The year is 2005, and an 11 year-old Chris went to see a movie with his mom and step-dad. At this point in my life, I can barely remember not liking a movie. Now I had seen many terrible movies at this point: Attack of the Clones (2002) and The Master of Disguise (2002), both being examples of terrible movies that childhood Chris still loved because he was a naive optimist, full of devotion and love for humanity whose spirit could not be toppled by any force, no matter how powerful. Then he saw The Legend of Zorro (2005).
I remember the confused feelings I felt when I exited that movie theatre on that chilly fall evening (in Toronto, if I recall). 11 year-old Chris, while still dealing with some issues from his parents’ divorce the previous year was still a fairly optimistic person who enjoyed movies. Sure, perhaps as I had gotten older I had seen movies that I didn’t care for, but this night was different.
Cut to nearly 11 years later, in a small Gaelic pub on Bank Street in downtown Ottawa. I was partaking in pub trivia with Ceara, my girlfriend of many years, and Brendan Lamble, a lifelong friend. Round three of this trivia challenge was identifying pictures. The theme was that they were all minimalist depictions of children’s stories. One of these depictions was a fading ‘Z’, which ultimately turned out to be Sleeping Beauty. However, I haphazardly guessed that perhaps it was Zorro, a film that I hadn’t thought of for many, many years. And then it hit me. 11 years after that crisp fall evening it hit me.
The Legend of Zorro taught me how to hate.
How to hate movies, that is (to cut the faux dramatic tension). However, as somebody who really loves watching movies I can’t stress enough how fundamental this event was. Zorro is the first movie that I ever recalled hating, a movie that promised adventure and excitement and instead delivered only false promises and broken dreams. This want just disliking a movie, this is the kind of gut-wrenching anger at a movie’s existence that I had previously attributed to Beowulf (2007), and I now most fervently feel at Captain America: The First Avenger (2009). But those movies, I realize, aren’t the genesis of these feelings – no more than Sulla or Caesar began the downfall of the Roman Republic. Zorro is my proverbial Tiberius Graachus being clubbed to death by a senatorial mob, for as that was the introduction of violence as a legitimate means in the Roman political system, Zorro was my introduction on how to hate a movie.
I struggle now to answer whether I’m better off for having seen Zorro – would I have ever learned how to hate a movie otherwise? Well yes, me seeing Beowulf two years later wasn’t dependent on that (and by god, I hate that movie). But at the same time its nice to know the original context of my ability to hate movies, even though it was buried under my subconcious and could only be freed with the help of alcohol and minimalist trivia clues, Zorro still sits at the foundation of every movie I’ve ever hated.