Superhero Month: "The Mask of Zorro"

Photo Credit: TriStar Pictures

Superhero Month: "The Mask of Zorro" Review

-- Rating: PG-13 (some intense action and violence)
Length: 136 minutes
Release date: July 17, 1998
Directed by: Martin Campbell
Genre: Action, Adventure, and Romance

"The Mask of Zorro" is a well-executed, action-packed film, directed by Martin Campbell, that's centered around the themes of revenge, love, and passing the torch. The plot of the movie is simple; a wronged man plots and executes a plan for revenge. What makes this film really enjoyable is the excellent actors, music, directing, and choreography. This film earned Golden Globe and Academy Award nominations and is responsible for elevating Banderas and Catherine Zeta-Jones (Elena) to the international stage. In 1999, Banderas was nominated for a Golden Globe award in the category of Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture for his work on this film.

Bob Anderson, who has worked on films such as "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring," the "Star Wars" films, and "The Three Musketeers," worked on this film as a sword master, coaching the actors on the fight scenes. His skill and expertise in combination with the music provided by James Horner make the film truly captivating.

Anthony Hopkins, who has starred in a variety of movies such as "Thor," "All the King's Men," and more, plays the role of Don Diego de la Vega, or Zorro. Alejandro Murrieta, who becomes Zorro towards the end of the film, is played by Antonio Banderas.

The movie starts without credits, jumping straight into the action. Don Diego de la Vega has fought with the Mexican Army to free the people of California from the tyrannical rule of Spain for many years. Just as he plans his retirement, the Spanish general Don Rafael Montero, his longtime enemy, discovers the true identity of Zorro and sends a large group of soldiers to capture him at his home. Zorro is no match for this display of overwhelming force and is captured by the soldiers. During his apprehension, his wife tries to defend him and is killed by a soldier. Vega kills the soldier and is arrested for murder. During this ordeal, he sees Montero take away his baby daughter. He spends twenty years in prison, deciding to take action when he sees Montero visit the prison looking for him. He begins plotting his revenge.

Vega escapes from jail and wanders through town where he finds Alejandro, an orphan he'd helped many years ago, and discovers he's become a thief and a drunk. As the two talk, Vega learns Alejandro is furious at Montero's commander-in-chief, Captain Harrison Love, for killing his brother Joaquin and his mentor, Three-Fingered Jack.

Alejandro is a small-time crook aimlessly wandering through life without direction. However, Vega notices a natural talent in the young man and feels he can help him change. As Vega attempts to groom Alejandro to be a better individual, he puts him through an intense training routine. Even at the end of his training, Alejandro still retains some of his old ways, and this angers Vega, who feels his effort was wasted.

Although, on the surface, Alejandro and Vega might not appear to have much in common, they do. Vega lost his family as his wife was murdered and his kid was kidnapped. Alejandro has no family except his brother, who was killed by an associate of Montero. Alejandro is a petty criminal and drunk; Vega, who was once a respected, honorable fighter, has his reputation reduced to that of a common criminal as he spent years in jail. His legacy now tarnished, he has nothing, similar to Alejandro.

This relationship between these two characters is one of the primary themes of the film, the relationship between a mentor and a protégé. Through random chance, Vega and Alejandro are brought together, and they unite because of their similar goals. The older Vega, who'd planned to retire before his prison sentence, works to pass on his ideals and values to the Alejandro.

Although on the surface, this film is about Vega and Alejandro and their mission of revenge, there's a deeper story that surfaces upon careful examination: the story of a man, who was imprisoned for twenty years and robbed of the opportunity to raise his child, getting a second chance as he comes across a troubled young orphan. United by a common goal, the duo work together to get revenge against the people who've harmed their families.

While the screenplay for this film isn't world-class, it's the combination of the actors' chemistry, music, sound effects, and thrilling fight scenes that make this movie exciting.

Rating: 3.5 of 5