"It seems we have a fly in the ointment... or should I say a fox? Zorro."
— Jacob McGivens
The Mask Of Zorro is a 1998 film which depicts the retirement of the aging Don Diego de la Vega as Zorro (Anthony Hopkins), and his training of a young punk (Antonio Banderas) as his replacement. There have so far been two films in the current treatment of the franchise, The Mask of Zorro and The Legend Of Zorro (2005).The Mask Of Zorro begins with the departure of the Spanish government from California, Northern Mexico. Don Rafael Montero, the Spanish governor of California, makes one last attempt to defeat the legendary outlaw Zorro but fails. Zorro returns home to his wife and baby daughter Elena, telling them that with the Spaniards out of Mexico, Zorro will retire. Not so fast: enter Don Rafael, who has deduced that Zorro is Don Diego. In the struggle that follows, Diego's wife is killed, his house burned to the ground and Rafael absconds with the baby. Zorro is arrested and thrown into prison.Twenty years later Diego escapes and, now a bitter, impoverished old man with nothing to live for, returns in secret to California. Unfortunately, so has Don Rafael, who has been put back into power by the wealthy Mexican landowners who are still loyal to him; he also has brought Elena (Catherine Zeta Jones), whom he has raised as his own daughter. Meanwhile, young outlaw Alejandro Murieta (Antonio Banderas) has lost his older brother Joaquin to corrupt Texas lawman Captain Harrison Love (Matt Letscher). Later, Diego meets up with Alejandro and offers to train him to become the new Zorro. Rafael and Love, in the meantime, hatch a scheme to purchase California from the President of Mexico, using gold secretly mined from California itself, and then destroy the mine and all the workers inside, forcing Zorro to race to the rescue.The Legend Of Zorro: A few years later, the demands on Zorro are putting a strain on Alejandro and Elena's marriage, so they have a temporary trial separation. Meanwhile, a new Smug Snake has entered the scene with eyes on both Elena and California, whose impending statehood is imperiled when Alejandro uncovers Yet Another Conspiracy to carve California and hand it over to various Evil Overlords. Cue a desperate battle on multiple fronts to win the day and the girl.Ten years have passed since the events of "The Mask of Zorro". Alejandro de la Vega (Antonio Banderas) has a great life. He has a beautiful wife and an energetic son, and is able to live contentedly as a don. As the folk hero Zorro, he even is helping the state of California join the USA.This all changes when, after refusing to give up being Zorro, his wife, Elena, files for divorce. With his son thinking him weak, de la Vega falls into drunkardness. It does not help that Elena is now seeing a wealthy French aristocrat.With a literal explosion, de la Vega finds that there is something else going on.The Legend of Zorro was not well received (and more importantly, didn't turn much of a profit), so a third film seems unlikely.
This film series provides examples of:
Of course, most of the tropes listed on Zorro's page.
Action Girl: The audience was delighted to discover Elena wasn't just going to let Zorro take that map. Oh no. It didn't go down like that. And while the sequel is inferior, it was great fun to watch her go Action Mom and have just as many action scenes as her husband.
All Girls Want Bad Boys: Ok, Zorro is really a nice guy and a gentleman; but when Elena sees him for the first time, she mistakes him for a bandit or someone dangerous, and it's because of this that she is instantly smitten by him.
Artistic License - History: The two most glaring ones in The Legend of Zorro, which is set in 1850, are the role of the Confederate States of America (which weren't formed until 1861), and the First Transcontinental Railroad (which wasn't completed until 1869; in fact, California wouldn't gain its first railroad until 1856).
Authority Equals Asskicking: Montero and Love are both leagues above their regular mooks. Especially Montero, who seems to be tied with Don Diego for best pure swordsman in the movie yet still remains a Combat Pragmatist.
Award Bait Song: "I Want To Spend My Lifetime Loving You" by Marc Anthony and Tina Arena. And written by James Horner and Will Jennings, the team responsible for the Titanic theme, to boot.
