Following Daredevil's lukewarm reception and so-so box-office performance, it's somewhat surprising that Fox took the decision to launch a spin-off franchise based the character of Elektra. Even more so given that for all intents and purposes, Elektra met her end during the film. Still, in the comic world, death is rarely the end and Rob Bowman (The X-Files Movie) was brought in to resurrect the character and kick off this potential new comic book franchise.
Jennifer Garner returns to her first major cinematic role, this time taking the lead. Anyone who has seen Alias will know that she's an actress well suited to such a physically demanding part. Taking cues from various sources, Elektra is an attempt to bring together elements of recent Chinese box-office smashes such as House of the Flying Daggers and Hero and meld them into a more traditional comic book story.
Following her death, Elektra is brought back to life by Stick (Terence Stamp). Training in some mystical Eastern martial art, she becomes an assassin for hire - a female, martial arts practicing, Leon if you will. When she is hired to take out an unnamed target and is sent to an idyllic island to await further instructions, she meets Mark Miller (Goran Visnjic) and his daughter Abby (Kirsten Prout). Of course, this new friendship is not meant to be and when Elektra discovers that her targets are in fact Mark and Abby, she decides to go on the run acting as a protector from those that want them dead.
Elektra is a surprisingly stylistic film - throughout the cinematography, lighting and camera work are beautiful but they are sorely let down by pedestrian direction by Bowman and a lackluster script that should be full of surprises but instead borrows so heavily from other films and stories that all of the intended twists can be seen from a mile off. Given the original comic's pedigree (it was created by Frank Miller of Sin City fame) this is even more of a disappointment.
Elektra is a difficult film to judge - there is a lot about it that works wonderfully. Garner is perfect in the lead role, and even Kirsten Prout's precocious Abby isn't as insanely irritating as she could have been. As already mentioned, the cinematography and camera work are stunning. The lighting of each scene has been perfectly judged and there are some wonderful colours. However, the film's failings are just too big to overlook. Rob Bowman, as a director, seems to be getting progressively worse from film to film - his last being the so-so Reign of Fire and I can only hope that Zak Penn had only a cursory involvement with the screenplay leaving relative newcomers Stu Zicherman and Raven Metzner to fill in the main lines. Otherwise, he would be on the same downward path as Bowman, and I'd start to be concerned about the upcoming story for the next X-Men movie.
Picture and Sound
Elektra is as pixel-perfect as you can get for the most part, however the stunning definition has its drawbacks during the CGI-heavy scenes and these exhibit signs of banding and minor aliasing. At first glance the transfer does also appear to be a little on the dark side, but this works well with the stunningly sharp and piercing colours later in the film. In particular Elektra's trademark red outfit looks striking and is in direct contrast to some of the darker scenes.
The film is presented with both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS soundtracks. Both are demo-quality with superb surround activity and nice deep bass. The usual caveats apply - DTS equipped users will love the slightly improved sound definition, while those limited to Dolby Digital will not really miss out on much. Either way, there's nothing to fault.
The extras are fairly limited - restricted largely to press-focused fluff rather than anything of any depth.
There are three deleted scenes - they're all presented as they would have been before the film entered post-production so the image is scratchy and non-anamorphic. One of the scenes has a commentary by Bowman, but this does little to add value.
The Making Of Elektra
A 12 minute piece looking briefly at how the film adaptation of Elektra came to be. As is common with these sorts of things, it's made up of clips and interviews and covers most of the superficial aspects of the film from a high level. Diverting, but ultimately pretty worthless.
This is the real meat of the extra material - it's a 50-odd minute documentary on the origins of the Elektra comics, starting with her introduction in the Daredevil comics and ongoing development over the years. It's a genuinely good feature and makes the disc well worth picking up for the interviews with the various people, including Frank Miller, which brought the character to life.
Daredevil Director's Cut: Sneak Peak
A short EPK featurette/trailer for the DVD release of the Director's Cut of Daredevil. Anyone who is likely to be interested in this probably already has the disc sitting on their shelves!
To say Elektra is something of a disappointment would be an understatement. I actually enjoyed Daredevil for the lightweight fluff that it was and Elektra as a character has a lot of potential in the right hands. Garner is perfect for the part and yet again demonstrates that given the right film and script she'll be a great Hollywood actress and to top it all, the film is gorgeous - a close imitation of Zhang Yimou's recent output. All of this promise however comes crashing down due to Bowman's lack of direction and the script's failings. The DVD is as good as it gets for single-disc releases with very little to fault - and the documentary on the comic book origins of the Elektra character makes the Region 2 release the one to go for.