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Don Diego de la Vega is the hero of the poor
Known as Zorro, who has allies and sworn enemies galore.
When the governor Montero learns of his identity,
He arrests him and abducts his child Elena wickedly.
Twenty years go by before Montero seeks his captive foe,
Bringing his adopted daughter back with him to Mexico.
De la Vega then escapes, intent on his revenge and hate,
But the sight of his Elena causes him to hesitate.
In the meantime, Alejandro Murrieta is well-known
As a bandit with his brother, but he soon is all alone.
Army Captain Love attacks and cruelly claims his partners twain,
Prompting in him dreams of vengeance, which at this point are in vain.
Zorro takes young Alejandro, seeing some potential there,
And he trains him in sword fighting in his secret Zorro lair.
After lessons hard and long, the newest Zorro tries his hand,
Posing as a wealthy don to learn of what Montero’s planned.
Alejandro is intrigued by beautiful Elena, who
Cannot help but be enamored of this masked intruder too.
When Montero tells his plot to buy the nation with bravado,
He shows off poor peasants forced to labor in his El Dorado.
Alejandro steals a map and fences in the poor’s defense,
Even as the bad guys try mass murder to hide evidence.
Both the Zorros, old and recent, battle their respective foes,
And Elena helps their struggle, thanks to shocking truths she knows.
Alejandro takes revenge, and de la Vega follows suit,
Though the latter man is wounded, dying worthy of salute.
Alejandro weds Elena now that justice has been won,
And he shares their grand adventure with Joaquin, their infant son.

The Mask of Zorro isn’t exactly an origin story, but a changing of the guard from one Zorro to the next, a difficult endeavor that was amazingly satisfying. The opening action scene of Errol Flynn-style derring-do conveys a lifetime of such heroics, and expert thespian Anthony Hopkins as the elderly Zorro pulls it off, even if his accent is out of place. Antonio Banderas fits in perfectly both because he is actually Hispanic and because his swashbuckling swagger is one of the film’s main pleasures. Banderas was a natural at sword fighting, according to fight choreographer Bob Anderson, and I’m not surprised. Another big draw is his on-screen chemistry with Catherine Zeta-Jones, who manages a seductive Latina allure despite being Welsh.

The film is basically a revenge tale set against a historical backdrop. Historical events, such as the Mexican-American War, are mentioned in passing, and Alejandro’s brother and accomplice were real Mexican bandits who met the same grisly fate (more or less) as in the film. Any historical inaccuracies are not as glaring as in the 2005 sequel The Legend of Zorro, which pales in comparison to the drama of this original.

Though a few scenes during de la Vega’s prison escape recall Spartacus and The Count of Monte Cristo, the film is still dashingly original while paying tribute to its many predecessors from the first half of the century. At a time when overblown reboots were just starting to become the Hollywood norm, The Mask of Zorro favored practical stunts and emotional narrative over gimmicks or cinematic extravagance. It’s a thrilling and mostly clean film (aside from one or two scenes) that brings to life one of the original “superheroes” of pulp fiction.

Best line: (Diego, referring to Alejandro’s sword) “Do you know how to use that thing?”   (Alejandro) “Yeah, the pointy end goes into the other man.”

Artistry: 8
Characters/Actors: 9
Entertainment: 9
Visual Effects: 9
Originality: 7
Watchability: 8
TOTAL: 50 out of 60

Next: #116 – Terminator 2: Judgment Day

© 2014 S. G. Liput

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