I found this title's existence a little confusing at first. The original film had completely passed me by so I was unaware that it had been such a success, let alone popular enough to warrant a sequel. However, after doing some research - the original seems to have been very popular indeed. It may have taken them a rather bewildering seven years, but eventually Banderas and Zeta-Jones were persuaded to reprise their roles and in 2005 The Legend of Zorro was released into movie theatres.
Maybe, just maybe, that seven year gap was what proved to be the film's undoing. After all, the first rule of sequel making is to strike whilst the iron is hot. Whatever the reason was though, this film flopped at the cinema and is now ripe for reappraisal on HD format.
The plot concerns the tribulations of Zorro (Antonio Banderas) and Elena (Zeta-Jones) who has thrown him out of the house. She has filed for a divorce and has hooked up with Count Armand (Rufus Sewell) a French aristocrat who also (unknown to her) happens to be an evil terrorist. It is up to Zorro to save his marriage, and destroy Armand. Actually, come to think of it, this film's lack of success may well also be down to the plot. Let's face it, that one is pretty lame.
However, come to the film with no expectations at all and you actually get quite an enjoyable, if rather anaemic, film. The domestic situation that Zorro finds himself in is thankfully overshadowed by a much bigger plot - that of the fight for the state of California and the ultimate fate of the United States as it teeters on the edge of civil war. At the same time, Zorro (in his normal guise) is attempting to mentor his son who has no idea of his true identity.
The film is directed by Martin Campbell, and admirably he eschews CGI - preferring to shoot stunts being performed by real stuntmen in real time. This does lead to some memorable and pretty amazing scenes that do genuinely look real and gritty - something that is all to rare in modern cinema. The swordplay is quick and flashy, the stunts breathtaking, and the scenery spectacular.
The acting is also excellent for an action movie. Banderas is an engaging presence, as well as a handsome man, and his soulful performance is likely to appeal to men from an acting point of view whilst also captivating the female audience on more than one level. Likewise Zeta-Jones, who whilst not being the finest actress ever to set foot on a film set does have an excellent and believable chemistry with Banderas.
Indeed, it is this chemistry that does a lot to carry the film through some ropey moments. The two actors really do spark off each other, lighting up the screen whenever they appear together. It is easy to believe in the tempestuousness of their relationship, whilst also believing in an attraction.
Unfortunately, the film seems to be aiming a little....young - and this doesn't always sit well with the more worldly concerns of the civil war plot. The addition of a child for Zorro illustrates this, and the sword fights and stunts never really seem to end with anyone being killed or seriously hurt. It results in a film that looks spectacular - but comes across as a live action version of Tom and Jerry, where you never feel a true sense of jeopardy.
Despite it's flaws - Zorro is not a bad film as such. It is just so relentlessly mediocre it is likely to pass people by. Lacking the cheese factor of, for example, the Resident Evil films, this is not so bad that it is good, or possessing enough qualities to raise it above the merely average.
As such it may well be a title that would be worth a rental, to pass away a harmless evening - but it is not a film I would want to pay top dollar for to watch again and again,
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