Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

The Legend of Zorro


We’re such determined drive-in goers that we will pop the corn, buy the Subway sandwiches, and tootle off to one of our two local places even if the outlook is bad. It sure was bad last night, but we went anyway … (The second feature was The Fog.)

I had forgotten that Antonio Banderas and Catherine Zeta-Jones had made one of these before, back in 1998. It’s coming back to me now, vaguely … and I now remember that Antonio was a sort of Zorro Jr., learning to fight from his old man. So there were a lot of ways they could have gone with this one, and I think they made just about every wrong choice they could make. This one has a serious case of Crouching Tiger syndrome, that infectious Chinese disease that has swept through Hollywood like a plague, whereby people fly and absorb punishment that would pulverize a blue whale and emerge without breaking a sweat nor suffering a scrape. They don’t actually fly here, but it’s a close thing. The relationship between Zorro and is wife is clichéd and not funny. Their little boy is a pain in the … what’s Spanish for butt? I didn’t care about anyone in the movie. Fights happen. Scenery is destroyed. A train blows up. People run and scream. Ho-friggin’-hum.

The IMDb lists at least 60 Zorro movies, reaching all the way back to the best of them, the silent starring Douglas Fairbanks. If the writers and director had taken a look at that one, they might have understood that Zorro is supposed to be fun. But you can’t have fun with an $80 million budget, too much is at stake, so you go with the slam-bang mindlessness, because people go to see it. But guess what? The Legend of Zorro pulled in only $16 million the first weekend, beaten out by a repulsive piece of shit called Saw II. Oh, well. They’ll probably make their money back in China.

I can’t help noticing how unexciting CGI action sequences have become, at least when they’re done by the numbers, as here. The climax of this film is a fight/chase aboard a hurtling train. The train is full of nitroglycerin. I was bored. Everything is overboard these days. You want to see a train sequence? Rent How the West Was Won. Somehow, way back then, working only with stunt men and ingenuity, they made an edge-of-the-seat gosh-wow eyepopper that still stands up, and beats the pants off this one.

And about that nitro … In what passes for a plot in this turkey, an evil cabal (sort of like Opus Dei?) wants to destroy America in 1850 by aiding the southern slave states (here called the Confederate States, and isn’t this a bit early for that term?) with a new secret weapon, more powerful than gunpowder. Nitro was invented in 1847, but not used much until Nobel tamed it, because it was sort of … unstable. So what do these geniuses do? They manufacture their nitro in California! And I wondered … then what? How do you get it to Georgia? Overland by stagecoach? That would have been quite a movie, sort of a 19th Century Sorcerer. Around Cape Horn? Good luck. Overland by mule train in Panama? Riiiiight. Of course, you could make it in Georgia, save yourself a lot of trouble … but then you got no movie, except for the side plot about California statehood. And even that is ironic as hell. If you read your California history, you will discover that shortly after the time of this movie, Zorro and all his Spanish friends and family will be robbed of their lands and status by the new legislature Zorro is fighting so hard to establish. What a load of crap this movie is. [From the very first scene!]