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Film Review **1/2: Mi Nombre Es Banderas, Antonio Banderas

Using the Superhero Film Formula — Second ‘Zorro’ Not Quite Legendary


Sie Hendrata Dharmawan


The Legend of Zorro

Directed by Martin Campbell

Written by Robert Orci and Alan Kurtzman

Starring Antonio Banderas,
Catherine Zeta-Jones

Rated PG

Opens Today

The Legend of Zorro” is the sequel to “The Mask of Zorro” that was released in 1998, featuring pretty much the same actors minus Anthony Hopkins. Consequently, we only get to see one Zorro, instead of two as in the previous movie. The movie adopts the tried-and-true superhero action formula, but tailored specifically to match Zorro’s style and atmosphere. As a result, “The Legend of Zorro” is a predictable movie with a predictable ending, but nevertheless enjoyable to watch.

Set in California about 10 years after the first film, this movie again revolves around California’s struggle to become the 31st state of the United States. The timing also coincides with the Civil War that’s brewing in the East, which Campbell integrates into the storyline. The plot would be familiar to those of you who watch the James Bond series. First, establish the premise, showing who the hero is and how he fights. Then comes an innocent guy, but somehow the hero is suspicious of him. This suspicion turns out to be justified because that “innocent” guy is actually planning something evil. Now that all cards are laid out, everyone fights, the hero wins, the villain dies.

As if having the same plot were not enough, the plot elements are reused from the James Bond series as well. The hero is a glamorous rich man (or a man who’s funded by a rich government) who creates an evil plan related to weapons, mass destruction, and modern warfare. Of course, modern is a relative term, but let’s just say that the villain invents a new weapon that could have changed the outcome of the Civil War. Also, during the fight, the hero always loses first and everyone thinks he dies, when he actually survives and makes a surprise attack on the villain.

But aside from all the likenesses to the Bond flicks, there are also some common superhero plot elements that make the story not just an action movie, but a little bit of a drama as well. A superhero might decide to renounce his secret life and become a normal citizen, only to jump back into action when a villain appears. This familiar story is what happens to Zorro in this film, where a failing marriage causes him to hang up his mask, only to put it back on when a wicked plan threatens the lives of his wife and son.

Just as a “Spiderman” movie would not be complete without flying-between-the-skycrapers scene, a Zorro movie is also not complete without a fighting-on-a-moving-train scene. This scene is particularly reminiscent of the Zorro TV shows in the 1980s and their Nintendo video game renditions. Nevertheless, it is still enjoyable to watch, thanks to the awesome fights that decorate this scene. The sword fights are well choreographed, and the heroes cleverly use external objects (hanging ropes, barrels, random poles that happen to be there) to aid them in the battle. Overall, the fighting scenes flow well and even feel more natural than most superhero action movies that have come out recently.

The acting in the movie is also quite good. Catherine Zeta-Jones is obviously the star of the movie, beautiful but dangerous, emotional but sneaky — playing a role that recalls her character in “Entrapment.” Antonio Banderas also performs convincingly, showing some real emotions alongside superb fighting. The appearance of Adrian Alonso, the son of Zorro, was a refreshing addition to the movie. This child had a bigger role than Dakota Fanning had in “War of the Worlds” (her purpose was just to scream and to cry). You will be surprised by how well this boy fights, does acrobatics, and speaks fluent English and Spanish.

This film is also pretty funny to watch, either because the humor is really funny, or because the humor is so bad that you want to laugh at the screenwriter. After a long emotional and intense debate between husband and wife, the punch line was, “You’re sleeping outside tonight.” Nevertheless, I had a good time laughing.

Visually, the film offers shots of breathtaking California scenery intercut throughout the film, and hero shots of Zorro riding a black horse with a sunset in the background. Though the overall plot is predictable, there are some clever details that make the film fun. So if you have time, go watch Zorro don his mask and slash his way through another action picture.