Movie Review

The Mask of Zorro

The Mask of Zorro Movie Poster

US Release Date: 07-17-1998

Directed by: Martin Campbell


  • Antonio Banderas
  • Alejandro Murrieta/Zorro
  • Anthony Hopkins
  • Don Diego de la Vega/Zorro
  • Catherine Zeta-Jones
  • Elena Montero
  • Stuart Wilson
  • Don Rafael Montero
  • Matt Letscher
  • Capt. Harrison Love
  • Tony Amendola
  • Don Luiz
  • Pedro Armenderiz Jr.
  • Don Pedro
  • William Marquez
  • Fray Felipe
Average Stars:
Reviewed on: September 19th, 2005
Catherine Zeta-Jones and Antonio Banderas in The Mask of Zorro.

Catherine Zeta-Jones and Antonio Banderas in The Mask of Zorro.

Zorro has long been an entertaining character in movies and television series. The Mask of Zorro is the best of all that have come before it. The pace, action and humor have never been done better. Antonio Banderas makes a solid bid to be the best Zorro of all time.

As the movie opens, Zorro is portrayed by Anthony Hopkins. He does battle with a bad guy, Don Rafael. Zorro's secret identity is discovered and Don Rafael captures Zorro, kills his wife and kidnaps his baby girl. Years later, Zorro escapes from prison and seeks to revenge his wife's death. Now being an old man, Zorro recruits a thief and trains him to take over as the masked hero.

Antonio Banderas does a great job as the thief, Alejandro, who has his own vendetta going against someone who beheaded his brother. To make things convenient, his arch enemy joins forces with Don Rafael. To complicate things is the presence of the original Zorro's, now grown, daughter Elena. There is an immediate attraction between Elena and Alejandro. They have a sword fight that ends in Elena being stripped of most of her clothes. A hot-n-bothered, out of breath Elena later describes Zorro as "very vigorous!"

 The movie is full of action scenes. There are the many sword fight scenes as well as a great horse chasing one. My favorite is where Zorro attempts to steal a horse and ends up fighting an entire platoon of soldiers. The horse he ends up getting is beautiful but not very agreeable.

Antonio Banderas has worked in some 50 movies, some in English and some in Spanish. Of all of his English language films, The Mask of Zorro will be his most memorable and rightly so. His charming smile and cocky approach make for an extremely likable character that is more than just an action hero.

Reviewed on: October 18th, 2015
Catherine Zeta-Jones and Antonio Banderas in The Mask of Zorro.

Catherine Zeta-Jones and Antonio Banderas in The Mask of Zorro.

The idea of reviving Zorro began in 1992 with Steven Spielberg's Amblin Entertainment producing and Spielberg potentially directing. By the time the script was finished in 1993, Mikael Salomon was due to direct and Sean Connery cast as Diego de le Vega. Pre-production dragged on however, and by 1995, Salomon and Connery were out and Robert Rodriguez was hired to direct. He managed to sign Banderas, with whom he had previously worked on Desperado. However, by 1996, Rodriguez dropped out when he and Tristar, who were co-financing the film, couldn't agree on a budget. This brought Martin Campbell (Goldeneye) onboard as director, with cameras finally starting to roll five years after Spielberg initially hoped to start production. With all of these behind-the-scenes changes, it's impressive how entertaining the finished product turned out to be.

The biggest loss of all the cast and crew changes has to be the loss of Connery. There's no denying Hopkins' talent, but Connery's physicality would have added greatly to the part. Sure, he would have been playing a Spaniard with a Scottish accent, but Hopkins plays him with an English (tinged with Welsh) accent. This begs the question, how hard was it to figure out who Zorro was since both he and de le Vega appear to be the only people in the area with English accents? Which also leads to the further question, how hard was it to identify Elena as de le Vega's daughter, since she too speaks with an English (tinged with Welsh, since she and Hopkins are both Welsh) accent?

Although it's less than 20 years old at the time of this writing, the absence of CGI somehow makes it seem older. This works to the film's benefit because it means the action remains plausible, but still impressive and a lot of fun. Banderas, and presumably his team of stuntmen, swordfights and swashbuckles across the screen. His cocky grin provides plenty of charm and he seems to be having as much fun playing the part as we have watching him. Although the script provides him with revenge for the death of his brother as motivation, he and the movie are at their best in the lighter moments.

Banderas and Zeta-Jones have a great chemistry together. Their flirtatious swordfight is the film's most iconic moment. It's a sexy, fun, and playful scene and the sparks fly, with Elena nearly giving as good as she gets. As with the rest of the movie though, it's all kept very carefully rated PG. This family friendly atmosphere is another way that now seems old-fashioned. The art of making action films that can be enjoyed by all ages is becoming a lost art.

The film's only problem is its running time. At over 2 hours there is room for tightening. Too much time is spent on the backstory and character introductions than is really needed. As I said, it's the film's lighter moments that work best and a shorter pace would have emphasized that tone.

Despite being an international success, it would take 7 years for a sequel to be made. The failure of that follow-up to match the original's success meant that the franchise died with just 2 films. Seeing that Zorro was in many ways, the original superhero and certainly Batman owes a nod to him, it's surprising that with the glut of superhero films someone hasn't tried to revive the character again. Although since any revival made today would certainly involve tons of CGI, perhaps it's for the best that it's been left alone. Zorro deserves to remain a human swashbuckler rather than a CGI generated one.

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