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Foxy legends... - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
fernwithy
fernwithy
Foxy legends...
All right, I bestirred myself to actually leave my neighborhood and go to a movie. Because I loved The Mask of Zorro. I just had to see The Legend of Zorro.

Okay, I'm just going to be honest--I had a very good time at this movie, but you can't think about it much. I don't have a solid knowledge of railroad history, but I've read that the trip that's the climax of this movie would have been really, really short coming east from California in 1850, and shoddy as my historical knowledge may be, I know that a politician riffing "by the people, for the people" is remarkably prescient in that year. I saw a decree of divorce (yes, it's Elena and Alejandro, but E/A shippers needn't worry; it comes out all right in the end, which in a movie of this sort shouldn't come as a surprise) and my religious studies made me say, "Wait--these guys are frankly and openly Roman Catholic... er..." I waited in vain through the whole movie for their friend the priest Felipe to point out that the Church wasn't going to recognize a civil divorce anyway, and he hadn't given them an annulment. I suppose I will just have to assume he annuls it at some point in the three months we don't see--despite the fact that there is no legitimate cause for it--as the pair are remarried in a ceremony at the end. Of course, it didn't look like an actual Catholic wedding (no Communion, for one thing), so maybe the ceremony was just, um... you know, to say, "We're done playing at being apart" or something. The plot is just silly, but so was the plot of The Mask of Zorro, so I'm not worried about it. No heads preserved in jars this time, anyway.

All that said, it was lovely fun. Lots of swashbuckling and things blowing up (what passes for a plot is all about blowing things up), and a very appealing little kid. I'd read a review complaining about the "little snot" or whatnot, but I really have to remember the cardinal truth that there are reviewers out there that just plain hate any child who does things on screen, and nothing is going to change their minds. The boy who plays Joaquin is engaging and talented, and I just love the character, who idolizes Zorro and really takes matters into his own hands. And bless a scene in which a mother trying to get her child out of danger, instead of just protecting him, opens the door of a train, looses a car, and tells the child that she knows he has the wherewithal to get away safely. It's a good mix between protection and trust in the child's abilities, and it's relatively rare.

I'm predisposed to bristle at bad treatment of religion, so when the villain showed up with a cross scar on his face and saying during his villainy that he's "doing the Lord's work," I kind of narrowed my eyes, but since all of the good characters are genuinely religious--not just in the "spiritual" sense, but in the actual practicing sense--while the bad guy is never actually seen doing anything religious despite his trappings, I realized that I was being silly. At the halfway point, when Zorro enters a church and prays passionately and totally without irony, it was actually touching. And of course, the priest who is Zorro's confessor (the aforementioned Felipe) plays a solid supporting and positive role. Given the shoddy treatment of religion and Catholicism in particular that we've tended to see recently (I'm thinking of Jay Leno cracking wise about altar boys and so on), this was quite a nice relief.

I've heard bad reviews of the leads' performances, but I really didn't find them bad. They're in an action movie, not an art house drama about the great life angst of the characters, and they're perfectly fine. Banderas is good as the somewhat conflicted Alejandro, and I actually found Catherine Zeta Jones as Elena more charming this time than last. She's a good action star, and it's not easy to be an action star in all those petticoats, though of course a lot of that credit I'm sure goes to her stuntperson. There was a nice scene in Spanish between Alejandro and Joaquin, and someday, when I buy the DVD, I'll see if I can follow it without the subtitles; it's been awhile.

I will say one thing about the plot, which just amused me to no end: We fear weird things in America. The bad guy of the plot is a Frenchman whose stated plan is to "sit back and do nothing."

No, I'm not kidding. He's going to give something to Confederacy and then sit back and watch America fight against itself. Because he's a European nobleman, and he's afraid of losing his power, naturally. What else do European noblemen do all day except fret about losing power? :rolleyes: So it's his grand plan to hand something nasty to Americans and then leave and let us mess it up without any external help. And what struck me about this is that it made perfectly good visceral sense while I was watching, even while I was saying, "Oh, please!" I say as an American, Americans have very, very weird anxieties.

