By Oliver Lyttelton | www.oliverlyttelton.com April 27, 2011 at 1:00AM
1998's "The Mask Of Zorro" is, all things considered, a pretty solid action-adventure movie. Not a classic, by any means, but as far as old-fashioned swashbucklers go, it was zippy fun, with about the right blend of action, laughs and romance. Sony clearly hoped that the film would turn the classic folk hero created by Johnston McCulley into a new franchise, but it took them seven years to get a sequel together, and when it arrived, 2005's "The Legend of Zorro" was a mere shadow of the original.
But if the last few years have proven anything, it's that you can't keep an iconic character (read: lucrative franchise brand) down, and 24 Frames reveals that Fox is dusting off the mask and hat for a new version of Zorro, one that promises to be very different from the two Martin Campbell/Antonio Banderas films. The company is in the early stages of development on "Zorro Reborn," a new script, which takes McCulley's hero, a masked nobleman in Spanish California who fights injustice, and transplants him into a post-apocalyptic future for a revenge tale that apparently nods to Leone and "No Country for Old Men." That's right, post-apocalyptic Zorro. Sigh. Drink. Slam head on table. Sigh.
The script comes from Lee Shipman and Brian McGreevy, whose Dracula re-imagining "Harker" is set up at Warner Bros with "Unknown" director Jaume Collet-Serra at the helm, and they've clearly found their niche. They're also behind a King Arthur reboot called "Pendragon," and "Once Upon A Time In Hell," which transplants Alexandre Dumas' "The Count of Monte Cristo" to the London underworld. Indeed, their manager once commented to the trades that "The guys have dug into their lit backgrounds to come up with new stories for old material in order to sell 'original' material without securing the rights to a remake, a book, a graphic novel etc. It really shows ingenuity and resourcefulness in today's market." In other words, they don't have an original thought in their heads.
The film already has a director attached, in the form of Rpin Suwannath, who's served as a "previsualisation supervisor" on the likes of "Van Helsing," "The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian" and the upcoming "X-Men: First Class" -- meaning, essentially, he's helped Matthew Vaughn and Stephen Sommers with their animatics, so he's had some experience from within the tentpole world, at least. Is this going to be a total washout? We've racked our brains for five reasons that might justify the existence of "Zorro Reborn."
1. It's like "The Road," but with more appeal to Latino audiences!
2. Antonio Banderas is keen to return to his trademark role, but will only do so on the condition he gets to carve up some cannibals real good.
3. Market research suggests that "The Book of Eli" would have performed 40% better at the box office if Denzel Washington had worn a mask for the entire movie. And if it wasn't terrible.
4. The film is the first part of an ambitious multi-film plan that will eventually pair Post-Apocalyptic Zorro with Post-Apocalyptic Robin Hood, The Post-Apocalyptic Scarlet Pimpernel and Post-Apocalyptic Captain Blood in an "Avengers"-style team-up movie, starring digitally recreated versions of Douglas Fairbanks, Tyrone Power and Errol Flynn.
5. The executives at pretty much every movie studio are creatively bankrupt scumbags constantly in fear of losing their jobs, desperately clinging to any established property they can get their hands on, because it makes their life easier, and because if it fails, they can always point to the success of "Sherlock Holmes" and then blame the director.
We're leaning towards five, personally. The film's early on in the process, so it's unlikely we'll see this any time soon. Or, with any luck, at all.