The year is 1850 and our swashbuckling crusader is challenged by the most dangerous mission of his life. After fighting to help California become the 31st state of the Union, Zorro (Banderas) must live up to the promise he made his wife Elena (Zeta-Jones) - to give up his secret identity and live a normal life as Alejandro de la Vega. When he hesitates, it threatens to tear them apart. Now, the same forces that conspired to keep California from becoming part of the United States are plotting to unleash a threat that has been 500 years in the making, a threat that could change the course of history forever. And only Zorro can stop it. (from Sonypictures.com)
In 1998, legendary swashbuckling hero Zorro returned to the big screen in The Mask Of Zorro. The film was well-casted, putting Antonio Banderas in the black mask and cape and delivering the stunning Catherine Zeta-Jones a breakout role. The PG-13 film was a near-instant classic, but suffered from some truly unnecessarily violent and gross content that hindered the film from being a staple family film. 2005's The Legend Of Zorro is the belated sequel that tones down the franchise for the family, albeit still remaining quite violent at times.
I have to admit that although it seems to have taken forever to finally give the film a sequel, it was great to see Banderas and Zeta-Jones in their roles together again. Legend, having been toned down for family, is strung together by more adult themes, building much of the story around the marital tension between Alejandro and Elena. Set ten years after the 1998 story, the couple are raising their sun Joaquin, who knows nothing of his father's heroics, and barely knows him because of his secrets. Elena has grown tired of Alejandro's role as Zorro and longs for him to settle down as the three of them. The story weaves this element into the main plot quite well, offering a few interesting twists and turns along the way.
I was pleasantly surprised how good newcomer Adrian Alonso was as their son Joaquin. I have to admit I was quite terrified how the two of them having a son would affect the film (let's not forget how silly and poorly executed the main characters in The Mummy Returns having a son ended up being). Thankfully, I found the child to be a terrific little actor who was able to be mischievous yet charming and believably emotional when needed. It was excellent to see Banderas don the mask once again, and for Zeta-Jones to return to her firecracker of a role. Unfortunately, Zorro does take a back seat to Joaquin and even the drama between Armand and Elena for good portions of the film. But some of Legend's best moments is when Alejandro and Elena are interacting or the three are together.
The action was mixed. Some stunts were spectacular while a lot of the special effects were second-rate at best (the fire effects were especially cheesy). It seemed kind of strange to watch Zorro fight and never stab anyone with his sword, but there was plenty of gunfire and physical fighting in the film. But the violence surprised me at times. It's especially stuff like a scene where a man's head is blown up by explosives off-screen that I was surprised to find in a PG film. There's also another brief intense sequence where Elena finds a couple discolored dead men who had been murdered stashed in a closet. Another scene involves a shoot-out at a ranch that leaves a character dead with his wife weeping hysterically over him. It just seemed that some moments seemed rather heavy for a targeted younger audience.
The Legend Of Zorro possesses a sort of strange spirituality to it. McGivens, the chief villain in the film, spouts scripture and commits evil and violent crimes in the name of the Lord. However, the film balances this out with the presence of Friar Felipe who is more true to his faith, and Alejandro's leanings to seeking God's direction for his role as Zorro. I was a little concerned with the portrayal of McGivens as being so evil while claiming to be a doer of God's work, but I was glad to see the good guys given a healthy belief and devotion in the Father to contrast it. McGivens made for a great villain, but his portrayal was still borderline to a degree.
All in all, I ended up really enjoying The Legend Of Zorro. It may not be as strongly written and played-out as its predecessor The Mask Of Zorro, but it's a more than worthy sequel, and one of the better follow-ups for a series in recent memory (not like the travesty Men In Black II or the silly and problematic Shanghai Knights, for example). Most fans of the 1998 film should enjoy this installment, while those looking for an exciting family outing will definitely find one in The Legend Of Zorro, but will want to proceed with caution nonetheless.- John DiBiase, (reviewed: 11/2/05)
Disclaimer: All reviews are based solely on the opinions of the reviewer. Most reviews are rated on how the reviewer enjoyed the film overall, not exclusively on content. However, if the content really affects the reviewer's opinion and experience of the film, it will definitely affect the reviewer's overall rating.
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