ELEKTRA

Region 2 (UK) Edition reviewed by Mike Hadfield

Director:  Rob Bowman

Featuring:  Jennifer Garner, Terence Stamp, Goran Visnjic, Kirsten Prout

THE FILM

Elektra is supposed to be one of THOSE movies!  I had heard nothing but bad comments about it. It seemed to be universally despised. I was not looking forward to this assignment. By all accounts, I would have more fun having all my teeth extracted! So I popped the disc into my player with a fair amount of trepidation, prepared to be subjected to ninety minutes of tedium. To my surprise it was really rather good!

The plot is lifted from the comic strip of the same name and is the standard battle of good versus evil. Fans of Daredevil will have seen her being killed of half-way through. Miraculously she was resurrected and winds up becoming an elite assassin for hire. She now has amazing stealth powers and super-fast reflexes. She is a super-assassin who kills without emotion. Thatís what makes her latest assignment different. She is mysteriously contracted to murder a father and daughter in a remote and beautiful location. By chance she gets to know her targets before realising thatís what they are. She finds she canít carry out her mission and turns from would-be killer to protector. There are then two parallel journeys in the movie. The obvious one involves the fight to keep them alive and a chase ensues Ė leading to the usual martial-arts style fighting and stunts you associate with this type of movie. The other is Elektraís journey to redemption.

This is the heart of the movie. It is her change of motivation that allows us to see the two sides of Elektra. It is a resolution that ties in with her past. Before her death and resurrection she was one of the good guys. Having never read the comics, I donít know how closely this ties in with the history of Elektra but it certainly adds an interesting twist to the movie.

What also makes this movie different is the style and visual flair employed by the director. Rob Bowman (The X Files - Fight The Future, Reign of Fire) has used all aspects of the film-making process to excellent effect. The whole movie feels dark and foreboding but the use of colour and snappy editing lift crucial moments perfectly. This movie is visually stunning.

Jennifer Garner handles the title role well but her performance is very reminiscent of her Sydney Bristow character in Alias. She portrays Elektra as a woman tortured by her past and the movie covers these aspects with a number of poignant flashback sequences.

Terence Stamp (Superman II, The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert) plays the Zatoichi-like role of Stick, her blind mentor (a role he also played to Matt Murdock in the Daredevil comic books). His performance is a little stilted and stiff at times but he does get some good lines and has a particularly good action sequence. Mark Miller (ER's Goran Visnjic) and his daughter Abby (Kirsten Prout) are convincing as the family singled out for termination. Elektraís developing relationship with them gives us a glimpse into her compassionate and vulnerable side.

The baddies consist of assorted super-villains belonging to a cult determined to possess or destroy the father and daughter. All have different-but-complimentary skills and work well together as a group. However, it would have been better to have had some more character development as we donít know much about them from this film. Hoping your viewing public is going to have prior knowledge of the history of the comics is a bad idea. But, having said that, the pace of the movie picks up when the villains appear so you donít really have time to question their backgrounds. Peter Pan's Jason Isaacs has a nice uncredited cameo at the beginning of the film.

Some subtle yet excellent special effects are employed. They are always a little understated yet work perfectly in the context of the scenes. There are no Wow moments in this movie but that actually makes a refreshing change. On the whole this film works much better than Daredevil. It is better paced and acted. Overall, a surprisingly good way to spend an hour and a half.

THE DVD

The package is a little disappointing. It is classed as a Special Edition which, from Fox, usually means a two-disc set. For some reason this is just a single disc. They have crammed quite a bit onto the disc but not all of it is good. First you get the company's usual irritating anti-piracy message. Then you get forced trailers and adverts for The House of Flying Daggers and The Simpsons DVD Collection and even an advert for Mars Bars. It is getting stupid when movie studios are advertising food on DVDs. Just use your remote to skip these. The trailers are in 4:3 ratio and the menus are all 16:9 anamorphic and fully animated.

