Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Western History | The First 18 Minutes of The Mask of Zorro (1998)

The opening scenes of The Mask of Zorro take place in 1921. Zorro is middle-aged and though he's still active, he's considering hanging up his whip and rapier. It seems like a good time since Spain and its ruthless alcaldes and commandantes are being driven out by the Mexican War of Independence led by Antonio López de Santa Anna.

I like that the movie roots itself in history. Being set in California, it's fair that it'll skip the Texas Revolution that led to the Mexican-American War. But the mention of Santa Anna - like the Davy Crockett movie I watched before this - foreshadows the events around Sam Houston and the Alamo. 

Anthony Hopkins was a weird choice to play the original Zorro. I mean, it's understandable. Hopkins pretty much owned Hollywood in the late '90s and since he quickly gives over the mask to Antonio Banderas, his Welshness isn't as distracting as it might have been. Still, watching just the parts where he's playing younger and is the one and only Zorro... he doesn't exactly disappear into the role. 

It's all set-up though. We meet the young village boy Alejandro who idolizes Zorro and will take over the role in the future. We meet the evil Don Montero who has to leave thanks to Santa Anna's forces, but is desperate to do as much damage to Zorro before he goes as possible. We also learn that our hero Don Diego is now married and has a daughter, though that doesn't last long.

The opening glosses over how Montero has learned that Don Diego is Zorro. That's an important point and would be the whole plot if this was actually a movie about Don Diego. But Zorro is getting older and perhaps a little careless, so I'll let it go. On Montero's way out of town, he shows up at the De la Vega estate and confronts Zorro. It looks like Montero wants to kill Zorro, but he changes his mind when Diego's wife - whom Montero has always desired for himself - dies trying to protect her husband. That causes Montero to adapt his plans, so he simply arrests Diego, but kidnaps his daughter to raise as Montero's own child.

And that's where the story sits for the next 20 years, so I've decided to leave it alone for now and come back to it when the rest of this project's timeline has caught up to it.

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