Legend of Zorro

In one scene in “The Legend of Zorro,” Zorro, aka Alejandro de la Vega (Antonio Bandaras), saves his son Joaquin (Adrian Alonso) from falling off a cliff. Zorro is Joaquin’s idol and father figure, considering his real, ever-absent father is usually gone on business. Zorro sees that Joaquin is hurt, and brusquely begins bandaging him, not allowing Joaquin to look at him and talking to him in Spanish, all in order to keep the ten-year-old from realizing who he truly is.

Joaquin recounts the information he has found out from the villains; as he speaks, like a typical little kid, he keeps turning to look at Zorro, but Zorro keeps grasping the top of Joaquin’s head and turning it away from his own face. Alejandro has a hard time not sounding like a dad, considering he’s shaken up about almost losing his son. He lectures Joaquin, in a manner different than Zorro usually uses with his fans.

During the scene, I was thinking “How cool would it be to have Zorro as a dad?” What makes the scene so riveting and heart-felt is that Joaquin is thinking the same thing. Before this moment, the two characters rarely have scenes together, but the openness and respect Joaquin is able to show Zorro, in contrast to the contempt he shows for his father, makes the audience feel like Alejandro actually is two people; the inner conflict he feels throughout the film is spotlighted in this one scene.

I wish Joaquin had interacted with his parents more in the film. It’s a shame that such an interesting character was created for the second movie, but was poorly incorporated into the lives of the original characters.

There were some very captivating scenes in the movie. I was fascinated each time Joaquin was on screen. I loved watching Elena (Catherine Zeta-Jones) being elegant, and Banderas be dashing and heroic. However, the three main characters didn’t mesh well together. The writers felt obliged to separate the three physically and emotionally. In the end, the separation made the plot feel contrived, a one-eighty turn from the first film. In “The Mask of Zorro,” the characters were deep, vivid, and, but there was also a strong storyline for the characters to react to. “Legend” tried to enthrall the audience with romance, action, and espionage, but there is a forced quality to the story that jars the film.

In “Mask,” the main conflict was between the real Zorro and his nemesis, Don Raphael (Stuart Wilson). Both characters were killed in the first movie, and the loss was felt deeply in the sequel, not by the characters, for Elena’s fathers were rarely mentioned in “Legend,” but by the story. Diego de la Vega (Anthony Hopkins) exhibited the same sort of duality and conflict that the second movie focuses around with Alejandro, but Hopkins added charisma and vivacity to the first movie. The way Banderas and Hopkins played off each other was a main reason to watch. “Legend” tries to replace Diego with Frey Felipe (Julio Oscar Mechoso), Alejandro’s priest friend, and although he is a very amiable character, he can’t quite fill the shoes.

Meanwhile, Don Raphael, Elena’s adopted father, and Captain Love (Matt Letscher), whom the audience loves to hate, are replaced by flimsy, cliché villains that add no suspense to the film. Armand (Rufus Sewell), the French count, and McGivens (Nick Chinlund), the dirty, toothless outlaw, are bad guys, but not good bad guys. They are flat, obvious, and cliché. Their dialogue is rehashed script from B westerns. There is none of Don Raphael’s ambiguity. When he died, Elena was upset, and the audience was moved for her. However, neither the audience nor characters ever feel for Armand. These villains also have none of the cunning the men in the first movie have. The scheme and motives concocted for “Legend” are far-fetched, even for a cartoonish action movie. With such a shallow threat to the main characters, the audience never doubts how the movie will end.

One thing I did appreciate was that the action scenes were not hogged by Zorro. Pretty much every character in the movie got to demonstrate their fighting skills, whether the situation was appropriate or not. Elena got to kick tail in an alleyway against two men, the friar got some kicks in, and Joaquin impertinently fences with his school teacher.

I was also glad to see that Tornado, Zorro’s horse, was able to negotiate more screen time, and more of a personality than he’d been given in the first movie. Off the record, I hear there is talk of a Tornado spin off, a movie called “Tornado Rides Again,” sort of in the same strain as “The Scorpion King.” Let’s just hope Tornado doesn’t get too big for his saddle.

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