Other random good stuff:
  • Alejandro as a don does have responsibility for tenant farmers. He exercises this responsibility a lot better than most probably would, and he goes and fights to save a peasant family not unlike his own.

  • The class difference issue does come up, which was the last thing I expected, when Alejandro accuses Elena of leaving him because he's a peasant, and says that her stepfather (the aristocratic governor from the first movie) would be proud. She tells him where to stuff it, but it would be something that would come up. It probably would have come up with people accepting him as a don, but as that's not a major plot point, I'll let it slide. Maybe they spun a story about how he was really a Spanish nobleman and people in California bought it.

  • Pretty costumes and sets.

  • Lots of affection in the de la Vega family when they're not actually and actively fighting with each other. I bought them as a family--not a perfect one, but a good one.

  • I love the horse who only understands instructions in Spanish. Of course, he understands more complex instructions than most horses do, to the best of my knowledge--do most horses know how to follow instructions to go to a particular house that isn't their own home?


Other random stuff that made me wince
  • Continuity! Elena supposedly knew Armand in Europe, as in, before she came to America. When she believed completely that the former governor was her father. So why would Armand refer to the man as her "stepfather"? If she was trying to keep cover, would she have sat down and said, "Oh, by the way, I found out that my real father was an outlaw called Diego de la Vega"--oh, and I guess the old Zorro must have adopted Alejandro, as the family is quite definitively identified as the "de la Vega" family, which would be her name, if anyone's--"and everything you knew about me in Europe was a lie."

  • What's with Toronado (the horse) drinking and smoking? Again, no, I'm not kidding. ????? And the CGI eye-popping on the horse has to go. It's a beautiful animal; it looked embarrassed in a couple of scenes.

  • Banderas's hair. What in the hell did they do to it? It looks like they dumped a vat of vegetable oil on it to keep it lying flat.

  • One person getting blown up was a pretty good dramatic effect. By the third time someone died that way, it was old, even it is pretty likely when you're carrying high explosives around.

  • Which, by the way, always explode close to the heroes--and main villains--without ever doing more than lightly buffeting them.

    Anyway, that's about it. It's a fun way to spend a couple of hours, but for heaven's sake don't think during it. It's easily spoiled by too much thought.
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Comments
kelleypen From: kelleypen Date: November 12th, 2005 03:34 am (UTC) (Link)
I liked it for the same reasons and one more--I thought the sexual tension between BAnderas and Jones was explosive--more explosive than a soap bomb. And yes. I had to really force myself to suspend disbelief in a few places--but the characterizations--especially of Felipe, Joquin, Elena, and Zorro--made it worth it.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 12th, 2005 03:49 am (UTC) (Link)
That's true. Very sexy married life, those two. Nice to see.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 12th, 2005 03:51 am (UTC) (Link)
I also liked the scene with Alejandro and his friends in the bath with the floating poker game, when he's totally baffled by what they find appealing in the situation and just gets up and says he's going home.
persephone_kore From: persephone_kore Date: November 12th, 2005 04:11 am (UTC) (Link)
"So if I take your advice, I get to sit around in a tub full of naked men?"

Yeah, so what if logic didn't get cast in a speaking part. ;) Fun!
chocolatepot From: chocolatepot Date: November 12th, 2005 04:19 am (UTC) (Link)
I'm so seeing this. Banderas + Zeta Jones + period costumes + swashbuckling + Fern's endorsement = YES!!!!
marikenobi From: marikenobi Date: November 12th, 2005 04:34 am (UTC) (Link)
Thanks for writing this. I went, saw, and laughed! And then people were saying how bad it was but I loved it. It was fun and I actually like having fun at the movies.
silverhill From: silverhill Date: November 12th, 2005 05:42 am (UTC) (Link)
You forgot the gratuitous acrobatics! :)

I really enjoyed Zorro because it was just plain fun. A silly and hole-filled plot to be sure, but with swordfighting and period costumes and random acrobatics.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 12th, 2005 05:44 am (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, I liked when he did a somersault while jumping down to another level of a parapet, you know, just because it's apparently too easy to maintain one's balance while jumping down ten feet onto a two foot ledge. You have to have a challenge!
alphabet26 From: alphabet26 Date: November 12th, 2005 05:49 am (UTC) (Link)
I just watched it tonight, too. And I adored it. It was, like you said, just so fun. I loved the little sides of humor. Alejandro's eye twitch when he saw Elena with Armand. Joaquin playing with the pencil in his mouth (Why? Cracked me up). "Prison changes a man." and "You're a genius...I don't want to hear of you breaking anyone else out of jail." I was almost ROTFL.

