The Legend of Zorro (2005) Review

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A litany of complaints about various things in this overstuffed two-hour long movie.

The Legend of Zorro (2005): 4 out of 10: The sequel to the well-received The Mask of Zorro is a disappointment. One might argue it borders on the outright bad. Let’s see if we can find out why. Or at the very least we can put on paper a litany of complaints about various things in this overstuffed two-hour long movie.

It’s okay, Antonio. That’s where I would look as well.

The Good

The Good: There are two great performances in this film – Julio Oscar Mechoso as the tough Padre Frey Felipe and Catherine Zeta-Jones as Zorro’s wife. Catherine Zeta-Jones doesn’t look a day older than she did in the first film and still does excellent work with her fight choreography and acting. The late Julio Oscar Mechoso humanizes his character of the monk teacher who takes care of Zorro’s son, and he has a gentle, quiet toughness to him.

Antonio Banderas with Julio Oscar Mechoso

The movie lights up whenever these two actors are on the screen.

Catherine Zeta-Jones

There are also some great action scenes in the film. Not nearly enough however for a movie that is over two hours long and feels like four but welcomed still the same.

Voting by mail Zorro style.

The Bad

The Bad: Unfortunately, for The Legend of Zorro, Catherine Zeta-Jones not aging makes Antonio Banderas look even that much older. Antonio is too old to play Zorro in this film. He looks tired, puffy, a bit sick. Forget believing Antonio is back flipping off of buildings. Antonio seems as if a fifty-yard sprint would wind him. He reminds one of Roger Moore in well any of the James Bond movies now I think about it. Unlike Bond, however, Zorro is a swashbuckler, and that is a fit man’s game if not a young man’s game.

I am getting too old for this shit.

Rufus Sewell as the bad guy in this film is all wrong. Weak, sniveling with a bad guy plan that looks as if it escaped from the Wild Wild West script. Sewell is a European aristocrat who is a member of a secret organization of well other European aristocrats who are afraid of America and, as a result, want to prevent California from joining the Union.

A secret organization that throws lots of fancy dress parties.

We will get to the history in a minute but Sewell is the kind of villain who has a giant lair complete with a snake strangling the world statue and he is having a meeting with all his European counterparts (How they got to California is again a mystery we will get to), and Sewell gives them his diabolical plan, and one of the compatriots says this is madness I will have nothing to do with this. This is of course followed by the obligatory I told you my secret plan, and you announced you are against me, but you are free to leave. Sewell then throws a bottle of nitroglycerin (Again we will get to the history stuff in a minute) at the man’s feet, killing him but not blowing up his secret lair or hurting anyone else. Yeah, he is that kind of villain.

I mean, this is just James Bond villain silliness. It’s impressive and I love the whole Slytherin motif, but good lord is it really silly.

Oh, and Sewell has Zorro tied up with a knife at this throat but decides not to kill him after all because Catherine Zeta-Jones asked him not to. This is understandable in a Catherine Zeta-Jones could talk me into anything kind of way, but Sewell is still too stupid to live.

Undercover Zeta-Jones takes evil mastermind out shopping for purses and hats.

The Ugly

The Ugly: A history lesson: Yes, once again I realize that it’s a movie, not a history lesson, but the movement away for anything resembling the reality of the time hurt my enjoyment of the film. Plus, if I call out the history, it will prevent me from going down that rabbit hole where I speculate how the hell are we supposed to buy Adrian Alonso as the biological kid of Antonio Banderas and Catherine Zeta-Jones. No wonder he doesn’t know Zorro is his father.

Of course, there may be other reasons he denies Zorro is his father.

This is less of a Skyscraper situation (Where Dwayne Johnson and Neve Campbell somehow have two African American children) rather than the little pudgy muppet simply doesn’t look anything like either Antonio Banderas or Catherine Zeta-Jones. Look as his chin and nose in the picture below compared to Zeta-Jones. These people are not related in any way.

I am no expert in Phrenology (I mean, who is nowadays) but yep not seeing the resemblance.

