Remember back in high school, there was that one girl that you thought was really hot. You didn’t know her very well, but you were always very interested in spending more time with her. Whenever you passed her in the halls at school, she would always flash you a smile and say “hi”, but you were too intimidated to go talk to her. Finally, after a month or two, you got up enough nerve to ask her out, and of course she said yes, and you felt like the biggest stud in the world. You picked her up at her house, and she was looking extra fine, and you had a feeling that something good was gonna happen that night. You get to the restaurant or wherever, and you start to talk to her, and you slowly begin to realize something: you don’t really like her. In fact, she is annoying the hell out of you, talking about her little brother, her friends, her make-up, her old boyfriend, whatever. By the time the food arrives at the table, you are wishing you were back at home watching the Lakers-Celtics game (remember, it was the mid-1980’s). And by the time dinner is over, you can’t wait to drop that girl back off at home so you can get on with your life.
That’s how I felt about watching the DVD for The Legend of Zorro. My expectations for this DVD were pretty high, given how cool and glitzy the commercials and the trailers were, and how good the original The Mask of Zorro was (and Legend has most all the important people back on it: stars, director, and several of the writers). And to be honest, I got the movie poster stuck in my head, with the image of Zorro on the horse with the brilliant red sunset behind them. In my mind, this was a great movie already, even though I hadn’t seen it. I didn’t make it to the theater to see it on the big screen, so I was excited when it came out so quickly on DVD. Driving home
after getting the movie, I was thinking “this is gonna be great!”
I got home and put the movie on, and everything started off OK. We are told that it is now 1850 (some 10 years after Mask took place), and California is about to join the
union and become the 31st State, escaping the oppressive landlords and crooks that run California currently. The initial scenes bring you into the story quickly, showing Zorro (Antonio Banderas, of course) as lithe as ever, displaying acrobatics as well as his signature playful fighting style. His adversary is a heavily-scarred, wooden-toothed bandit (played by Nick Chinlund) who, together with his posse, use heavy-handed tactics to terrorize the locals, in an effort to keep their votes from being counted and thereby keep California from joining the Union. The fight scene is pretty cool as all the bad guys are vanquished or otherwise dispatched, and Zorro carries the ballots to the Governor’s mansion where they are quickly tallied. With Zorro’s help, those ballots made all the difference in the election, and it is announced that California will indeed become a State and join the Union. The triumphant Zorro celebrates, knowing that the last 10 years of fighting have finally paid off with this achievement. So at this point in the movie, I’m thinking “So far so good”. But alas, that’s pretty much where the fun stops.
The movie goes quickly downhill from there. We learn that Alejandro Murrieta (Zorro’s real name from the first movie) is now living as Don Alejandro de la Vega. Having inherited this new noble lineage, as well as the mansion and estate, from the original Zorro (Anthony Hopkins character from the first movie), he is now married – though just barely – to Elena (Catherine Zeta-Jones), and they now have a 10-year-old son Joaquin (played by Adrian Alonso). Now that the people of California will be free of their oppressors after it achieves Statehood, Elena wants Alejandro to retire as Zorro and spend more time with the family. But Zorro isn’t quite ready to hang up the gay blade just yet, and tells her that California will continue to need him for the next three months (the time before the actual joining takes place). She gets frustrated, and throws him out. She then files for divorce. Let’s pause the review here for a minute, so I can make an observation: if I wanted to see a guy who was trying to do the right thing only to get beat down by a woman for it, I could have just been talking to my wife, not watching The Legend of Zorro. The movie was morphing from an action movie to a relationship movie right before my eyes! I knew it would be trouble right then and there!
So the movie fast-forwards three months (in disorienting fashion), to find Alejandro alone and borracho, while Elena has been seen with Armand, the French aristocrat who bought the wealthy estate down the block. And from then on, the movie most closely resembles a drunk driver, unfocused and swerving all over the road. There’s a land-grab by a local bad guy who is in cahoots with the Frenchman. And the Frenchman builds his own railroad so that he can ship large supplies of a mystery explosive substances into California and carry them back across country for use in a conspiracy to overthrow the United States. There’s a grand plot involving guys in Confederate Uniforms (even though the story takes place 10 years before the Civil War). And there’s even a cameo by Abraham Lincoln, even though it was another 10 years before he ran for president. It’s silly, dumb, and stupid, and we deserve better.
And while I’m nit-picking, I must point out the biggest sin of this move: even the action sequences are disappointing. First off, just about every Zorro fight looks too easy, as dozens of bad guys get defeated by Zorro’s athleticism alone. Why don’t they just shoot him? And secondly, the action sequences seem overly-theatrical, as if there is nothing at risk. The movie’s frequent stunts play like well-choreographed foregone conclusions. Nothing here to take your breath away, or that you haven’t seen before.
And the DVD special features are more of the same. There is a director’s and cinematographer’s commentary track, but their lack of inspiration combined with their monotone voices make it too boring to watch much of. There are four featurettes, with the most interesting ones being about Stunts and about Visual Effects, but since the stunts themselves aren’t so hot, learning about how they were done isn’t really fun either. There are four deleted scenes, none of which are interesting or relevant to the movie. And there’s a multi-angle scene deconstruction feature for two scenes, which are kinda neat for the first five minutes. In short, the special features aren’t anything special. There is no reason to watch the Legend of Zorro DVD. Very disappointing.