I winced at Abe Lincoln. I don't know if it would have stuck out so much to me if I hadn't read OSC's review of it where he pointed out that in 1850, Lincoln was some random former congressman from Illinois, so why was he there, but for whatever reason, I noticed it and winced.

I'm definitely buying this movie when it comes out, though.
leeflower From: leeflower Date: November 12th, 2005 06:17 am (UTC) (Link)
I thought it was really fun as well.

Honestly if they gave out special child oscars for movies this frivolous, I'd think that Adrian Alonzo (Juaquin) should get one-- he did a wonderful job.

And I appreciated that they gave him a part that, while integral to the storyline, was full of things that a ten-year-old could believably do (ok, well except for the riding Tornado thing, but we'll chalk that up to Tornado being a Spanish-Colonial Mr. Ed--any horse that can jump onto moving trains can keep a ten year old on its back, even riding at full tilt). He was diverting trains, not singlehandedly destroying the villian.

My only comment on the costumes, and I loved most of them: Elena's dress at the wine-tasting. What the HELL were they thinking? Seriously, I know that was a period shade of yellow, but... that doesn't mean they had to *use* it. Especially not on those sleeves. Eew.

(the divorce thing confused me greatly as well, but it's Zorro. One cannot overthink Zorro, or he will vanish in a puff of logic).

The Spanish scene was awesome. "hablamos espanol, la lengua de nuestras padres." Translation: "I really hope you don't recognize that I'm your father--that's right, don't look at me."

...and yes. "put down the straightening iron, back away from Mr. Banderas, and nobody will be hurt."
alphabet26 From: alphabet26 Date: November 12th, 2005 05:04 pm (UTC) (Link)
That was another thing I enjoyed! That they acknowledged that a mask? Really isn't all that great at hiding your face from those who know you well. He kept turning Joaquin's head away.
equustel From: equustel Date: November 12th, 2005 09:31 am (UTC) (Link)
Great thoughts - I'm with you on nearly every point.

The Mask of Zorro is one of my all-time favorite adventure flicks, and I told myself that as long as I recognized the characters in this new one, I would be happy. Thankfully, that was indeed the case: and I had such a great time revisiting them.
From: _kneebiter Date: November 15th, 2005 02:50 am (UTC) (Link)
I agree with most of your comments, though I found Joaquin's antics in class a bit much. No way is an 1850s nine-year-old going to be that disrespectful to a teacher. (Giving the *teacher* a dose of his own corporal punishment? Come *ON*!)

Also, the cheap Illuminati knockoffs were visibly so.

I really liked McGivens -- in the sense of, "Wow, I really want to know what makes this guy tick. And why he's involved with the Nights in Oregon, but I want ALL the backstory on this guy." I was actually really disappointed we didn't get any.

I thought the moment between the teacher and McGivens was really nifty, too. "Can I help you?" in a tone that leaves unsaid, "Because I really don't want to have to try and hurt you, and I will if you threaten to harm a hair on these children's heads." You just know which one will get squished if it comes to that, and you also know that they both know it too, but he still stood up for his charges. I just really liked that.

Moments where my disbelief had a little trouble getting suspended:
Weren't they not called the Confederate states until they, um, confederated? But Gen. Beauregard was an actual Confederate general (eventually), which I thought was a nice touch.
I'm not sure nitroglycerin had even been discovered by 1850, but I'm much surer that even if it had been, the technology didn't exist that would have been needed to produce it by the trainload. They didn't have the procedures to make nitric acid in quantity, for one, I think.
Also, the divorce, but you mentioned that already.
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