Maybe the kid was adopted after a dinosaur ate his drunk dad in The Beast of Hollow Mountain? Or perhaps the producers realizing they were making a movie about Mexican American’s fighting Confederates, (Confederates in California??? In 1850??? I know, I know, I am going to get to the history in a minute) thought it might be helpful to have a least one Mexican American among the main cast surprisingly stacked with Welsh people? (Catherine Zeta-Jones and our villain Rufus Sewell.)

We are only having passionate sex to save California from a group that will not exist for another ten years.

Where was I? Oh yes, history. Okay, here is the basic plot (or plots). Catherine Zeta-Jones is being blackmailed by the Pinkertons to divorce Zorro and take up with our villain Rufus Sewell, who is trying to prevent the vote for California statehood as part of his diabolical plan to weaken the United States. He teams up with the Confederacy, promising them nitroglycerin in exchange for allowing them to run native Mexican Americans off their farmland for the new railroad.

Our good guys, ladies and gentlemen.

Okay, gold was found in California in January 1848. California stopped being Mexico about ten minutes later in February 1848, and the population exploded. The Compromise of 1850 is how California became a state. There was no vote in California and because of the gold rush America had no idea how many people there even were in the state. The Compromise of 1850 is something one learns in school with all the black and white sketches of Henry Clay and Stephen Douglas. It is one of the most famous pieces of legislation from the 19th century. So we can quickly establish that 1850 is when this movie takes place, and there was no actual vote for statehood. (California was under a Military Governorship and was an occupied territory.)

No need for a get out the vote campaign. You can all go home now.

Here are the various things that did not exist in 1850. Confederate soldiers, railroads in California, a way to get to California that wasn’t five months long or filled with peril, Pinkertons, and Abraham Lincoln; (Well Abraham Lincoln did exist as he was a legislator in Illinois at the time, I am referring to the movie Abraham Lincoln who was at a non-existent signing ceremony celebrating a non-existent vote while on a non-existent railroad and being threatened by a non-existent train filled with more nitroglycerin than probably existed in the world at that time.)

This is what California looked like in 1850.

As you might have noticed above, one of the plot points is that the “good guys” {who are trying to prevent the terrorist plot to blow up Abe Lincoln to prevent California statehood (God, that really is stupid)} kidnap Catherine Zeta-Jones, force her to divorce Zorro, and marry the villain. (The marriage is supposed to be chaste per the film, which is less believable than the fifty foot mechanical spider from Wild Wild West which at this point I am thinking had a more realistic plot). Not since Alison Lohman sacrificed a kitten in Drag Me to Hell has a movie crossed an event horizon with its good guy plot that it simply can’t recover from.

We only had sex on Tuesdays. I had to save Abe Lincoln.

In Conclusion

In Conclusion: All the complaints above really wouldn’t matter if The Legend of Zorro didn’t feel twice the length that it was and lead Zorro, Antonio Banderas didn’t look like he was recovering from a particularly nasty bout of malaria. What a difference seven years makes.

An angry Antonio Banderas finds a place to put that shrimp.
Our bad gut henchman are not exactly subtle.
Honestly, the movie needed more Henchman on innocent villager action.
The villain in the middle is supposed to be P. G. T. Beauregard, who was a famous confederate general. In 1850, however, he was a 32-year-old army engineer in charge of preventing forts from sinking in the mud in New Orleans. (He actually has engineering patents and stuff)
Antonio doesn’t look awful in all the scenes by any means. But the action scenes are a bit rough.
We still love you, Antonio.
Oh yes, the school field trip to the exact location where the bad guys are executing their plot. And look, there is Zorro’s kid. What are the chances?
I am hardly on the Cultural Appropriation bandwagon. But that may not be Zorro’s best look.
Really good make-up on our villian. I am especially impressed by the teeth.,
Okay, so this isn’t the greatest composite shot ever made. But Rufus Sewell sells it.
Zorro takes her back after all the passionate Welsh on Welsh sex. Let’s be honest, we all would.
There was not nearly enough done with the Oddjob henchman with his blade collection.
What am I going to do with all the rest of these Catherine Zeta-Jones screenshots?
Fine.
Enjoy some Catherine Zeta-Jones screenshots.
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