The Legend of Zorro (8/10)
by Tony Medley
Zorro’s back! Once again as
Don Alejandro de la Vega, he is inhabiting the body of Antonio Banderas.
He’s married to Elena (Catherine Zeta-Jones), who has become a female
Zorro, at least as far as the fighting goes. They have a 10-year-old son,
Joaquin (Adrian Alonso). Joaquin doesn’t know Don Alejandro is Zorro, or
anything but a ninny who won’t stand up for his rights.
There are two terrific bad
guys. One is a French aristocrat, Armand (Rufus Sewell). The other is
Jacob McGivens (Nick Chinlund). Armand is good-looking, suave,
sophisticated, always with a knowing smile on his face, charming to the
end. On the other hand, Chinlund is ugly, scarred, mean, and evil, not a
good bone in his body.
Even though it’s over two hours
long, it bristles with uptempo adventure. In fact the only thing that
slows it down are the silly fight scenes that are so long that they
threaten to break the tempo that director Martin Campbell has brilliantly
maintained after a long opening sequence that is far too ludicrous, so
silly that it almost lost me at the outset.
Also marring the film are some
gargantuan historical fallacies. It’s set in 1850, the year California
became the 31st state in the Union. Despite this, one of the
bad guys is a confederate officer. Sorry, but the Confederacy wasn’t
organized until 11 years later, right after Abraham Lincoln became
President in 1861.
Two men appear who identify
themselves as “Pinkerton” men, working for the United States government.
Alan Pinkerton, America’s first private eye, didn’t start his business
until 1850, the year this film takes place. It was a private firm, not
affiliated with the government.
At one point Elena is dining
with Armand in his mansion and she asks to go to the bathroom. He tells
her it’s “down the hall.” While the first indoor bathroom was written
about in 1840, it was a luxury for at least the next 20 years. It’s hard
to believe that a wild place like pre-statehood California would have an
indoor bathroom in 1850.
The final part of the film
takes place on a train. The building of the transcontinental railroad was
authorized by the Pacific Railway Act of 1862, 12 years after the setting
for this film. It was completed at Promontory Point, Utah in 1869, seven
years later. A train wasn’t even a gleam in Californian’s eye in 1850.
Even those these gaffes don’t
upset the enjoyment of the film, filmmakers more sensitive to accuracy
could have made a movie without these mistakes that wouldn’t have affected
the film one iota, but would have had the advantage of being historically
Regardless, this is a funny,
action-packed movie. While Banderas and Zeta-Jones are first rate, the
surprise of the movie is Alonso, who plays their spirited son, Joaquin,
who has clearly inherited Zorro’s personality and fighting ability. For
one so young, Alonso has exceptional talent. He adds immeasurably to the
enjoyment of the film. A young boy being as good a fighter could have been
ludicrous, but Alonso’s talent makes his ability believable without being
Even though it’s over two
hours, the only times I got restless were when Zorro got in his ridiculous
fights against overwhelming odds. Sink those and it’s a much better movie.
Even with them it’s a lot of fun.
October 26, 2005