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The Mask of Zorro(1998)
It has been 20 years since Don Diego de la Vega successfully fought Spanish oppression in Alta California as the legendary romantic hero, Zorro. Imprisoned for two decades, he now must find a successor to stop Don Rafael Montero--the powerful, former Spanish governor of Alta California who cost de la Vega his freedom, his wife, Esperanza, and his daughter, Elena--who is making plans to purchase California from Mexico's president, General Santa Anna. Alejandro Murieta, a bandit with a troubled past, is transformed by Don Diego into a new Zorro who he hopes will help him foil Montero's schemes once and for all. Tracing the heroic story of these highly-charged relationships, the tale follows the new Zorro as he assumes de la Vega's mantle and enters into a romantic relationship with a woman close to his predecessor's heart...
For more about The Mask of Zorro and the The Mask of Zorro Blu-ray release, see the The Mask of Zorro Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on December 4, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Antonio Banderas, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Anthony Hopkins, Stuart Wilson, Matt Letscher, Tony Amendola (I)
Director: Martin Campbell
» See full cast & crew
The Mask of Zorro Blu-ray Review
Sony delivers another strong Blu-ray release with 'Zorro.'
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, December 4, 2009
'I thought you were tied up!'
'That is because you are stupid.'
The star of countless books, television programs, and feature films, the legendary fictional hero of the people -- Zorro -- rides once again in The Mask of Zorro, a spit-and-polished romp that's every bit as entertaining as it is well-made, every bit as endearing as the character's storied past. First appearing 90 years ago as the brainchild of Johnston McCulley, the character has evolved and matured with time, but never have his exploits been so wonderfully realized as they are in Director Martin Campbell's (Casino Royale) 1998 event film that's nearly pitch-perfect in every regard. Delivering spot-on performances, lavish sets and costuming, a witty and dramatic script, and a sprinkling of romance, The Mask of Zorro withstands the test of time and dazzles even some ten years after its initial theatrical release.
The masked hero of the people, Zorro (Anthony Hopkins, Bram Stoker's Dracula), has once again saved the day, freeing a trio of innocent peasants from a firing squad under the command of Don Rafael Montero (Stuart Wilson, Vertical Limit), an evil tyrant who sees Zorro as a stumbling block towards his goal of ultimate power in California. However, treachery is afoot: Montero has tracked Zorro -- a man by the name of Don Diego de la Vega -- back to his home where his men accidentally kill Diego's wife; Montero imprisons Diego and raises his daughter Elena as his own. Twenty years later, Diego escapes from prison and seeks vengeance on his arch nemesis, his assassination attempt halted only when his rightful daughter, Elena (Catherine Zeta-Jones, Entrapment), arrives by Montero's side as his own daughter. Later, Diego happens upon young Alejandro Murrieta (Antonio Banderas, Interview With the Vampire), a slovenly and drunken man mourning the loss of his brother who recently died at the hands of Montero's most trusted underling, Captain Harrison Love (Matt Letscher). Diego recognizes an older Alejandro as one of two brothers who aided him in his last victory over Montero twenty years prior, and he takes Alejandro in as an apprentice to succeed him as the masked hero of the people, Zorro.
The Mask of Zorro may be summed up in one word: fun. With seemingly endless high adventure and, for the most part, family-friendly action, The Mask of Zorro is a serious motion picture with a light underbelly, a wonderful combination and one that certainly suits the film's characters, timeframe, and story arc superbly. Director Martin Campbell hits all the right notes throughout, his picture a fantastical realization of swashbuckling adventure that never grows tiresome despite a runtime of well over two hours. The film's opening action spectacle sets the perfect tone for the remainder of the picture; it's pure fantasy, a perfect visual representation of an expertly choreographed hero-saves-the-day sequence that's slightly cartoonish in the way it handles violence and the result is a rousing and jovial -- yet almost surreal and fantastical -- acton piece that proves a faultless open to a picture that retains the same spirit and remains planted ever-so-slightly in something of a fantasy realm throughout. Nevertheless, The Mask of Zorro also features just enough drama that, at the same time, lends to the picture a sense of danger and realism around every corner, allowing the film to find the perfect mixture for the ultimate in high adventure.
Another area of success for The Mask of Zorro lies in its ability to overcome what is basically a by-the-numbers story line; few movies succeed as heartily as this one when it's never any secret where the story will go and how it will end, but The Mask of Zorro decisively conquers this otherwise damaging element and is actually probably all the better for it. The film's lighthearted presentation and expert construction allow for almost infinite replay value, even in light of the none-too-original story arc and accompanying elements. Indeed, The Mask of Zorro never seems to wear out its welcome or grow old, tiresome, or dated with age; it's a timeless picture of adventure and wit, a fun little movie that's an absolute success thanks not to a novel concept but instead its ability to so precisely flesh out all the supporting elements around its tried-and-true concept. This isn't an all-time classic picture, but the argument can be made that it's close; the film entwines an optimum mixture of action, comedy, romance, and drama, not to mention a strong and witty script, natural direction, flowing editing, wonderful sound effects, and a pitch-perfect score from James Horner (Glory). All together, these elements far outweigh the otherwise unsurprising nature of the film, allowing The Mask of Zorro to withstand the test of time and prove itself a worthy entry not only into the "Zorro" mythology but within the realm of motion pictures with every viewing.
