Movies: The Legend of Zorro

Somehow we missed watching this movie when it first came out on DVD. Last night we remedied that. I only vaguely remembered its predecessor, The Mask of Zorro, but when my husband and son watched a preview of the sequel on the internet, I overheard enough to want to watch it also. And unlike most critics and viewers, I actually liked the sequel better.

The Mask of Zorro is described in one comment as “sexy and swashbuckling,” while this sequel is too tame, too “family-oriented.” I guess I’m very family-oriented, because it is that aspect of the movie that most appeals to me. There’s plenty of swashbuckling, but the relationship between Alejandro and Elena is strained by his failure to keep a promise to give up being Zorro. He also has hidden this identity from his son Joaquin, who is becoming a little Zorro and is deeply disappointed in his father’s failure to fight back at injustice.

Perhaps that’s why most superheroes aren’t family men. How can you fight bad guys while you’re busy raising a family? How can you keep your family safe when bad guys know you are vulnerable to loss in that regard? How does a superhero’s wife deal with knowing the danger her husband is not only getting into but deliberately choosing to face? How does a child deal with the contrast between the father’s public and secret identity?

The Legend of Zorro explores all that, while involving all three de la Vegas – separately, so the others do not know of it – in foiling some nefarious plot (the details only come out very near the end). It takes a great many liberties with history, primarily by ignoring the decade gap between California becoming a state and the formation of the Confederate States of America. But as implausible as the story is, it’s a lot of fun to watch.

At least, for me it was. Apparently a lot of Zorro fans were bored by it. As the only other Zorro movies I had seen were The Mask of Zorro and my husband’s favorite, Zorro, the Gay Blade, I have little to compare it with. According to Jennifer White at Zorro: The Legend through the Years, “in general, the better, higher quality, and more memorable versions of Zorro are the ones that retell the original legend of Zorro,” as opposed to the ones I have seen, which build on the legend to tell another story.

After reading through a Zorro chronology, as well as Jennifer White’s discussion of the development of the Zorro legend through almost eighty years of books, movies, and TV series, I am interested in reading and seeing more of Zorro. Growing up, I heard the name but had no idea who he was, other than that he was some kind of Mexican equivalent of the Lone Ranger (which I never saw either, but heard about a little more).

Having studied Spanish, I learned something of the history of the region where these stories are set, and I find it fascinating to compare actual history with the historical fiction based on that period, and to compare different versions of the fictional story. For years I collected every book I could find on King Arthur, both non-fiction studies of the legends and various retellings of them – until such retellings became so plentiful that it became hard to pick out the good ones from the mediocre majority.

I don’t plan to fill a bookcase – or a DVD case – with a similar Zorro collection, but the local library probably has plenty to get me started exploring the Zorro legend.

3 Responses to Movies: The Legend of Zorro

  1. Peter L says:

    The only thing I did not like about Legend was the railroad incident- way overdone and too Disney-esque for my tastes. I enjoyed Mask, though I thought Selma Hayek’s character too modern. I did see some of the TV shows growing up, but do not remember any of them. If you have not seen the 1920’s silent version, get it. It is probably the best of the movies, though kind of predictable. It has more of a humorous tone to it.

  2. Pauline says:

    The railroad incident probably was overdone. But what does it mean for something to be Disney-esque? I’ve seen that criticism before, and usually I think it has to do with stuff like singing animals. I might consider some of the humor with the horse in that category (but I did think it was cute when they had him smoking a pipe). But what about the train would be considered Disneyesque?

  3. Peter L says:

    To me, Disney-esque means overdone or tacky, as well as too predictable (you just know that train is going to stop in time).

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