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The Legend of Zorro

Went to see "The Legend of Zorro" with telepresence last night. It is not a great movie. It's an okay movie; reasonably fun. It could have been about 20 minutes shorter. Its script could have used a little more work. Its story could have been a little clearer, and better-structured.

So, no, it is not on the sublime level that the first movie was -- but I kind of wonder if any second-movie can achieve that, when the essence of the first movie was "we're not expecting much out of this, and... oh my god, not only does this not suck, but this is *exactly* everything it ought to be!" Because that means that part of the reaction to the first movie is not just for how good it is, but how pleasantly surprising it is, you know? Sequels never get to have that "pleasant surprise" aspect. The best they could hope for would be, "pleasant surprise that it is a decent sequel". Talk about "lowerrrrrrrred ex-pec-taa-aa-tions". (POTC, I'm lookin' at you, too.)

Anyway... some specific good points and head-scratching points, behind

Odd:

1. A significant part -- indeed, a CRUCIAL part -- of the plot depends on Elena filing for a divorce from Alejandro/Zorro. And, um... this is 1850s California, ruled by the Spanish Dons. The VERY CATHOLIC Spanish Dons. Catholicism is all over the place, visually, and in the prominent character of Brother Ignatio. Am I merely ignorant of history, and was Spanish California in the mid-19th century known throughout the world for its quickie Catholic divorces?

2. Another significant part of the plot involves the impending Civil War, because California is about to become a U.S. state, and the South, the Confederacy (when did they actually start using that term?), is not thrilled at that idea since California will not come in as a slave state. So, fine, whatever... but DUDE. It makes my head hurt when the Confederate colonel guy who is in on the Big Plot actually comes out and says stuff like "the impending civil war". Guys -- the South was really, really clear on the point that to *them*, it was the "war of secession", the "war of Southern independence", or the "war of Northern aggression". ("The war between the states" wasn't coined until after the war was over.)

Er...:

1. We're pretty sure that nitroglycerin doesn't actually work like that, but... ehn, whatever. This is supposed to be a basic retro swashbuckling serial adventure. It's not like you expect huge scientific accuracy from it. (Actually, particular props go out to the fact that the Secret Laboratory where they were extracting the nitro from soap included, in the mid-background, a big sphere that glowed green. Why? Because it had no discernible purpose in the process, but it was like a visual shorthand for "quasi-fantasy SCIENCE being done here".)

Good:

1. Major props to the writers and the director and whoever: Elena still kicked MAJOR ass. Like, not just being feisty. And not kicking token ass, either. More than in the first film, arguably. She got several significant fights to herself, only required Zorro's assistance in one of them when the odds kept getting worse, and at the end, she got her own solo fight against a secondary bad-guy (while Zorro was duelling the primary bad-guy elsewhere), and it was a prolonged serious fight in which she was unarmed, and she STILL kicked his bald, creepy ass. In a gown with petticoats, and for all I can tell, a corset as well. So good on the movie for not forgetting this point, and for not relegating her to the passive female role just because she had become a mother.

2. Including a little kid is *ALWAYS* tricky. Credit where it's due (both the writing and the actor) for Joaquin not being an obnoxious addition to the franchise. Cute as a button, yes -- but I never wanted to punt him. (For anyone keeping score: he wins out over the kid they introduced in "The Mummy 2").

3. The sword-fighting choreography was actually good. Rufus Sewell -- good for you, you really manage to make it look like you are *attacking*, rather than just trading endless 4-6, 4-6, 4-6 parries with your opponent.

4. A nice/interesting shout-out -- the main bad-guy (the aforementioned Rufus Sewell) is a French count. His intro went by a little too quickly for me, but later there's a bit where you get to see a map on which his title is written, and it's the Comte de la Fere. Really, any swashbuckling fan worth their salt should get that reference: in "The Three Musketeers", the Comte de la Fere was Athos. 200 or so years later, I guess, and his descendants have become evil megalomaniacs. Alas. Still, cute detail.

