The Gorgeous Mask of Zorro

The Mask of ZorroThere are certain men who define different kinds of ideals of male beauty. Cary Grant and George Clooney are one kind. Another kind of ideal is represented by Antonio Banderas. In addition to being just plain gorgeous, he has a quiet confidence that is irresistible. Like most people, I first noticed him in Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, and I’ve come to like him more since then. So I generally enjoy watching any movie that he is in, as long as it doesn’t go out of its way to annoy me. And so it was with some hope that I sat down to watch The Mask of Zorro.

The Mask of Zorro is a superhero film. But unlike most films in that genre, it is actually quite good. The opening fight sequence sets the mood for the whole film. It shows that while Zorro fights for the people, the people also fight for Zorro. Repeatedly, we see that Zorro would be killed if this or that peasant hadn’t prevented it. So his most important trait is the love and commitment of the people he defends. This is just the opposite of most superheroes, where the people are just bystanders. What is particularly bad about this portrayal is that if the superhero turned on the people, there is nothing that could be done. With Zorro, he simply wouldn’t be a superhero if he turned against the people.

In addition to getting to stare at the handsome Mr. Banderas for two hours, we also get to watch the gorgeous Catherine Zeta-Jones. In fact, I had forgotten just what a beautiful woman she is. Those two actors light up the screen when they are together. In particular, there are two very sexy scenes: one a very provocative dance and the other a playful sword fight. Of course, none of this is very serious, which is the best part of the film: it doesn’t take itself very seriously.

While watching The Mask of Zorro, I was really struck by how much it felt like the Pirates of the Caribbean films. I brushed this off as having to do with all the sword play. There are parts of the film that hearken back to Samurai films as well. But when the film was over, I saw there was more than just this that connected the films. Both were written by the screenwriting team Ted Elliott & Terry Rossio. Although I don’t think of them as great screenwriters, they create wonderful, fun films. What’s more: they have a good sense of humor. One thing I hate in action films are the “clever” comments by the hero. Example: as the hero pushes the bad guy off a roof, he says, “Drop in on somebody else!” Pathetic. Elliott and Rossio don’t do that much. Instead, they provide genuinely funny bits and dialog. And this is seen throughout The Mask of Zorro. It is a funny and often silly film.

In addition to the plot, the film is beautiful to look up. The director, Martin Campbell, is mostly known for directing standard (uninteresting) action films. But he manages to do a good job here. Each shot is pretty enough that you want to climb into it. All the departments are working at peak form: costumes, sets, crowd control, lighting. Unlike most two plus hour long films, I wasn’t bored at all. I wanted it to continue on and on.

When it comes to straight Hollywood entertainment, you can’t do better than The Mask of Zorro. I highly recommend watching it if you are looking for a fun action film that will appeal to both woman and men.

Afterword

Yes, in this article, I am being an ombudsman. And there is nothing wrong with that. The problem is with ombudsmen thinking that they are art critics.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

2 thoughts on “The Gorgeous Mask of Zorro

  1. I have a warm place in my tiny, cruel heart for this movie. I even enjoyed Anthony Hopkins as Yoda. I don’t understand why Banderas has more-or-less disappeared (except for voicing-over Nasonex commercials.) What makes him so appealing, even as a super-hunk, is the same thing Clooney has — a terrific gift for self-mockery. Clooney’s at his comedic best as a straight man, however — he could never pull off the physical, clowning humor Banderas does in "Zorro" (and that he likely learned from Almodovar.) To be capable of elegance and ridiculousness is a rare gift.

    As far as dumb movies go, I also enjoyed "The Mummy" — the first remake with "Gods And Monsters"’s Brendan Fraiser (not that the Karloff version doesn’t also have its charms.) I remember seeing it in the theater about a week or so after seeing the first "Star Wars" prequel, which was overwhelmed by CGI effects and had no story. The opening of "The Mummy" is also CGI (much lower-rent CGI than Lucas’s stuff) but it shows ancient Egypt, and I was immediately more pleased than I had been watching lightsabers and aliens. Fraiser is a good hammy hunk, Rachel Weisz is just gorgeous, and Billy Zane (as the Mummy) is drolly funny, both cocksure as a god and vulnerable as an insecure trust-fund baby (which is what gods surely are.)

    I liked the first "Pirates Of The Caribbean" installment, with Depp as, essentially, the drunken hotel-smashing Depp we’ve all heard rumors about. And the effects with moonlight turning ghost-pirate faces into skulls were inventive. I think I watched about 20 minutes or so of the sequel; the CGI took over.

    Computer effects are an amazing tool, usually employed horribly. A Hollywood acquaintance of mine once told me that porn scripts, which pay writers well, have inane dialogue and then a CUT TO: SEX SCENE. You don’t have to write the sex, you just leave it to the experts. CGI movies are like this; inane dialogue, and then CUT TO: EFFECTS SCENE. I’d love to see what a really bright filmmaker could do with computer effects; it hasn’t happened, yet. (Aside from "Children Of Men," whose director has disappeared from the face of the Earth for ten years — he’s Spanish, maybe he’s holed up in a bunker with Banderas somewhere smoking killer weed.)

  2. @JMF – You are right about Clooney and Banderas: they are both goofs. That is definitely part of the appeal. Regardless of whatever other attributes a man has, I can’t like them if they are too serious about themselves. Clooney really shows this off in [i]O Brother, Where Art Thou?[/i] and [i]The Men Who Stare at Goats[/i].

    I’ve long wanted to see Brendan Fraiser’s [i]The Mummy[/i]. I just haven’t managed to get to it. The Karloff horror film, however, is one of my favorites. I even wrote a poem about it; I’ll have to see if I can find it.

    The second and third [i]Pirates Of The Caribbean[/i] are indeed weak. However, [i]I[/i] think that the last one is the best of the bunch. I highly recommend it:

    [quote][url=http://franklycurious.com/index.php?itemid=1337]Jack ‘n Black[/url][/quote]

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