Plot: What’s it about?
As long as the locals can remember, Zorro has protected them when they needed him to, often in the most dangerous of situations. But Zorro is no magical hero by any means, instead he is a man named Don Diego de la Vega (Anthony Hopkins), who has gotten older over time and wishes to spend more time with his wife & small child. His latest escapade was a most risky one, as he saved three innocent men from being killed, but was almost ambushed in the process. But when a couple of young boys managed to throw off the ambush, Zorro was able to make his escape and in return, he gave the boys a special pendant from around his own neck. After he returned home, Don Diego was seized by the authorities, his wife was killed, and his child was taken from him, leaving him imprisoned with nothing left to live for. But when he eventually left the prison behind, he discovered his daughter had grown up, thinking she was another man’s child. Don Diego soon runs into one of the young men who helped him so long ago, but Alejandro (Antonio Banderas) has just lost his brother and seeks revenge himself. Don Diego decides to train Alejandro in the ways of the blade and when the time is right, the two will tempt their fates and try to gain vengeance. But can even Don Diego make a warrior and a gentleman out of Alejandro?
I find The Mask of Zorro to be one of the best pure adventure movies from its time, so of course, I was thrilled to see a new two disc special edition released. I’ve seen a lot of Zorro movies in my time, but this one harkens back to a bygone era, when action was fast & furious, but humor & romance were also present. This one moves at a brisk pace and even at over two hours, never becomes dull in the least, quite the opposite, to be honest. The film has some superb action driven sequences, complete with dazzling swordplay, nice stuntwork, and of course, gorgeous and lush set pieces, which make it look so epic in scope. As you would expect from a modern adventure picture, this one has slick production values and it seems like sixty-five million bucks were well spent, as it looks like it cost much more to produce. Antonio Banderas is in excellent form in the lead, while Anthony Hopkins, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Stuart Wilson provide more than ample supporting performances. In short, this is about as good as modern adventure movies get and as such, anyone interested in being wildly entertained should give this film a look. This new Superbit Deluxe version brings over most of the extras, but loses some, though small improvements in audio & video might be enough to make this the better choice.
I’ve seen Antonio Banderas in a lot of roles, but he seems born to play this one, as he seems so natural as Zorro. He is a natural choice to take on the role if you go by looks, but Banderas also has the persona to handle the part, without a doubt. I found his performance here to be fantastic, as he is a lot of fun to watch and seems to manage well enough in all facets of the character. He has to be dramatic, humorous, and of course, work within complex action scenes, but Banderas never falters in this most impressive effort. I especially love the moments in which he combines action with humor, very entertaining and memorable stuff, I think. You can also see Banderas in such films as Four Rooms, Desperado, The 13th Warrior, Philadelphia, Evita, and Spy Kids. The cast also includes Anthony Hopkins (Hannibal, Bram Stoker’s Dracula), Stuart Wilson (Vertical Limit, Lethal Weapon 3), and Catherine Zeta-Jones (Entrapment, The Haunting).
Video: How does it look?
The Mask of Zorro is presented in a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. The previous Special Edition release had a very impressive visual presentation, but with all the extras packed onto the disc, I knew some improvements could be made. As such, this new Superbit edition knocks the extras onto a second disc and opens up all that space for the video, which is given some improvements, though small ones. The detail level is perked a shade, which means small touches seem clearer and more visible, which is excellent news. Aside from that, there’s not much else different, though of course, that alone is reason enough to be pleased. As I said, the previous transfer was good, but this one simply outmatches it.
Audio: How does it sound?
The video on this release is very impressive, but the audio is no slouch either, as it is also reference level material. This release includes 5.1 surround options in both Dolby Digital and DTS, but whichever you choose, your speakers will put through the paces, to be sure. The surrounds are used all the time with all sorts of directional presence, impact effects, or more subtle uses, while the subwoofer will pulse a lot also, sometimes to very effective and memorable ends. So if you want to showcase your system’s power, then this is one of the tracks to use, very impressive and both are among the best tracks I’ve heard. I do give an edge to the DTS option, but both sound excellent and no one will be let down by either of the options. This release also includes subtitles in English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Korean, Chinese, and Thai.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This release contains a second disc dedicated to bonus materials, but the informative audio commentary session has been removed. But what is here starts off with Unmasking Zorro, an extensive and well made documentary that covers the entire production, from the music to the casting process to beyond. I really enjoyed this feature and while it is divided into a lot of smaller sections, it offers an in depth look behind the scenes and never becomes a fluff piece, which is good news, of course. This disc also includes two deleted scenes, twelve television spots, a Marc Anthony & Tina Arena music video, talent files, costume designs, a nice selection of publicity photos, and the film’s theatrical and teaser trailers.