Batman Gambit: Don Diego crashed Montero's party to spy on the dons, get the map, get some payback by setting the adjacent fields on fire, and even get close to his daughter. All came in handy later on.
Blown Across the Room: An especially egregious example has Three-Fingered Jack ride down a mine cart and leap off the track with a pickaxe to attack Captain Love. Love pulls a revolver and shoots him with no visible recoil, and Jack's momentum reverses in midair, sending him tumbling to the ground in a heap.
Book Ends: Before the Time Skip, Don Diego tells a Zorro story to baby Elena. In the film's ending, Alejandro tells a Zorro story to baby Joaquin, his son with Elena.
Call Back: In the first movie's Action Prologue, a young boy runs into a hooded man, assuming he's just another bystander in the crowd, before looking closer and realizing the hooded man is Zorro. Twenty years later in a gold mine, a slave worker is brought some water by another hooded man, who once again, upon closer inspection, is Zorro. The particularly heartwarming part, the boy who noticed the former Zorro became the latter one twenty years down the line.
Chekhov's Gun: When Alejandro is still with his brother and 3-fingered Jack there's a short discussion between the gang and the Mexican authorities explaining that the primary reason why they're wanted is because they were horse thieves (and reputedly very good ones). This provides an explanation for why he's so good with horses later on in the film. If you were looking for one.
Creepy Souvenir: Captain Love keeps body parts of his enemies in jars and drinks from them. To add to the creep factor, he invites Alejandro to drink from the jar containing his brother Joaquin's head.
The real-life Love did, in fact, keep Joaquin and Jack's head and hand in jars of alcohol. He displayed them, rather than drank from them, however.
Culture Clash: The sequel has elements of this, contrasting the Hispanic trappings of the old California to the increasingly Wild West aesthetic of the to-be-American state.
Darker and Edgier: The original Alcalde in the Mark of Zorro is a grubby, greedy thief. Rafael Montero sees no problem with stealing other men's children, treason, and mass murder (though he does balk somewhat at the last one). Captain Pasquale is a saint compared to Captain Love.
Dead Guy Junior: Alejandro and Elena name their son Joaquin, after Alejandro's brother.
Deceptive Legacy: Rafael steals Diego's baby girl Elena, tells her that her mother died in childbirth, and raises her to believe he is her father. Diego is able to set the record straight with a little help from the woman who was baby Elena's nursemaid.
Establishing Character Moment: For the first part of the movie, Captain Love appears to just be a snobby soldier who has no qualms about killing when he needs to. It's only later when we see that he drinks out of jars with human body parts in them, that we realize that he's actually crazy.
Montero: Did you really think I would kill my own daughter?
Even though she married Don Diego, Don Rafael still had affection for Esperanza, and he is remorseful that she will have to live without a husband when he comes to arrest Diego. When Esperanza is killed (accidentally) by one of Rafael's men, Rafael is visibly shocked and angered and kills the shooter.
Even Evil Has Standards: Even Montero looks a little shocked at the suggestion that all the workers in the mine should die. He also seems genuinely amazed that Diego considers him capable of killing Elena.
Montero: Get the children out of the plaza immediately!! (to Don Luis) The children should never have to see the things we do.
Fashions Never Change: Averted. Napoleonic-esque costumes and uniforms in the first few minutes of The Mask of Zorro had largely changed to more Victorian styles in the the rest of the movie, set 20 years later.
Flaming Emblem: A particularly epic example occurs when Diego burns a giant Z into the countryside, to let Rafael know he's returned.
Flynning: Parodied when Alejandro flails his sword around, and Diego just knocks it out of his hand with a mere flick of his own sword. The rest of the movie plays Flynning straight, being a Swashbuckler and all, but there's a little bit more scuffling and dirty tricks than in the classic Flynning movies of the 30s and 40s.
Follow the Leader: In a strange double-edged example, The Mask Of Zorro may have inspired the film version of The Count of Monte Cristo; but Zorro also seems to be a retelling of the Monte Cristo story (it's actually a retelling of The Curse Of Capistrano).
