Kiersey Clemons is the newest addition to this fresh take on the masked swashbuckler.
There have been whispers about the umpteenth iteration of Zorro for a while now, but the probability of a new movie was dubious at best. The project was just taking a really long time to finalize, and it kind of got swept under the rug as its perennially attached star, Gael García Bernal, found success with other projects, most recently Coco. But still, people asked, “What about Zorro?”
There is definitely a kind of allure in the unflinching hero of the defenseless taking on tyrannical forces, and it’s unsurprising that more movies about the Zorro tale are still commissioned. García Bernal had been attached to star as the eponymous protagonist since around 2012, in a film that was at first titled Zorro Reborn before being renamed Zorro. The project then changed hands between 20th Century Fox and Lantica Media and Sobini Films in 2015, but the premise stayed the same. Setting it apart from its predecessors, this one was going to be set in a post-apocalyptic future of some kind.
Now rechristened Z, the film remains “set in the near future,” and Variety just announced that Kiersey Clemons (Dope) will be joining García Bernal as part of the cast. Z will be written and directed by Jonás Cuarón, who most recently brought the García Bernal-led thriller Desierto to the big screen. Interestingly enough, both Clemons and Cuarón are currently loosely involved with the DC Extended Universe, she in a role cut from Justice League but set to show up elsewhere, while he has been linked to the script for Cyborg.
With post-apocalyptic films being basically the norm now, the futuristic Zorro angle makes sense, but it could also be tough to sell. Films like these could easily find themselves lost in the rubble, even if the idea of Zorro does translate well to the autocratic themes that crop up in many of the genre’s entries. But this is where Cuarón’s ability to craft great thrillers comes in handy. He co-wrote his father’s Oscar-winning sci-fi film Gravity, and with Desierto he created a taut, thrilling piece about immigration.
Fear – the tangible, almost ordinary kind whether you’re trapped alone in space or in a desert – is a big theme in Cuarón’s work. It is also greatly present in the Zorro narrative, given that the character defends the innocent from corrupt institutions of power. Cuarón is not above theatricality either, and that obviously fits with the Zorro moniker of a masked swashbuckler. Desierto evidences all of this exceptionally. The film is shot in a stylized way that reveres and fears the desert and comes from the viewpoint of the oppressed.
Desierto is much like a reverse Western, depicting a lone xenophobic gunman methodically hunting Mexican immigrants; the villain tries to take down the underdog heroes in a film that’s trope-ish but effective. So, there’s definitely potential for Z to stand out even if it sports some well-used themes; Cuarón’s experience with dealing with tropes ensures that.
Both of Z‘s confirmed cast members are also rather promising. García Bernal remains one of Mexico’s most enduring modern film stars; he plays pretty much any character with a wondrous finesse and deep empathy. The fact that he’s been attached to star as Zorro for about six years showcases the vast appeal of him playing such an iconic character.
Clemons is a good pick for an up-and-coming actress too, even though not all her film choices have been the greatest. It’s a damn shame that she was in that colossal flop of a remake that was Flatliners last year. But she is unforgettable in Rick Famuyiwa’s coming-of-age drama Dope. We don’t yet know anything about her character in Z, but if that same spunk and charisma she has in Dope carries through, she will absolutely hold her own opposite García Bernal.
Back in 2015, Lantica Media CEO Antonio Gennari said, “Every generation has its own Zorro hero and we’re proud to be able to introduce a new Zorro to this generation.” The statement still rings true years later, as the right people can bring a unique, relevant take to the most rehashed of characters. Considering the strength of its creative team so far, Z could be worth the long years in development hell.