Superheroes are everywhere these days. Yet, with all the talk of Marvel and DC, it’s easy to forget the costumed heroes that predate the popular explosion of comic books. Back in the day, heroes didn’t come from space or have superpowers. Rather, all you needed was a mask and a sword.
Swashbuckling heroes like Robin Hood and Zorro were the order of the day. While the former continues to be revisited again and again, the latter has been absent from the big screen since 2005. With costumed heroes as big as ever, is it time for Hollywood to finally get Zorro back in action?
Zorro inspired a number of superheroes, including Batman
One of the biggest arguments for reviving Zorro is just how influential the character has been. In a lot of ways, modern superheroes wouldn’t exist without pulp writer Johnston McCulley’s creation. In most versions, the character is depicted as the masked alter-ego of Don Diego de la Vega, an aristocrat who spends his nights fighting crime in a black suit. Sound familiar?
There’s a very clear reason why Bruce Wayne’s origin story typically involves a fateful visit to see The Mark of Zorro. In his purest form, Batman is nothing if not a modernized version of Zorro, though the latter resides firmly in the late 1700s. Even John Turturro, who’s playing mobster Carmine Falcone in 2021’s The Batman, admits which hero he prefers.
“I loved Batman growing up, but I’m really a Zorro fan,” Turturro told Inquisiter. “So there’s no Batman without Zorro. When I was 5 years old, I thought I was Zorro with a sword. I had a stick that I hit my father with all the time. … Antonio Banderas was great as Zorro.” What a great set-up for our next point.
The time is right for a ‘legacyquel’ to 1998’s ‘The Mask of Zorro’
Indeed, Banderas was the last actor to play the masked hero in theaters. In The Mask of Zorro, he stars as Alejandro Murrieta, a convict trained by an older Diego de la Vega (Anthony Hopkins) to take his place. The film earned critical praise and $250 at the worldwide box office, effectively reviving the Zorro franchise.
Banderas, co-star Catherine Zeta-Jones, and director Martin Campbell returned for The Legend of Zorro seven years later. But the magic was lost, and the film underperformed. Now it’s been more than 20 years since audiences first saw Banderas slashing Zs on-screen. The 59-year-old actor is nearly the age Hopkins was when The Mask of Zorro was released.
And Hollywood is more obsessed than ever with rebooting established characters. The Mask of Zorro is still remembered fondly. And films like Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Creed have successfully picked up where they left off. Introducing a new Zorro now with Banderas playing the mentor role would be perfectly timed to leverage all the 1990s nostalgia lately.
A post-apocalyptic reboot has been in development
Unfortunately, no such project is so far in the works. Instead, the closest we’ve gotten to a new Zorro project is an inexplicable post-apocalyptic reboot. Reportedly titled simply Z, the movie is set in the future. But it sounds more like V for Vendetta than anything resembling the Zorro fans know and still love.
For a reboot to work, the new version should honor what came before. Even if it doesn’t serve as a direct continuation, certain hallmarks should remain in place. Changing Zorro too much would alienate the faithful and feel derivative to newbies. So we’re not sure who a futuristic reboot is for.
Thankfully, news on Z has been quiet lately. Perhaps the concept can evolve to something closer to classic Zorro. Actor Gael García Bernal — who has long been attached — would actually be a great Zorro. The character’s potential has just been wasted so far. We can only hope someone gives Banderas a call sometime soon.
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