Making all the elements come together is The Mask of Zorro's sharp and witty dialogue and the ensemble cast's ability to get every last bit of zest from the impeccable script. Through both dialogue and visuals, the film blends in plenty of humor to ride alongside the action, adventure, drama, and romance, but never once is the humor out of place, forced, or inappropriate. The cast understands the nature of the script, and to a player they all embrace and run with the material, creating not only one of the stronger casts in recent memory but each playing their respective parts with a vigor and ease that allows each to slip effortlessly into their parts. Anthony Hopkins is, not surprisingly, highly effective as an aging hero with a thirst for vengeance, and Antonio Banderas delivers a spot-on performance as his rough-around-the-edges hero-in-the-making replacement. The casting makes the mentor-student relationship all the more believable and engaging, and the story allows their differing personalities but similar objectives to mesh as they become reflections of one another and work together to save the day. Catherine Zeta-Jones is naturally cast as the beautiful damsel in distress caught between hero and villain, love and lust, and ever-changing circumstances that slowly lead her to understand who she trusts; and who she loves; and most importantly, who she is. Finally, Stuart Wilson's performance is every bit the match of Hopkins' as he turns in a deliciously devious but nevertheless fun effort as the film's hateful but in an odd sort of way, almost likable, villain.
The Mask of Zorro Blu-ray, Video Quality
The Mask of Zorro rides onto Blu-ray with a solid 1080p, 2.40:1-framed transfer. The transfer delivers practically impeccable detail throughout; the opening action sequence sees a large crowd gathered in protest of Don Rafael Montero, and several overhead and distance shots allow viewers to note every tear in their garments and smudges of dirt on their faces throughout the frame. Such shots are the first of many fine examples of the transfer's exceptional sense of depth, strong clarity, and sharp detail in both foreground and background objects. Various interiors also offer detail that's a cut-above. Whether in warmer, earth-toned interiors (such as Don Diego de la Vega's home); darker, murkier locales (the cave where Diego trains Alejandro), or any number of brightly-lit exteriors under the California sun; the transfer never falters to render every environment with ease and clarity. Colors are vibrant but not overbearing; many brighter hues -- seen particularly in the more regal garb worn by the several Dons in the film -- tend to play in stark contrast to the many dusty outdoor environments and the monotoned brown and tan shaded garments worn by peasants. Several times the image goes a bit soft and murky, but such is the exception to the rule. Black levels do not revert to a shade of gray or drown out fine details, and flesh tones are never problematic. Covered by a thin veneer of film grain and without evidence of any excessive digital manipulation, The Mask of Zorro marks another strong transfer from Sony.
The Mask of Zorro Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The Mask of Zorro slashes onto Blu-ray with a nearly reference-quality DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless soundtrack. The track takes no time to establish its dominance; the opening sequence provides listeners with a rich and full surround sound extravaganza. A raucous crowd cheers and chants, music swells and spills into the room from all around, clanking swords attack with a distinct clarity, and gunshots pound through and reverberate about the soundstage to wonderful effect. Such active, immersive, and clear effects remain, evident in each action piece throughout the film. In addition, the track belts out the film's energetic and Mexican-flavored score with ease and room-filling precision. Zorro's lossless soundtrack also handles more delicate nuances with the same confidence and ease as the more energetic elements. Thunder and the accompanying downpour as heard in chapter three creates a seamless environment, as do chirping birds, gently rolling waters, and the drip-drip-drip as heard inside Zorro's long-abandoned lair, all creating a consistently aurally captivating environment. Everything about the track is nicely balanced with nothing too overpowering or too diminutive. Dialogue is front-and-center and delivered with pinpoint precision, the final element in a winning lossless soundtrack that makes the movie all the better.
The Mask of Zorro Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Mask of Zorro slices onto Blu-ray with a few extras of note, the collection headlined by a commentary track with Director Martin Campbell. Campbell delivers a strong but not necessarily memorable track, offering up a plethora of information pertaining to many aspects revolving around the crafting of the film, including casting, shooting locations, set design, anecdotes from the set, characterization, choreography, and much more. Unmasking 'Zorro' (480p, 45:05) is an extensive and engaging journey into the ins-and-outs of the production, the piece not only looking at how the film was made but the history behind the character in print and on screen. The piece examines the strengths of the cast and crew, the scale of the production, the actors' preparations for their parts, the shooting of particular scenes, the style of the film, the storyboarding process and its importance to the film, James Horner's score, and much more. The piece is assembled through cast and crew interview clips, segments from the film, and behind-the-scenes footage. Next are two deleted scenes (480p, 4:50) followed by the "I Want to Spend My Lifetime Loving You" music video (480p, 4:51). Rounding out the collection of film-centric extras is a sneak peak at The Legend of Zorro (480p, 5:02) and an exclusive clip from that film (480p, 1:45). Also included is BD-Live functionality; Sony's "MovieIQ" that offers live, up-to-date details about every scene, including cast and crew filmographies and biographies, soundtrack listings, and more; and 1080p trailers for Angels & Demons, It Might Get Loud, The Da Vinci Code, and Casino Royale.
The Mask of Zorro Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
An impeccable cast, a witty script, excellent direction, wonderful fight choreography, solid direction, and a rousing score all come together to make The Mask of Zorro one of the best films of its kind, a swashbuckling film of high adventure, drama, humor, and romance that has proven itself capable of withstanding the test of time and serving as one of the most purely entertaining films of the past decade. A bit short on substance, the film nevertheless works thanks to every supportive element working at peak proficiency, making The Mask of Zorro an easygoing movie that's worth watching time and again. Making the experience even better is this top-notch Blu-ray effort from Sony. Featuring a good 1080p image, an even better lossless soundtrack, and a handful of bonus materials, fans cannot go wrong making the upgrade from DVD or purchasing this gem for the first time. Highly recommended.
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