enjoy, and feel the kind of emotional, comedic and romantic pull that defined the preceding adventure. EPIC FAIL. ON EVERY LEVEL. And that is mostly, no almost entirely, down to ONE point in the film’s foundations: the ‘divorce’ thing, imho. Had I mentioned that yet? 😉

There was of course no ZORRO 3 in this continuity. Though a DJANGO MEETS ZORRO movie was mooted and would have rocked as Tarantino’s nod to franchise filmmaking after his knock backs on Star Trek and 007? 

Fede Alvarez is said to be in charge of a new reboot at Sony, with an origin story based on Zorro’s first pulp volume appearance: Johnston McCulley’s The Curse of Capistrano. More news on that when we have it. Meanwhile, I am off to rehearse my sword fighting, medallion swinging and flamenco dancing. 

Olé! 

Post script: For a definitive Zorro retrospective, try MIDNIGHT’S EDGE on YouTube

 

 



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