The Legend of Zorro

PLOT:

In 1850, the people of California were voting to decide whether or not to join the United States. During one of the votes, a wild gunsman named Jacob McGivens attacks to steal the box of votes. Before he makes off with the votes however, Zorro, who has been protecting the people of California for the past ten years, appears and chases after him and his men. Zorro succeeds in recapturing the votes and fights off all of McGivens’ men. When McGivens attacks, he succeeds in pulling off Zorro’s mask, but Zorro manages to knock him out before he sees his face. Just then a pair of spies, the Pinkertons, see the face of Zorro, recognizing him as Don Alejandro de la Vega. Zorro then makes a make-shift mask out of his costume and rides off on his black stallion, Toronado, to deliver the votes to the governor.

Upon returning to his mansion, Alejandro is greeted by his loving wife, Eléna. Eléna believes that Alejandro can now give up being Zorro, but Alejandro is not so sure that the people will no longer need him. Angered, Eléna kicks Alejandro out of the house. The next day, after sending her now 10-year-old son, Joaquin to school, Eléna is confronted by the Pinkertons, who reveal that they know who Zorro really is. Soon after, Alejandro is served with divorce papers from Eléna.

Three months later, Alejandro is living in a hotel, having not been summoned as Zorro in all this time. His friend and childhood guardian, Father Felipe, convinces him to attend a party at a French count’s new vineyard, and there Alejandro finds out that Eléna has been spending time with the count, Armand, revealed to be a schoolmate of Eléna’s. Later, after drinking himself crazy, Alejandro watches an explosion go off close to Armand’s mansion and becomes suspicious of his ex-wife’s long-time friend.

Afterwards, McGivens and his men attack a peasant family, the Cortezes, with whom Alejandro is friends. McGivens, siding with Armand, wants to buy their land to build a railroad, but the husband, Guillermo, refuses and Zorro arrives to stop McGivens. He succeeds in rescuing Guillermo’s wife, Blanca, and infant son, José, but McGivens shoots Guillermo just before disappearing with his gang, the deed to the Cortezhome in hand. Returning to the church, Alejandro pleads for the strength to wear the mask for a little longer, realising that, whatever his own problems, Zorro is needed for one last ride. Donning his costume once again, Zorro stakes McGivens out at Armand’s mansion to confirm his suspicions and finds out that he is working for Armand and that the mansion is awash with Confederate soldiers. He then chases after McGivens to a shore where the count’s cargo is being delivered. Thanks to Joaquin, who nearly gets himself killed when he goes after McGivens and his gang, Alejandro, hidden beneath Zorro’s mask, rescues his son from danger. Luckily, Joaquin saved a bar of soap from one of Armand’s cargo boxes and unknowingly shows it to his father. Together with this evidence, Felipe and Alejandro learn that Armand is the head of a secret society, the Knights of Aragon, who secretly ruled Europe in the past, aided by a corrupt Confederate Army officer, Colonel R.S. Beauregard, who plans to conquer the Union States, which is perceived as a threat to the Knights’ power.

Sometime later, Alejandro is captured by the two Pinkertons and is told that they blackmailed Eléna into divorcing him and getting close to Armand to find out his plans- as California isn’t yet a state they couldn’t legally enter Armand’s mansion-, the two mockingly informing him that Zorro is a relic of the past. Joaquin stumbles onto his father’s whereabouts and frees him from prison after a run-in with several guards. Zorro then heads over to Armand’s mansion, while Eléna also arrives there and follows Armand to his secret lair. She then attacks the guards, but is outnumbered. Luckily Zorro arrives and they fight off all the guards. They then eavesdrop on Armand and Beauregard’s meeting and learn that the soap bars are actually used to create nitroglycerin, which they plan to distribute throughout the Confederate army in wine bottles to destroy the Union. After confessing her involvement with the Pinkertons and that the divorce was fake, Eléna then heads back to the mansion before Armand gets back and Zorro prepares to destroy the train carrying all of the explosive. McGivens meanwhile arrives at Felipe’s church and shoots the priest as he tries to fight back. He also kidnaps Joaquin.

