The legendary masked hero known as Zorro returned to the big screen in a major action/adventure film in the year 1998. Martin Campbell directed the film, which had Steven Spielberg attached as an executive producer. The Mask of Zorro was filled with action and swashbuckling fun.
Don Diego de la Vega (Anthony Hopkins) was drawn out of hiding to assume the visage of Zorro once more as Don Rafael Montero (Stuart Wilson) prepared to execute several innocent people, with the intent of capturing the illusive masked hero. Zorro saved the day and escaped back to his home, only to find that Rafael was waiting for him. With the death of his wife and the abduction of his daughter, de la Vega was taken to prison for years.
Twenty years later, Alejandro Murrieta (Antonio Banderas) and his brother were wanted thieves. They were ambushed by Captain Harrison Love. Alejandro escaped, but his brother was killed. Alejandro wound up drunk and angry, preparing an ill-fated attack on Captain Love when de la Vega, a recent escapee, stopped him and offered to train him as Zorro.
This is a great story of legacy and the passing of the torch, as well as righting wrongs of the past. The Mask of Zorro takes some liberties with the history of the west, but that is fine. The story was more than just a revenge tale. It was about family, honor and dedication to the people of the land.
There are some exciting sword duels throughout the movie between all of the characters and the way Zorro works his way through the crowd trying to kill him is as effective as any super hero. I will say that there may be one or two too many sword fights for my taste, as they all seemed to blend together. The final fights at the mine are glorious though and fill the viewer with doubt and tension.
Antonio Banderas is fabulous here and he has amazing chemistry with Catherine Zeta-Jones, who plays Elena, de la Vega’s daughter who had been abducted and raised by Rafael as his own. I may have wanted a little more conflict within Elena when she discovered the lie because, even though he had stolen her away as a child, Rafael still raised her as a father would and it was clear in the movie that he loved her.
There are some very funny bits in the movie as Alejandro is learning to become the legend, many dealing with his horse and his attempt to steal the horse from the town.
Anthony Hopkins brings a gravitas to the film as the original Zorro passing his knowledge along to his eventual predecessor. Hopkins and Banderas work very well together and show the cracks of two men who have personal vendettas weighing down their agendas.
This does have that old-fashion feel to it and I believe that is a tone that director Campbell was going for. Zorro has been around for decades, but this was the high level point for the swashbuckler. It may be a little over long, but it is an enjoyable fun and filled with action and humor.