Gaussian Girl: Elena. Somewhat justified during her first fight with Zorro in a dusty, pre-dawn barn.
Gratuitous Spanish: Given it takes place in California, during both "Mexican province" and "joining the US" phases, justified. In the sequel, Tornado even only accepts Alejandro's orders once he speaks in Spanish, and Zorro asks Joaquin to talk with him "en la lengua de nuestros padres".
Hair Trigger Explosive: In The Legend of Zorro, the villains' plan involves a train full of nitroglycerine. To demonstrate one tosses a small drop onto the floor causing a huge explosion.
Happily Married: Yeah, there was the separation phase, but that was mostly because Elena was blackmailed into it. For the most part, Alejandro and Elena are this.
He Cleans Up Nicely: Alejandro goes from being messy looking to looking like AntonioBanderas over the course of the movie. It is a testament to Antonio Banderas' acting skills that he manages to seem not charming until the makeover point.
Old, rather unkempt Don Diego gradually cleans up as Alejandro's training progresses. By the time he assumes the guise of Bernardo, his hair is pulled back, he's clean shaven, and he looks elegant even in servant's garb.
Historical Hero Upgrade: Three-Finger Jack and Joaquin Murieta were historical outlaws operating in California during the Gold Rush, and their gang was believed responsible for most of the murders in the Mother Lode area of the Sierra Nevadas. In the film they form a cheery band of outlaws with Joaquin's brother Alejandro, (who was invented for the film) who use guile to steal from the corrupt soldiers serving the government of California and seem content with humiliating their victims.
The case of Murrieta, however, is more complicated due to how his figure was already drenched in myths and urband legends way before the movie was made. According to The Otherwiki, depending on the point of view, he was considered an infamous bandit or a Mexican patriot, even nicknamed "The Mexican Robin Hood".
Historical Villain Upgrade: Harrison Love is based loosely on California Ranger Capt. Harry Love, a veteran of the Mexican-American War who was tasked to bring down the "Five Joaquins" gang, of whom Murieta was the chief member. After successfully hunting down Murietta and killing him and Three-Fingered Jack in a shootout, Murieta's head and Jack's hand were preserved in alcohol and turned over for proof. Love was not exactly a psychotic killer as shown in the film, and the historical events occurred in 1853, well after California became a member of the United States (Mask of Zorro takes place over 10 years earlier).
I Am Spartacus: Early in the first film, after Zorro has been in prison for decades, Don Rafael returns to find him. Cue all the prisoners declaring "I Am Zorro!" (although, contrary to the trope's common usage, it doesn't appear that they were doing so to protect Zorro, as it was never implied they even knew that the real Zorro was among them).
Kinda cute that the original Spartacus is Kirk Douglas, Catherine Zeta-Jones' (Elena) father-in-law.
It's also implied that Montero knew every single one of them was full of crap, as the real Zorro would have recognized the man who killed his wife.
I'm a Humanitarian: Captain Love likes to keep the severed body parts of his enemies in his drinking water and wine bottles, in hopes that consuming his enemies will allow him to see what he looks like through their eyes.
Captain Love: After all, it's only one man... Don Rafael: It isn't just one man, damn it. It's Zorro!
Kick the Dog: Captain Love keeps the heads of his enemies in jars, including Alejandro's older brother. Also, it was his idea to blow up the mine with all the peasant workers (including children) inside.
Truth in Television, sort of... Captain Love was based upon a real life person named Harry Love - A member of the California Rangers - who did kill Joaquin Murrieta (Zorro's older brother in the film) in a fire fight; and history states that he did cut off Murrieta's head. However, it wasn't because he wanted the trophy, but because he needed the proof that the deed had been done.
Just Train Wrong: In the sequel, the driver of the bad guy's train is hit by a piece of wood and falls against the throttle, shoving it forward and causing the train's speed and boiler pressure to dramatically increase. Pushing the throttle forward would actually close it, making the train slow down (and eventually stop) while a rise in speed would cause the boiler pressure to decrease.
