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Not long after recovering from seemingly mortal wounds, Elektra, the deadly female ninja, has severed all ties with the world, living only for her next assignment. But in an unexpected turn of events, she is forced to make a decision that can take her life in a new direction - or destroy her. Key players in Elektra's journey are Stick, a blind martial arts master responsible for Elektra's 'resurrection',ť and Mark Miller and Abby Miller, a father and daughter on the run from The Hand, a powerful syndicate whose members practice the dark martial art of ninjitsu.
For more about Elektra and the Elektra Blu-ray release, see the Elektra Blu-ray Review
Starring: Jennifer Garner, Terence Stamp, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Will Yun Lee, Goran Visnjic, Kirsten Prout
Director: Rob Bowman
» See full cast & crew
Elektra Blu-ray Review
Less than Marvel-ous.
Reviewed by Casey Broadwater, May 9, 2010
With the notable exceptions of Christopher Nolan's two Batman films, whenever superhero movies go "dark," aim for "psychological perceptiveness," or simply try to turn an action film into a character study, the results are likely to be disastrous. Case in point: director Ang Lee's The Hulk, which alienated the big green brute's fanbase by trying to be a father/son tragedy of Greek proportions and coming off as turgidly self-serious in the process. Then, of course, there was Spider-Man 3, in which Peter Parker went "emo," causing Sam Raimi's defenders to shrink in their seats. And don't even get me started on Catwoman. There's definitely a place for darker, psychological comic book movies, but it takes a strong script, a cohesive vision for the film's tone, and a director that can balance the action beats with the character development. Elektra, a spin-off of 2003's Daredevil, is a good example of how not to do it.
No one really expected an Elektra movie, as Jennifer Garner's character was killed off by Colin Ferrel's Bullseye in Daredevil. Fanboys—and a few fangirls—cried foul, and apparently someone at 20th Century Fox thought the furor was indicative of a potential spin-off's prospective box-office success. (It wouldn't be so. Elektra grossed only $24 million in the U.S.) The character's demise is casually dismissed in Elektra's prologue, which explains that she was resurrected by her master—a white-haired Highlander sort named Stick (Terence Stamp)—who can use the martial art of Kimagure to control the "flow of life and death." We also learn that there's—what else?—an ancient war being fought between the powers of good and evil. The baddies are collectively known as The Hand, and they operate out of some crazy dojo at the top of a skyscraper. This could've been a cool set up, but a.) the only glimpse we get inside is of the The Hand's stuffy boardroom, populated by apologetic-looking Japanese henchmen, and b.) we never get any sense of what The Hand want, besides the usual global-domination business. They're basically your run-of-the-mill, evil-for-the-sake-of-being-evil types. As a McGuffin, they're after "The Treasure," a.k.a. Abby Miller (Kirsten Prout), a pouty tweenager who can kick some serious ass. Elektra used to be The Treasure, as did some vampy, Elvira-looking femme fatale that appears as a villain later in the film, so it's unclear what's so special about Treasure status if Treasure-hood is so easily passed from one female badass with potential to the next.
Elektra is initially tasked with assassinating Abby and her dad Mark (Goran Visnjic)—why, we never really learn—but she gets too emotionally close to her targets to go through with it. The first act of the film plays like some bizarre, aimless family drama, with Abby looking for a mother figure and Mark puttering around the kitchen, making Christmas dinner. The Hand sends some embarrassingly ineffectual ninjas to kidnap Abby, and after Elektra dispatches them—they turn, inexplicably, into a poof of green smoke when killed—she decides to escort dad and daughter to safety. As expected, this is no easy task, as the leader of The Hand, grumpy Master Roshi, orders his son Kiriji (Will Yun Lee) to do what the ninjas so painfully couldn't. Kiriji's quite the swordsman, and under his command he's got a unit of super-powered thugs. One chunky brawler is impervious to physical attacks. Another can bring his animal tattoos to life and send them out to scout Elektra's movements. The vamp chick leaves a trail of rotten vegetation in her wake and gives the film a not-so-sexy girl-on-girl kiss of death. (There's also a dude whose sole power seems to be balancing a coin on his fingertips.) Intermixed with all of the running away and occasional fighting, Elektra unravels the riddle of her mother's death in jump-cut-heavy flashbacks. These sequences are artlessly conceived, built out of visual clichés and existing solely as an attempt to give depth to a script that really doesn't have any.
Like far too many superheroes, Elektra's quest for vengeance was borne out of a childhood trauma —seeing her mother killed—and the film mangles this theme with no delicacy whatsoever, resorting to faux-Freudian nonsense and pointless observations, like the fact that Elektra has OCD and sometimes counts her steps as she walks. This has nothing to do with the story; it doesn't tie into anything. I'm all for characters having quirks, but her OCD is used here as nothing more than a meaningless aside. It's this kind of wannabe high-mindedness that makes Elektra joyless to watch. Director Rob Bowman takes the material much too seriously. Yes, the character is named after the Greek myth, but this is a Marvel movie, not Aeschylus. None of the characters are likable, and no one changes or develops in anything but the most obvious ways. Mid-way through the film, I found myself rooting for The Hand, hoping Kiriji's footsoldiers would wipe out everyone and end the movie a half hour early. There's nothing particularly inspired about the action scenes either. The throwdown in the forest is a decent set piece, and the final fight at Elektra's childhood home has some interesting, if ridiculous, visual touches—yes, I'm thinking of the sheets that suspend themselves in the air, flying and flapping all over the place—but the film is more often inert than active, less concerned with comic book theatrics than with the dour unraveling of Elektra's mental state. Most of the blame should fall on the screenplay, which is credited to three separate writers, but I also have to say that Jennifer Garner seems like a strange fit to play Frank Miller's deadly sexy assassin. Yes, Garner is a stunner in that form-fitting red satin outfit—a warning to potential pervs: she only wears it twice—but her perpetually pursed lips and worried expression removes any allure the character could've had here. To put it simply, Elektra is dull.
