1998's "The Legend of Zorro" was one of that year's mild hits, taking in nearly $100m at the box office and getting mostly positive reviews. I mostly enjoyed the feature, finding its only major fault to be the overlong running time of nearly 2-1/2 hours. While it's taken quite a bit of time, the inevitable sequel arrived last year in the form of "Legend of Zorro", which picks up not terribly far after the first film left off. Zorro now has a family - wife Elena (Catherine Zeta-Jones), and son, Joaquin (Adrian Alonso) - to worry about, but there's also the matter his role as protector and hero of the people.
The sequel, written by Alex Kurtzman & Roberto Orci ("Alias" and the disappointing "Island") and directed by Martin Campbell ("Mask of Zorro"), mostly concerns itself with how Zorro is torn between his duty to his family and his alter ego's duty saving the people. After arriving home from another round of heroism as Zorro, he and Elena get into a heated debate about whether or not it's time to forget about Zorro and concentrate on his family.
Meanwhile, California is on the brink of becoming a state, and Zorro thinks that he needs to be there to ensure that this occurs without any evil getting in the way. Soon enough, Elena files for divorce, getting into a relationship with Count Armand (Rufus Sewell) and leaving Zorro in bad shape. The first hour of the movie has a few flaws, such as the bad decision to have the Banderas and Zeta-Jones characters argue whenever they're on-screen together. There's a twist later, but this aspect of the film is still not handled as well as it should have been. The arguing eventually grows tiresome, and one wonders when the movie's going to get on with it and get to the point.
No bonus points for guessing that the Sewell character is the picture's villain, and has a scheme up his sleeve. However, Sewell - while certainly a terrific actor - just isn't convincing as a bad guy. Banderas is appealing again as Zorro, although Zeta-Jones turns sour in a movie where we don't believe the character's actions. The pairing of Banderas and Zeta-Jones in the first movie was one of its high points, so to have the characters argue and divorce here is certainly a questionable choice.
I've always thought director Martin Campbell has been a reliable action director since 1995's "Goldeneye" (my favorite of the Brosnan-starring "Bond" films) and he gives some zip to the few action sequences presented in the second half of the picture. Still, by the time the picture had ended, I was a bit surprised that the more expensive sequel seemed somewhat less action-heavy than the original, which provided a better mixture of plot and action.
"Legend" stands as only a fair sequel. The story is weak, the villain could be better and the action could have been better spread throughout the picture. The humor and energy of the first feature also isn't up to the level of the original. Still, the picture has its moments when it finally starts to get going in the second half, and Banderas still remains perfect in the role, despite the fact that the material doesn't back him up this time around. Rent it.
VIDEO: "Legend of Zorro" is presented by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. The presentation quality does stumble in a few scenes, but appeared mostly tip-top. Sharpness and detail were largely first-rate, aside from a couple of slightly less well-defined moments.
The presentation's main concern was the presence of mild edge enhancement in a few scenes. It wasn't a major distraction, but it was a noticable concern. On a positive note, no artifacts were noted, and the print looked crystal clear. Colors remained bright and vivid, with no smearing or other concerns. Black level was solid, while flesh tones appeared accurate.
SOUND: Despite only having a handful of action sequences, the film's Dolby Digital 5.1 audio presentation remained quite good. Surrounds kicked into high gear during the film's handful of action sequences, providing a variety of discrete sound effects, background sounds and reinforcement of James Horner's score. Audio quality remained fine, with crisp dialogue, punchy effects and full-sounding score.
EXTRAS: Commentary from director Martin Campbell and cinematographer Phil Mehoux, "Stunts" featurette, "Playing With Trains" featurette, "Armand's Party" featurette, "Visual Effects" featurette, 4 deleted scenes w/optional commentary (aside from an alternate opening/closing, which is only available w/commentary) and two multi-angle studies (rehearsal footage/behind-the-scenes footage/final; "Armand's Party" and "Winery Fight"). Finally, we get a series of trailers for other Sony Pictures titles ("Open Season", "Monster House", "Mask of Zorro", "Gospel", "Sueno", "Memoirs of a Geisha" and "Pink Panther" (2005) ).
Final Thoughts: "Legend of Zorro" has moments in the somewhat more lively second half, but the film's story could use work and takes too long to develop. As for performances, Banderas is once again very good in the role, but Zeta-Jones doesn't fare as well thanks to the way the script handles her character. The DVD provides very good video quality, excellent audio and a nice set of supplements. Not as good as it should be, but works enough to be a moderately good "time-waster". Rent it.
The Film C+