PICTURE QUALITY

Presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen format, this disc displays a very stable picture. Fox have definitely produced a much better transfer than the Daredevil disc. Colours are muted for the most part but vibrant splashes are used to stunning effect.  Elektraís red leather costume really leaps out from the screen. No MPEG problems were spotted. Even dark areas were rendered with clarity and contrast. Very little grain was on show. With a bit-rate of 6.56Mb/sec, this is a very good transfer indeed. This is not reference quality but is as good as you could expect from this type of release.

There is one sequence with English subtitles - these are burnt-in, and not player-generated, so presumably match those seen in the theatrical presentation of the film.

The film and the bonus features have optional English HoH subtitles.

AUDIO PRESENTATION

The sound mix is very lively and immersive. Surround sound speakers get a great workout with some great effects whizzing around your head. Happily, both the Dolby Digital 5.1 track (at 448 kbps) and the DTS track (at 768 kbps) reproduce this perfectly. The DTS track has the upper hand as you would expect. It is more rounded and realistic with greater depth and feeling. The only problem I had with the audio was a noticeable silence if you paused the movie or selected the next chapter and then resumed playback with the DTS track. At first, I thought this was my player but testing with other DTS soundtracks proved it was this disc. This was a check disc so perhaps the problem will be resolved for the commercial release.

THE BONUS MATERIAL

3 Deleted Scenes  (4:3 Widescreen / Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo)

The three deleted scenes donít really add that much to the movie. Rob Bowman provides an optional commentary for the first two and explains the reasons why they were cut. The first commentary contains strong language.

The Making of Elektra (4:3 / 15 mins)

A brief but informative Making of... featurette. It is fairly lightweight but still welcome. We get to see how some of the stunts were achieved and how everyone seemed to be having a ball! For a Special Edition you could expect something more substantial.

Elektra : Incarnations (16:9 Widescreen / 52 mins)

The disc producers decided to make the main extra a documentary about the world of Elektra comics. It delves deep into the history of Elektraís character. This documentary is full of fascinating insights and stories from her initial appearance in the Daredevil comics right through to her dedicated graphic novels.

Elektraís creator, Frank Miller (of forthcoming Sin City fame), is interviewed at length about why he created her and the journey he set her upon. Other participants include Klaus Janson (Inker), Bill Sienkiewicz (Illustrator / Cover Artist) and Brian Michael Bendis (Writer). They all display a great passion for the character and the world they have created.

The documentary takes a very frank and critical look at the comics. We get a great deal of insight into the comic production process with lots of glimpses of rough artwork and samples. All the different aspects of comic creation are detailed along with explanations of the reasons for why they do things the way they do.

The 16:9 anamorphic picture is slightly soft but I suspect this is due to the documentary's NTSC-to-PAL conversion.

Incarnations is a great documentary that I found truly fascinating. Having spent a large part of my childhood reading comics, it was great to see how they produce them. The documentary is a little slow and dry at times so if you have no interest in comics you will probably find this as dull as dishwater!

Daredevil : Directorís Cut Ė Sneek Peek (4:3 / 2 mins)

Nothing more than a short trailer for the recently released Daredevil: Directorís Cut.

Inside Look at The Fantastic Four (4:3) and Ice Age 2:The Meltdown (16:9)

Not really worth it. They are just trailers for these forthcoming titles.

The US disc has a very brief (2m) clip of Jennifer Garner at the Comic Con, and a short featurette about the editing of the film, but it's missing Elektra: Incarnations.

SUMMARY

This was a really pleasant surprise. Elektra is much better than many people make out. It feels like the first in a series of movies.  The package is disappointing for a Special Edition. Portraying trailers as Ďindepth featuresí is a very bad move. However the movie itself and the documentary on the comic books more than makes up for this. Elektra is certainly worth checking out if you are in the mood for fast action and martial arts fun.

Potential customers are warned that in interviews director Rob Bowman has mentioned the possibility of an R-rated Elektra: Director's Cut DVD (which would perhaps include the Elektra: Incarnations documentary).

A double-pack that pairs Elektra with the Daredevil Director's Cut DVD is also available.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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