Saturday, July 07, 2018

Zorro: Return to the Future

The animated film Zorro: Return to the Future (2007), directed by Stuart Evans, relates the adventures of a new Zorro (sometime in the future), this time helped by high technology and an equally skillful partner called Scarlet Whip. Instead of a sword, Zorro is equipped with a laser weapon in the form of a Z that works equally as sword, whip, or a laser shotgun as needed. And instead of riding the traditional black horse, this new generation Diego de la Vega rides a purple motorbike.

The movie is a spin-off from the series Zorro: Generation Z (2006), whose animation is identical to this one and which likewise presents Zorro and Scarlet Whip in a futuristic scenario. However, the movie provides a back-story to explain how Diego became Zorro, which is not a part of the series.

Diego de la Vega is a rich guy from Pueblo Grande city. He spends his family's money buying expensive toys like cars and bikes. He also has a personal assistant of the same age as his who is dumb, like the servant of McCulley's Spanish Californian Don Diego. His deceased grandfather, the Diego de la Vega of a previous generation, leaves a note for young Diego introducing him to the legend of Zorro which was carefully kept as a secret from Diego's dad, Alejandro de la Vega. In a hidden cave under his house, Diego finds the tools of all the previous Zorros, including swords and whips. "Every generation has a Diego, and so every generation has a Zorro," young Diego's grandfather had told him as a kid while relating Zorro's fairytales and legends.

Evans uses several of the resources of previous Zorro movies. He takes inspiration from "Zorro's Black Whip" to create the character of Scarlet Whip. Just like the Black Whip, Scarlet Whip is a female hero with a mask and a whip inspired by Zorro, but she is a totally different hero. Although the plot of this animation seems to be much further away from the old California to be developed in the future and combine previous incarnations of Zorro in one, there are many returns to base elements of the established tradition. It is then repeated names and very familiar stories of past occasions. Diego de la Vega fighting to remove the corrupt Mayor Martinez from power. Martinez helped by an incompetent Sergeant Garcia who is now presented with a strong Mexican accent and spends most of his time eating.

The repetition of characters and their names are explicit (although with the futuristic touch that predominates throughout the plot). But it is not a simple repetition of the original story. In addition to returning to the name Diego de la Vega and showing that this is one of a number of generations of Zorro, Evans has borrowed characters from incarnations of this hero that are very particular. In this movie the plurality that was seen in Blasco's Three Swords of Zorro since just like that movie, this animation shows us three Zorros, two men (one Diego de la Vega, the second is the dumb assistant Bernardo) and a woman (Scarlet Whip) which adds on to the complexity that is already present in masked heroes' dual identities.

So beyond the laser weapons, motorcycles, cars, and planes, Zorro: Return to the Future is hardly as innovative as one expects it to be from its title. Moreover, Zorro's motivations are not futuristic at all. There are the same problems of government corruption, and the poor are still poor (this time living in shelters). What has changed is the geographical situation. Pueblo Grande is a city named in Spanish, and a few words in Spanish are heard throughout the movie, but the reasons for this are unclear unless the audience has some prior knowledge of the Zorro tradition.

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