Home > Reviews > THE LEGEND OF ZORRO – James Horner


October 28, 2005 Leave a comment Go to comments

legendofzorroOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

Considering its $94 million success at the box office in 1998, it’s rather surprising that it’s taken Hollywood seven years to make a sequel to The Mask of Zorro, the film which turned Antonio Banderas into a swashbuckling heartthrob and introduced to the world a little-known Welsh actress called Catherine Zeta-Jones. With director Martin Campbell once again at the helm, the film takes place ten years after the events in Mask of Zorro. Don Alejandro de la Vega (the real identity of Zorro) and his wife Elena are now the parents of a ten year old son, Joaquin (Adrian Alonso). With California on the verge of joining the United States of America, Alejandro keeps the promise he made to his wife and agrees to hang up his cape and end his swashbuckling lifestyle forever to spend more time with his family. However, his retirement is prematurely ended by the nefarious Armand (Rufus Sewell), whose labyrinthine plot involves sabotaging California’s plans for statehood and could lead to civil war…

Despite the rather complicated plot, much of The Legend of Zorro is purported to be more light-hearted than its predecessor, a development reflected in the tone of James Horner’s original score. As one of the returning members of the original cast and crew working on the sequel, The Legend of Zorro is something of a departure for Horner: it’s only the fourth time he has scored the sequel to one of his own films, and his first since Fievel Goes West in 1991. As one would expect, the style and orchestration of the score is virtually identical to the original – but this time with the playful flamenco element turned up a notch, and the more “serious” action turned down.

The score opens with “Collecting the Ballots”, which contains the same flashy guitar, breathy shakuhachi and flamboyant foot-stomps that so categorized the original, but instead of leaping off into an opening action sequence instead presents an intimate, understated duet for woodwinds and guitar. It is not long, however, before the franchise’s central themes are all presented in quick succession: both Zorro’s theme and the horse riding action theme in “Stolen Votes”, both Elena’s theme and the Love theme in “To the Governor’s… and then Elena” and so on. Horner never lets you forget that this is a sequel, and that all the main musical ideas are being carried forward from the original, but to his credit he continually plays around with tempos and orchestration to keep things fresh and alive.

The score’s main new theme first appears during “A Proposal with Pearls/Perilous Times”, a similarly Spanish-styled motif for strings, clarinet and guitar, but which has a slightly more downbeat and reflective tone than anything heard in the first film – possibly a reflection of the changing dynamic in the relationship between Zorro and Elena, or the increasing influence of their son Joaquin. It is heard again during “Jailbreak/Reunited” and in snippets here and there elsewhere, but never has the same kind of impact as the themes carried over from Mask.

“This Is Who I Am” contains an interesting variation on Zorro’s theme performed on a soft solo clarinet, which builds to a wonderfully satisfying and poignant finale, and there are equally powerful renditions of the main themes at the end of “Jailbreak/Reunited”, during the noble-sounding “Statehood Proclaimed”, and especially in the magnificent finale, “My Family is My Life”. Say what you will about Horner, but he has never lots his ability to emotionally move a listener through his music.

Of course, all this does not mean that there is no action music present in The Legend of Zorro – on the contrary, cues such as “Joaquin’s Capture and Zorro’s Rescue”, the uniquely mischievous “Jailbreak/Reunited”, the fast-paced “Mad Dash/Zorro Unmasked”, the fun and exciting “Just One Drop of Nitro”, and the superbly epic 10-minute “The Train” are chock full of frenetic string work, ebullient flamenco fanfares, coarse shakuhachi blasts, and the ubiquitous castanets, guitars and foot-stomps. However, to be honest they do seem much more caper-like and gently comical than they did in the first Zorro film. There is no hard edge, or real sense of danger to them – more a case of Zorro leading his antagonists on a merry, PG-rated dance where the end result is a bop on the head rather than a run-through with an épée. Only “The Cortez Ranch” and “A Dinner of Pigeon/Setting the Explosives” have any real sense of menace, with the combination of shakuhachi, deep strings, heavy percussion and noticeably prominent trombones adding a great deal of tension and suspense to the cue.

Broadly, if you enjoyed The Mask of Zorro there is every likelihood that you will enjoy The Legend of Zorro just as much, but don’t make the mistake of thinking that it is nothing more than a rehash of the previous score. While all the main thematic elements and orchestration ideas are carried over, there is more than enough new material to warrant further exploration, and there are enough interesting variations on the older stuff to allow for a surprise or two.

Rating: ****

Track Listing:

  • Collecting the Ballots (3:27)
  • Stolen Votes (6:33)
  • To the Governor’s… and then Elena (4:07)
  • This Is Who I Am (3:07)
  • Classroom Justice (1:52)
  • The Cortez Ranch (6:37)
  • A Proposal with Pearls/Perilous Times (4:00)
  • Joaquin’s Capture and Zorro’s Rescue (5:02)
  • Jailbreak/Reunited (5:38)
  • A Dinner of Pigeon/Setting the Explosives (5:06)
  • Mad Dash/Zorro Unmasked (3:22)
  • Just One Drop of Nitro (2:42)
  • The Train (11:03)
  • Statehood Proclaimed (5:02)
  • My Family Is My Life (8:14)

Running Time: 76 minutes 11 seconds

Epic/Sony Music Soundtrax EK-97751 (2005)

Music composed and conducted by James Horner. Orchestrated by Bruce Babcock, Randy Kerber and Jon Kull. Recorded and mixed by Simon Rhodes. Album produced by James Horner and Simon Rhodes.

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