There 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.
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.