At the mansion, Armand reveals to Eléna that he knows of her deceit when he presents to her the pigeon that she used to inform the Pinkertons as their dinner and she later discovers the two Pinkertons dead in a closet. Armand then captures Eléna, as McGivens arrives with Joaquin, informing the Count of Felipe’s death and that Zorro’s son is a witness. Zorro then lights a fuse that will destroy the train and seemingly disappears into the night with his horse, Toronado. But after seeing Armand, Eléna, and Joaquin approaching the train, he runs back and stops the fuse at the last second. McGivens then captures Zorro and unmasks him in front of everyone, including Joaquin. Armand then leaves on the train with Eléna and Joaquin, giving McGivens the order to kill Alejandro, although Alejandro assures Amand that no matter where he runs, the world isn’t big enough to hide form him. Before McGivens can kill him, Felipe arrives and helps Alejandro fight the other man, who is killed when a drop of nitro lands on his head and explodes. Felipe then reveals that his crucifix around his neck shielded him from McGivens’ bullet and Alejandro goes to save Eléna and Joaquin.

The next morning, Zorro catches up to the train on Toronado. After a long chase, Toronado lands on top of the train and into the cargo car just as it approaches a tunnel. Zorro then makes his way to the passenger car and engages Armand in a sword fight. Meanwhile, Eléna has Joaquin escape on Toronado to stop the train and then fights Armand’s butler in the nitro storage car, eventually stuffing a bottle of nitro into him and pushes him off the train just as it approaches its rendezvous point with Colonel Beauregard. The butler lands in front of Beauregard and explodes, killing them both. Further along the tracks, the governor is signing the bill that will make California a state and a crowd are witnessing it. As the train gets closer, Joaquin has Toronado hit a track switch, causing the train to pass around the governor’s car. Zorro and Armand’s duel takes them from the passenger car, to the locomotive, and to the very front. Elena quickly fights Armand while Zorro discovers the end of the track is blocked by a large pile of rails. Zorro hooks Armand to the train and escapes with Elena. The train plows Armand into the block, killing him and causing the nitroglycerin to detonate, destroying the train in a spectacular explosion. The governor later finishes the bill and California becomes the 31st state of America.

Later, Felipe remarries Alejandro and Eléna with Joaquin as the only witness, Alejandro apologising for not telling his son the truth as he admits that Zorro’s identity is a family secret rather than just his own secret. Eléna then allows Alejandro to continue being Zorro, accepting that it is who he is, and Zorro rides off on Toronado into the sunset.

REVIEW:

As a fan of Zorro, I must say that I’m a bit partial to both films, however, compared to the first, this one is a hair below it in terms of quality. That’s not to say it’s a bad film or anything like that, just not as good as the first.

Antonio Banderas is once again the perfect choice for Zorro, although in this film where he has fully taken on the mantle and become comfortable and skilled as the masked man, he has to take a backseat in terms of plot to Catherine Zeta-Jones’ Elena.

When we first see her, she is as beautiful as ever, but she tries to get Zorro to give it up. Isn’t that just like a woman to want a man to change? As the film goes on, though, we see her revert back to the Elena from the first film that was independent and willing to fight Zorro.

Rufus Sewell’s portrayal of the villain, Count Armand is inspired casting. He pulls it off and until a certain plot point you’re not even 100% sure he’s the villain or just a guy who has stolen Elena.

The Pinkertons were just annoying and, although they were integral to the plot, they could have been left out. McGivens could very well live in today’s society because he’s your typical religious nut job. Felipe and Joaquin are unsung characters that really should get more recognition for what they brought to the film. Not only did they bring about comic relief, but an added bit of family and camaraderie.

My issue with this film, though, has got to be the fact that while it is sequel, with the exception of one mention of Elena’s stepfather, they totally dismiss the previous film. I for one didn’t care for that and belie they should have said something about how they got married and Alejandro’s confidence growing as Zorro, but that just may be me.

This may not be as good as the first, but it’s still good.  I think it would have been better if they wouldn’t have waited 7 years between films. Still, its worth a viewing, Zorro fan or not.

4 out of 5 stars

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