Karmic Death: Two in The Mask of Zorro Captain Love is stabbed with his own sword, and Rafael is caught in the straps of a wagon full of gold which then drags him to his death. For bonus points, the wagon load of gold slams into Captain Love on the way down.
Land in the Saddle: Alejandro tries to summon his horse, Tornado, with a whistle, so he can jump out of a window onto its back. The horse comes at the whistle, but is having none of this "leaping onto his back" stuff, and steps aside, causing Alejandro to land with a painful set of Amusing Injuries. This is also a throwback to an earlier scene where the previous Zorro did it without a hitch.
Mundane Made Awesome: The scene in which Zorro unsheathes his sword for the final showdown VS Captain Love.
Mythology Gag: Diego's alias as Alejandro's manservant is Bernardo, who in the original series was the name of Diego's manservant.
Naked People Are Funny: When Elena gets her dress cut off by Zorro she is left in a state of half undress (she wears a modest form of old fashioned underwear but her upper half is completely exposed but for very long hair placed over her chest) we are invited, rightly or wrongly, to chuckle at her predicament, especially after she went in believing that she would win the duel, and even more so when she briefly forgets how embarrassed she is after Zorro kisses her passionately - only to be reminded of indecent exposure when Zorro snatches his hat from her (which she was using to cover herself) and then she is almost caught topless by her foster father and his mooks. To be fair, she held her own pretty well before Zorro stripped her.
The Old Convict: Don Diego becomes one of these, after he gives up hope when he is arrested, his home destroyed, and his wife and child apparently killed. After twenty years, though, he finds the strength to break out.
The alternate ending to The Legend of Zorro does this with the aging Alejandro and his now-adult son Joaquin. This was changed, though, in order to allow for more sequels with the same actors.
Pragmatic Adaptation: The original neatly introduced Zorro to a new generation by making Don Diego The Obi-Wan to a new Zorro and adding healthy lashings of tongue-in-cheek humour.
Psycho for Hire: Captain Love in The Mask of Zorro and McGivens in The Legend.
Racing The Train: A version of this happens in Legend of Zorro when Alejandro's son does this with the horse, Tornado, is racing to catch up to the train.
Recycled IN SPACE!: Main character is a hopeless loser who gets trained up to be awesome by an old master? Not a particularly common plot for a swashbuckler, but extremely popular for kung fu movies.
In a similar vein, during Alejandro's fight in the outpost with the dozens of guards, everybody stops swordfighting for a second and just pauses, going this way and that based on how Alejandro moves. A little reminiscent of Jidai Geki swordfights.
Say My Name: At the climax Diego and Rafael have an understated version, where it's practically a whisper. It actually makes it more powerful.
Self-Proclaimed Knight: Don Diego de la Vega as the mysterious black-clad rider who fights injustice in Spanish California in The Mask of Zorro and Don Alejandro Murrieta de la Vega in The Legend Of Zorro.
Slap-Slap-Kiss: Played rather cleverly during and after Elena and Zorro's swordfight. Also present in the sequel.
Shameful Strip: Zorro stripping Elena at the end of their sword fight most definitely counts.
Spirited Young Lady: Elena wants to keep the commandments and tries to behave the way her father would like her to but her heart is too wild. She can both dance gracefully with Captain Harrison Love or sword fight with Zorro. She also makes her view of politics knows at dinner.
Stuff Blowing Up: Alejandro's Zorro has a strange way of making this happen a lot.
Switch to English: Inverted. After the title character rescues his son from the Big Bad's gang, they start a conversation in English. Then Zorro cuts the conversation off and requests that they converse in "the language of our fathers" ó Spanish. The rest of the conversation occurs in Spanish with English subtitles.
Sword Cane: Alejandro has one when he poses as a Don. He doesn't use it though. In fact, the only reason we know it's a swordstick at all is that he checks it briefly before attending the banquet.
You Look Familiar: Pedro Armendariz Jr. plays both Don Hector and Governor Riley. In addition Tony Amendola plays Don Luis and Father Quintero, the name of the villain in the Tyrone Power film was Don Luis Quintero.