Elektra Blu-ray, Video Quality
20th Century Fox brings Elektra to Blu-ray with a 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer that looks great—and likely looks exactly as intended—but would be much more impressive if the film didn't rely on so much post-production tweaking. And I don't mean CGI. I'm talking about the film's extremely pushed contrast. For much of the film, particularly scenes indoors, blacks are oppressive, obliterating shadow detail in an attempt to craft a bold chiaroscuro visual style. I get what the filmmakers are trying to do—give the movie an edgy, unique look—but at times the image seems unnecessarily dark, to the point where it gave me a bit of eye strain. Obviously, this is a your mileage may vary-type issue, and I don't doubt that many fans will love how the film has been reproduced on Blu-ray, but it is something to consider. Other than that, though, I have no qualms about this transfer. The contrast-heavy aesthetic extends to the film's color palette, which selectively desaturates some colors while enriching others. Elektra's costume is a vivid cherry red and the scenes in the forest pop with ultra-green foliage. Skin tones can be somewhat inconsistent—alternately tan and pallid, depending on the scene—but this is all part of the overall look. Where the transfer is most striking is its exceptionally strong clarity. Check out the detail in Stick's craggy face and notice the fine texture that's visible on Elektra's various outfits. Personally, I think it's unfortunate that overly inky blacks absorb much of the shadow detail, but I can't really argue with directorial intent. At any rate, this Blu-ray version of Elektra is a vast upgrade from the DVD.
Elektra Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Less controversial is the film's ear-pleasing, room-shaking DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track, which seems precision engineered to rock your socks off. As you'd expect from an action film—though, as I mentioned above, the movie is more often inert than active—the fight/chase/assassin sequences are a mix of chest-rumbling dynamics and immersive cross-channel effects. Bullets zip and careen with alarming force, knives flip through the rears, fists and feet land bass-heavy blows, and—in the fight scene with the floating sheets—the airy whip of fabric fills the soundfield impressively. High-end sounds, like a shattering whiskey glass, are pristine, and the LFE channel throbs palpably whenever the film calls for a sonic kick in the pants. When not occupied with whiz-bang-pow action, the rear channels frequently put out environmental ambience, like pouring rain and assorted outdoorsy noises. Likewise, Chistophe Beck's fitting but rather unremarkable score fills up each channel with depth, spread, and definition. Dialogue sounds clean, but my only complaint about this track would be that the voices sometimes feel a bit too low in the mix. Never to the point where I couldn't understand what was being said, though; I just found myself volume boosting occasionally. The film's audio is, in my opinion, the best element of this complete Blu-ray package.
Elektra Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Commentary by Director Rob Bowman and Film Editor Kevin Stitt
This commentary is interesting, if only because director Rob Bowman seems to have no idea that the film he made isn't very good.
Relentless: The Making of Elektra
Nearly as pretentious as the director's cut of Elektra is this overlong two-part making-of documentary, which takes itself and the film far too seriously. Part 1: Production (SD, 1:27:14) is an on-set look at the film's acting and fight choreography, with interviews from nearly everyone involved. Part 2: Post-Production (SD, 53:09) focuses on editing, sound mixing, and visual effects. At three hours, this is most definitely quantity over quality.
Showdown at the Well: Multi-Angle Dailies (SD, 2:26)
Here, using the angle button on your remote, you can toggle through multiple angles for the fight sequence at the well.
Deleted Scenes (SD, 5:12)
Includes three scenes, with optional commentary by director Rob Bowman and editor Kevin Stitt.
Alternate/Extended Scenes (SD, 13:41)
Seven scenes here, once again with optional commentary by the director and editor.
Elektra: Incarnations (SD, 52:49)
By far the best bonus feature on the disc is this comprehensive history of Elektra in the comic books, from Frank Miller's first stories to the present.
Elektra in Greek Mythology (SD, 15:26)
A runner-up would be this featurette, in which Dr. Katerina Zacharia, of Loyola Marymount University, discusses various iterations of the Elektra story.
Theatrical Teaser (SD, 1:42)
Theatrical Trailer (SD, 2:25)
Elektra Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Billed as the "Director's Cut," this version of Elektra is only three minutes longer than the theatrical release. I never saw the original cut, so I can't say what has been changed, but this is still a decidedly PG-13 picture. (Unlike the extended cut of Daredevil, which added nearly 30 minutes of footage and upped the rating to an R.) Supplementary materials remain nearly identical to the 2-disc DVD release, but the upgrade to high definition audio/video may sway some fans to a purchase. For the uninitiated, however, this is rental material at best.
Elektra Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Elektra Director's Cut Blu-ray Detailed - April 9, 2010
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has revealed the release details for the Blu-ray edition of Elektra: Director's Cut, which, as previously reported, will hit shelves on May 4. In this Daredevil spinoff starring Jennifer Garner, the titular Marvel heroine comes ...
• Fox/MGM Catalog Blu-ray in April/May - February 19, 2010
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has revealed its slate of catalog releases for April and May, which also includes one title from MGM. The most notable entries are Ron Howard's 1985 science-fiction movie Cocoon, as well as the release on individual editions ...
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