Last night, we caught up with seeing "The Legend of Zorro," the sequel to "The Mask of Zorro," starring Antonio Banderas and Catherine Zeta-Jones. We were looking for a fun movie, and so were not deterred by the critic's assessment that it was not as good as the orginal. Actually, I enjoyed it almost as much, taking into account that it is a very different movie. "Mask of Zorro" was all about how Bandera's character became the new Zorro under the tutelage of the orginal Zorro (Anthony Hopkins). It was a coming-of-age, coming into one's powers story. "Legend" is set ten years later, and deals with the conflict between Don Alejandro's life as Zorro and his life with Elena and their son, Juaquin (Adrian Alonso), a realm that most super-hero tales can't adventure into without becoming a domestic comedy (cf: "The Incredibles."). The film opens with the plebiscite on California's entry into the Union in progress, with Zorro rescuing a ballot box from a gang of racist wreckers intent on disrupting the vote. (One of the significant anacronisms that mar the plot is that supposedly the American Civil War is actually either in progress or imminent, when, in fact California was admitted to the Union in 1850). In the process, Zorro looses his mask, and is identified by some other sinister agents, who use their knowlwge of his identity to blackmail Elena into helping with their plot, which involves divorcing (!) Alejandro and throwing herself at the new man in town, Count Armand (Rufus Sewell), in order to spy on him. (The divorce is the other major anachronism in the film: even if divorce had been available to her in that time, it wouldn't have been done in the jig time the movie proposes, and Elena would have been just as much a fallen woman as though she'd just abandoned Alejandro--.) There turn out to be plots within plots, some elements of which are just silly, but that aside, it's a good love story with a thumping good adventure. There are some well-choreographed duels, which were impressive even in these post "Crouching Tiger"/"Matrix" days, and done mostly without wires or special effects. Elena has become a formidable fighter in her own right, and shows herself capable of taking down two stalkers while armed with a shovel. (Elena does almost as much fighting as Alejandro, all the while attired in corset and (mostly) period skirts--). Adrian Alonzo is excellent as their son, who of course idolizes Zorro while despairing of his wimpy father. He manages to make Joaquin plucky and adventureous without being annoying. The writers also managed to add a couple new touches to the fight-on-top-of-the-moving train sequence, which impressed me. Good menacing by Nick Chinlund as McGivens the proto-Klansman, who reminds me of a young Slim Pickens gone very, very bad. Banderas and Zeta-Jones are as much fun to watch as ever.
Again, good fun, drama, action, and humor, as long as you assume it is in a parallel "mythic California." No bad language, and no gore, although there is intense violence, and the two major villains meet particularly ugly ends (though mercifully cut-away from in the last moment in each case).