5. Yay! Tony Amendola! Doesn't do much, but always nice to see him.



So in short -- not as bad as some of the reviews are suggesting. Not sublime. Not the magical holy grail, a sequel better than the first movie. Has some flaws. But a fun flick.

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Comments

( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
elishavah
Oct. 29th, 2005 09:20 am (UTC)
Not looking, because I do kind of want to see this, but I've been thinking about this very thing the last few days -- the movies that were just so absolutely wonderful that there's the temptation to want a sequel, but which were wonderful in that "Wow, that was great" kind of way, and you just know that the odds are against a sequel being as good. It's a weird thing to think.

Off the top of my head, the only movies that I've thought this about where I wasn't disappointed were The Mummy and The Mummy Returns. (I could have done without The Rock, but I really do like the sequel almost as much as the original.)
eregyrn
Oct. 29th, 2005 02:45 pm (UTC)
I actually have kind of become fond of the Rock, although you're right, he isn't that great an addition to Mummy 2. I agree with you -- while, again, I think that it lacks the WOW (this not only doesn't SUCK, it's GREAT!) of the first movie, it's quite a good sequel
okojosan
Oct. 29th, 2005 11:51 am (UTC)
I think Aliens was a pretty good sequel to Alien. In fact, I prefer the second movie. :D

As for Zorro, I caught the first movie on tv a week or two ago. It was fun. I had my doubts about this one because of the kid, but maybe I'll rent it.
eregyrn
Oct. 29th, 2005 02:44 pm (UTC)
You are indeed correct; "Aliens" has the rare distinction of a sequel that is frequently said to be better than the first movie.

"Aliens" also makes it onto my list of Top 5 Scariest Movies Ever. Scared the beejeezus out of me.

I think you might like this movie because, among other things, the horse, Toronado, has a bigger/more active role, too. Sort of.
cofax7
Oct. 29th, 2005 02:29 pm (UTC)
"Impending Civil War"? In 1850? No fucking way. No.

::beats up writers::

Tony Amendola? really? Huh.
eregyrn
Oct. 29th, 2005 02:59 pm (UTC)
Hah hah. Yes. California becoming a state is one of the most important elements to the movie, so that pretty much settles when it has to be set. Granted, it's true that it becoming a state was controversial and that Southern lawmakers protested it being admitted as a free state because that would upset the balance, but... dude. It just seems a little hard to believe -- or simplistic, take your pick -- that the South was already settled on the course of secession in 1850, 11 years before the actual war.

Thank goodness for small favors: the Alabaman colonel who figures in the plot at least isn't wearing a grey uniform. That's good, right?

Brain Hurts moment: I forgot to put this in my original write-up under WTF? moments -- the end of the film features a celebration of California's statehood, basically the governor being sworn in or something. And there's a moment where a guy, who's the representative of the U.S., pats him on the shoulder and says something like, "Welcome to the United States, Mr. Governor". And it's Lincoln. Yes, in 1950. It's very very clearly meant to be Lincoln. They picked an actor who looks uncannily like Lincoln; mercifully, he's Lincoln pre-beard. But still.

Lincoln... in California... in 1850? Quoi? I had to look it up to find out where Lincoln actually *WAS* in 1850... riding the 8th Judicial Circuit in Illinois, as a lawyer, apparently. So, um, no -- it'd be really hard to explain how/why he just happened to have been sent to California at the time.

But, you know. The writers are fairly certain, I think, that most folks watching the movie really don't know beans about that era in history.

Tony Amendola? really? Huh.

The funny part is -- he was in the first film, too. In that one, he played one of the Spanish Dons; I think, one who kind of opposed the main bad-guy Don, but I can't quite recall. In this film, he plays a Catholic priest who's the schoolmaster of the class that Zorro's son is in. When we first saw him, we said, (sotto voce) "Yay! Tony Amendola!" And then I said, "What? Did his character enter the priesthood after the last film?" (This is not explicitly stated, and I've no doubt that it's just a different character; yet, hell, it would be plausible.)
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )