Spin-offs are a staple of the comic book world, characters start appearing repeatedly in an established title, and before you know it they’ve got their own fan base demanding they get their own storylines. They happen in TV relatively often too, Angel, Frasier, Joey; they’ve all found success after starting their lives in someone else’s show, but the phenomenon is much rarer in the film world. Possibly because the risks are so much higher, comics and TV series can be cancelled after short runs, leaving companies with relatively small losses, but movies cost a hell of a lot more and there’s no guarantee there will be a decent return. That’s just what happened with Elektra, despite Daredevil doing only modest business, so much so it hasn’t managed to get its own sequel greenlit yet, Elektra was rushed into production, so obviously someone at 20th Century Fox had a lot of faith in the idea. Unfortunately it only managed $27 million at the US box office, and has made its way to DVD in just 3 months. That doesn’t bode well.
Once upon a time she may have been Matt Murdoch's love interest, but it looked like he was going to have to become an even more grizzled hero, because Elektra Natchios (Jennifer Garner) was dead. But living in a fantasy world can be good for your health, and Elektra didn’t stay dead very long. As if she wasn’t angry enough before, her trip to the other side seems to have really pissed her off, and she returned even darker than before. After being taken in by an ageing master known only as Stick (Terrence Stamp), Elektra developed a number of new skills, including the ability to see glimpses of the future, though she’s stuck with her trusty sai as her weapon of choice. Unfortunately that dark side meant Elektra could never properly master her arts, and she was cast out. So what does an angry disillusioned girl, expertly trained in the martial arts do with herself? Become an assassin of course. So now Elektra has gone from being the daughter of a wealthy businessman, to a name feared around the globe, and even those under the protection of The Order of The Hand - an ancient evil organisation - don’t feel safe from her.
Elektra is a very different film to Daredevil, the change of director has taken the movie in a completely different direction. Instead of trying to mimic the style of Elektra’s beginnings, Rob Bowman (Reign of Fire) has given the film a slick, traditionally Japanese inspired look that makes the gloomy world of Daredevil look rather low-rent by comparison. It’s also a lot less obviously comic book inspired, where Daredevil set out its stall early on as a clear comic adaptation, you could watch half an hour of Elektra and have no idea. There’s obviously something different about her, she’s fast, she’s silent, and she’s brutal, but to begin with there’s nothing far removed from your average martial arts movie. It’s actually quite a cunning trick, making the movie far more accessible to the many people that find comic book movies a little hard to swallow, especially anything outside the established big names. There are certainly a lot of things in the film that are straight out of comic books, once Elektra starts being pursued and The Hand send a team of assassins after her the film’s roots become obvious. Typhoid Mary (Natassia Malthe) has the ability to cause decay in all living things around her, and Tattoo (Chris Ackerman) can summon animals to do his bidding, based on the tattoos on his body. Those are elements that take their time appearing in the story though, making Elektra not that far removed from your average cat and mouse action movie, after Elektra gets her hands on ‘the treasure’ - something The Hand have been seeking for generations - everyone is out to get her, and she has to turn to the master that shunned her for protection.
If that sounds familiar, it’s probably because you’ve seen, well, films. Whilst not throwing itself into a comic book world head on was a cunning decision, the limp plot left behind is a huge mistake. Perhaps if we were being wowed by a fantasy world then the plot wouldn’t matter so much, but it would take some pretty flashy effects to make up for the lack of originality on show here. What’s worse though, and pretty much unforgivable, is what happens when the comic book elements are embraced. Elektra is being hunted by a the most vicious cadre of warriors that The Hand can muster - led by Kirigi (Will Yun Lee) the son of The Hand’s leader Roshi (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa) - and whilst they look fantastic (their entrance alone makes you think the movie is about to turn around) their super powers don’t seem to be particularly super. When the first of them is dispatched with little effort, somewhat surprising for no other reason than his incredible bulk, it’s a little disappointing, but not to worry, there are plenty more where he came from, right? As it turns out the only one that puts up a fight is Kirigi, in an admittedly fantastically shot fight scene, the rest sure look intimidating, but end up taking little more effort than your average nameless henchman. You can’t help thinking that the pace the movie is moving at works against it, the first half seems to take its time, avoiding the comic book world and trying to build up character, but someone seems determined to bring this one in under 100 minutes and once it becomes a comic book movie they don’t have enough time to do the ideas justice. What fights there are are well choreographed and quite exciting, but they’re over too soon, and with a plot so thin and cliché they’re really what should have tied the film together, instead you're left - repeatedly - with a big build up and a lacklustre delivery.
It isn’t that surprising Elektra under-performed at the box office, in fact given the final product you can’t really call it an under performance, as it didn’t really deserve to do much better. Rob Bowman must be walking on thin ice in Hollywood, this is his first film since 2002’s Reign of Fire that suffered in a similar way, with the films dragons being the main attraction, yet being completely under used and too quickly disposed of in the battles. You’d think he’d have learnt his lesson the first time, but he’d better learn it this time, or he’s going to have to wait a lot more than 3 years before someone trusts him with a potential blockbuster again. The real disappointment is that so many of the elements were there for a really entertaining popcorn flick, but they’ve been squandered by a director that doesn’t seem to know the kind of film he was meant to be making.
The Picture and Sound
As mentioned previously, Elektra is a fantastic looking film, and the transfer is excellent. Presented in anamorphic 2.35:1 the colours are rich and deep, with some incredibly strong blacks and great contrast, and while there is some occasional aliasing and minor edge enhancement it’s rarely distracting and doesn’t stop the movie from looking great. The soundtrack is also rather impressive, you have the choice of Dolby Digital 5.1 or DTS 5.1 and whichever you choose you’re going to be treated to an incredibly dynamic track that will test the low end of your system as it’s incredibly liberal with the bass, and overall the movie looks and sounds outstanding.
Only three have made it onto the disc, the first looks like an alternate version of the hit Elektra backs out on, although it could have been an extension as she takes a different approach to the hit, but with the same failed result. The second is the much talked about cameo from Ben Affleck, looking rather like he’s not quite in his Daredevil condition anymore, and strangely not looking particularly blind, it’s only a brief scene and would probably have been more of a distraction than anything else. The third is particularly inconsequential and contains little other than some bad acting from Goran Visnjic and Terrence Stamp.
The Making of Elektra
This is a rather insubstantial 13 minute look behind the scenes of the movie, Jennifer Garner gets to talk about all the fight training she did for the movie - which did pay off, she delivered on everything she was asked to do, they just didn’t ask her to do enough - and the usual suspects (director, producer etc.) talk about how excited they are and what a great movie it’s going to be.
Jennifer Garner’s Comic-con Presentation
This is little more than a trailer for the movie cut with some more of Jennifer Garner talking about the movie, she says they really only want praise from one group of people - those who’ve grown up reading Elektra comic books. I’m not sure if they gave the movie any praise, but she’s halfway there, because everyone that didn’t read them respected her wishes and didn’t praise the movie.
Inside the Editing Room
While the title may suggest some kind of look at the editing decisions of the movie, in fact these are ‘sneak peeks’ with director Rob Bowman introducing 4 scenes from the movie, and by the plug for the release date he gives at the end of each one I’d guess these would have been downloadable from the Elektra website in the build up to release to try and pique some interest, unfortunately after you’ve seen the movie there’s nothing remotely interesting about them.
The disc also contains both the theatrical trailer and teaser along with trailers for the soundtrack and the Fox TV series American Dad and Family Guy. Their ‘Inside Look’ feature this time carries trailers for The Fantastic Four, and Mr. and Mrs. Smith.
The film could have been an entertaining comic book fantasy, the idea behind it isn’t awful, but the execution of both the script and the direction are both woefully misjudged. That’s not to say there’s nothing to enjoy in Elektra, there are still some entertaining action sequences and it has fantastic AV presentation, but it can’t be classed as anything other than a disappointment. For whatever reason Fox hasn’t made any effort with the DVD at all, and it appears all the extra features are promotional items, bar the three unspectacular deleted scenes, making it seem like Fox is happy to let this mistake be forgotten.
Last updated: 19/04/2018 09:31:01