The Mask of Zorro

The Mask of Zorro(1998) - Martin Campbell

I know putting a major studio hit film on my list of under-seen movies might seem like I’m cheating. Perhaps I am, but despite the pervasive marketing campaign, Mask of Zorro was only marginally a hit film, and I think it’s one that people either don’t revisit or have only seen in pieces on TV. In some ways, Mask of Zorro hasn’t aged well. None of the lead actors are actually Mexican, and Anthony Hopkins doesn’t even attempt to hide his British accent. In a misguided 90’s attempt at feminism, Cathrine Zeta-Jones’s gets to show off her swashbuckling skills, but she is essentially sexually assaulted in the very same scene. I point all this out only as qualifiers to say that I LOVE this movie. Zorro is both timely and timeless, and it owes as much to Michael Curtiz as it does to Tim Burton’s Batman. It’s a marvel of classic pre-CGI Hollywood spectacle. Complete with amazing stunts, massive outdoor sets, and clearly choreographed sword fights. The Mask of Zorro consistently manages to be as silly as it is exciting, which I think is really hard to balance. Most of the absurdity works thanks to director Martin Campbell, who I believe is one of the very best action directors working today. There is also a beautiful score from James Horner who scored two of my other favorite under-performing adventure films The Rocketeer, and Willow. People who prefer their superheroes brooding and broken probably won’t find much to enjoy here, but The Mask of Zorro is pulpy swashbuckling perfection.

Bryan E. West
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