Thursday, July 12, 2018

Zorro: Generation Z

Zorro: Generation Z (2006) is a short animated series directed by Chris Evans that recount the adventures of futuristic Zorro/Diego de la Vega. This incarnation introduces us to the Scarlet Whip/Maria Martinez, another hero inspired in Zorro (sharing a lot of similarities with the 1944 Black Whip). Both superheroes fight using high-technology weapons against Maria's father, the corrupt Mayor Martinez, who has no idea about her second identity. This animation is remade into the movie Zorro: Return to the Future one year later keeping the same characters, but adding to the plot an explanation of how this Don Diego becomes a hero, after finding out about previous Zorro generations in his family, which is not clarified in this series. Zorro now looks more like a modern superhero: his costume is bulletproof, fights to stop crime, and his fights are tracked and endorsed by the media.

In the fictional city called Pueblo Grande, Zorro and Black Whip fight with robots while trying to unveil each other's identity behind masks. But not only them have a second personality. Sometimes Bernardo (Diego's mute assistant) takes Zorro's mask, cape and motorcycle called Tornado (like the traditional black horse) and fights crime when Diego gets injured or when there is a threat of discovering Diego's secret. It seems that with technology there is no need to skill or swordfight practice to become Zorro. Bernardo has managed to even insert voice simulation into Zorro's costume to fake his identity. And thus Bernardo turns into a superhero as well.

If we look at the many different plots made about Zorro, there is tradition and addition. As the list of Zorro movies adds up, we see a repetition of certain aspects such as the fight for justice, the dialogues with few words in Spanish that remind us of the history of the village and Zorro's aristocratic ascendance, among other details. But there is also an addition of new elements. Some of them are part of a particular Zorro movie, and other innovations stay as part of an updated tradition. In the Republic series, and then in the Disney series, Zorro is multiplied and the dual identity characteristic is not seen only in him, but it is displaced on other characters, especially on his enemies, or in Zorro replicas. Here again, this resource is used almost in every episode. Bernando dresses up like Zorro and Maria is also the Scarlet Whip, but in addition, Diego's cousin also pretends to be Zorro, which leaves us with three Zorros, something seen in previous incarnations.

In the list of the additions for this unconventional plot for a Zorro movie, modernity stands out. Modernity, on one hand, has allowed people like Zorro to become more efficient fighting injustice with the technological advancements. On the other hand, it has changed almost totally the geopolitics in which the story of Zorro takes place. Clearly, this Pueblo Grande location of the movie has nothing to do with Latin America or old California. With no need to mentioning it, we know that this Pueblo Grande is a city in the United States, though most of the characters' names are in Spanish and sometimes they speak in Spanish. Pueblo Grande is also a city with lots of immigrants and interestingly, those are the ones causing the most trouble. Zorro fights against an Italian mafia gang, and Sergeant Garcia with his strong Mexican accent, appearance, and attitude (lazy and always eating cake and burritos) could be easily pointed as a foreigner among the rest. Zorro, however, does not fall into this category though we know about his origin from previous movies. He is not a foreign hero, or at least he is not one coming from south of the border.

Towards the end of the movie, Zorro's enemies are harder to destroy since they have discovered how to hack Zorro's technology. Then Diego decides to come back to the old Zorro costume, with the sword and whip used by his ancestors. Though that without technology it is almost impossible for Diego de la Vega to be an undestroyable hero (the old costume requires from him to use his own abilities), he successfully finishes his last battle.

What does this movie tell us about generations of Zorro to come? Will future Zorros renounce to their Latino identities and become more American-like in name of modernity? In the movies about old California, Zorro was known for protecting Indians and local people in poverty from the elitist exploitation imposed by the Spanish royals. But now that we are presented with a futuristic version of Zorro in which there is not a single trace left of the colonial period other than Spanish sounding names. We do not see priests or Mexican indigenous like in the traditional stories (though we do see a native American woman who is Diego's aunt), and thus there is no exploitation against them for which Zorro's fight is not to protect indigenously (and hardly ever is seen protecting the poor) but he fights crime in general, more like what a Marvel superhero would do.