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The Mask Of Zorro

review by Zach B.

 

Rated PG-13

Running Time: 137 minutes

Starring Antonio Banderas, Anthony Hopkins, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Stuart Wilson, Matt Letscher

Screenplay by John Eskow and Ted Elliott & Terry Rossio
Story by Ted Elliott & Terry Rossio and Randall Jahnson

Directed by Martin Campbell

 

Studio: Columbia/Tristar

Features: Theatrical Trailers, Photo Gallery, Featurette

Specs: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, English Dolby Digital 5.1, English Dolby Surround,English Closed Captions, English Subtitles, Scene Selections, THX Certified

Come now and let us journey back to the summer of 1998. Oh, what a summer it was for movies. "Mulan" was a pretty big success for Disney, "Armageddon" was the smash hit and "The Mask Of Zorro" feel somewhere in between. While the film scored big box office, it was backed up with a good deal of hype and positive buzz. Critics did enjoy it, and "The Mask Of Zorro" became a fast crowd pleaser. With its stellar cast, great action and sharp writing, this new breed of "Zorro" was supposed to start a new franchise for Columbia/Tristar. Unfortunately, those plans still seem to be suspended in motion.

So what's the plot of this new Zorro? We begin in nineteenth century Mexico, where the old Zorro, AKA Don Diego de la Vega (Anthony Hopkins), was a hero to all against the evil Montero. However, right before the liberation of Mexico, Montero learns who Zorro really is and invades his home. Accidentally killing his wife (who Montero also loved), Montero kidnaps Diego's daughter (by claiming her for his own) and holds Don Diego captive. Twenty years pass, and Don Diego escapes his imprisonment with intent on reclaiming his daughter and seeks his revenge. Don Diego soon meets up with Alejandro Murrieta (Antonio Banderas), a man who did help Diego long ago. Diego agrees to train Alejandro as the new masked man, where they must stop Montero from taking total control of California.

"The Mask Of Zorro" is pure popcorn entertainment, and in my opinion, one of the best of those movies from the 1990s. I remember there being a good drought a few years ago for a classic, action adventure movie that used a script and its characters, plus classic stunts instead of overusing special effects. But I think what makes "The Mask Of Zorro" succeed is that it features so many great elements, plus a well developed and entertaining story and fuses them together. That's right, this movie is not some usual jumbled mess as an excuse for cool action sequences, but really has a magnificent edge to it.

The screenplay, written by John Eskow and Ted Elliott as well as Terry Rossio (the two a duo who have worked on a good deal of animation screenplays) is pretty fantastic. They develop a good sense of the characters, and develop them and their motives well leading to good tensions and confrontations. They also know how to have fun with their writing, creating interesting situations and writing up good action packed scenes. There's a good balance to what is written here. They have plot elements, and in between action scenes, so two different audiences won't be bored very long during periods of time. But if you like a good story and good action, then you won't complain at all.

I believe so much of the movie works due to its charismatic cast who are energetic and have good chemistry between them. Antonio Banderas was simply born to play Zorro, capturing the excitement and strength of the fighter. Not to mention Alejandro is flawed himself, so Banderas captures the vulnerability as well and the character's mindset improves as the movie goes along. Anthony Hopkins brings his usual graceful touch as Don Diego, serving as a fine and wise mentor to Alejandro. And of course, Catherine Zeta Jones, in her breakthrough role, is a great love interest and holds her own.

Yet what all ties it together is Martin Campbell's astounding direction. The movie lasts over two hours, but it doesn't feel that long. Besides capturing great shots and editing the movie well, there's a great flow to it making it feel fleshed out, developed and it goes along at the right pace. It never goes too fast but it never drags either. Not to mention the climatic finale and stunts, which Campbell seems to have directed with ease. Adding its own flair is James Horner's memorable, zesty and catchy score that fits the movie so well. If you've never seen it, it's worth a look for sure!

The movie is presented in a THX certified 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer that is quite incredible. Colors are bold and striking, giving off a mesmerizing picture with the variety of Spanish-flavored hues to make this new legend of Zorro come to life. Color saturation is amazing, while blacks are deep and bold, and detail is rather fantastic. Now and then there is a blemish or scratch, but that's a rare case and they are never distracting. The sharpness of this transfer is amazing, and while there can be grain, there's so much visual fair it's not really noticeable. I didn't see any shimmering or noise either. This is a rather illustrious, though slightly flawed transfer. Still, there is very little to complain about. Slight edge enhancement, while the glorious interior and exterior locations look amazing.

 

A Dolby Digital 5.1 track in English is included, and man, this is something you'll want to show your home theater off with. James Horner's catchy, thrilling and highly original score is well mixed through the channels, while the swords clanging and swishing give off a really incredible effect. The intense finale, crowds cheering, explosions and big fight scenes really put you directly in the action. .1 LFE is booming, while no sounds are distorted and retain a good balance. You can hear everything without one element overpowering the other. English closed captions, English subtitles and an English Dolby Surround track are also included.

Not to much... Theatrical Trailers, a decent Photo Gallery and an okay Featurette. A special edition is in other regions, and should be making its way to region one soon.

"The Mask Of Zorro" is wonderful popcorn entertainment. This DVD delivers reference quality audio and a great transfer. It's not packed, so do wait out for the upcoming re-release if you can.

(4.5/5 - NOT included in final score)

(4.5/5)

(5/5)

(1.5/5)

(3.5/5, NOT an average)

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