Fox // 2005 // 100 Minutes // Unrated
Reviewed by Judge Brett Cullum // May 17th, 2010
Red leather and knives is how Jennifer Garner gets on her Elektra complex.
Don't ask me why it took a couple of years to see Elektra surface on Blu-ray when Daredevil got almost immediately released on the format, but now the two films are finally out there together. Both sport the preferred "Director's Cut" label, which in the case of Elektra means we get three minutes that extend the predictable parental demons of Elektra's past and some longer fight scenes. It hardly matters, nor does the extra footage make this somewhat messy outing any cleaner. But there are some saving graces, including all of the extras from the collector's edition of the two disc DVD and a pretty snazzy transfer that will have fans of the film stoked to see Jennifer Garner in high definition red ninja glory.
Somehow Elektra (Jennifer Garner, Alias) is alive after being perforated on a rainy rooftop by Bullseye in the first Daredevil film, and she is carrying out her chosen career as a high paid assassin. The film picks up as she is waiting on her next assignment at a scenic house by a lake. She is haunted by flashes of her past, including the loss of her parents and her training as a warrior by some committed teachers who exile her to teach a final lesson. She meets her neighbors who turn out to be a nice father (Goran Visnjic, Practical Magic) and precocious daughter (Kirsten Prout, The Twilight Saga: Eclipse) who are escaping their complicated life, as well. Soon Elektra learns that her next target are the man and the girl -- an assignment she turns down after realizing she can't take them out with good conscience. She is warned "people will come after them anyway," and so Elektra becomes their protector. It seems this pair is wanted by the "Hand," or a spooky assassin group that enlists people with super powers to take out the target and get "the treasure." And so our gal in red ninja clothes uses her throwing daggers and athletic abilities to take out supernaturally gifted goons in the forest. All in a day's work for a girl who should be dead by now.
Elektra is one of those films that feels like a missed opportunity, since Garner was so dang good in the first film with husband Ben Affleck. Her character stole that one easily, and the promise of more with her seemed irresistible. She does all her own fighting stunts, and looks pretty good in her signature red outfit. Admittedly, the girl does not appear exactly like the raven haired swarthy Elektra from the comic world, but that was a Frank Miller dream of an ethnic Greek goddess that was physically impossible to realize. Garner is as close as one could hope to get, and she has both the fighting and acting chops to make a good go at the character.
Elektra the movie lets down a capable actress by not being very action oriented, and not giving her a complex plot to bounce pathos off of. It seems to be a pastoral martial arts fantasy that might as well be a "wire fu" epic than anything comic book related. It's pretty, has spectacle, but the pacing seems sluggish with no real focus to head towards. It's an okay movie, certainly more capable than a disaster like Catwoman. The biggest problem is by being simply kinda good it is even more forgettable than a huge bomb. It's simply middle of the road when it should be going for broke.
Technically, this release does amp things up even if the film doesn't quite go there. On the Blu-ray disc we get a gorgeous widescreen transfer which takes full advantage of the added high definition bandwidth. In 1080p Elektra looks stunning, and the visuals benefit from the extra depth. Now sometimes we do get grain, which might be a directorial choice, and a crush to the black levels that smacks of digital artifact rather than anything artistic. But these seems like quibbles when you consider how vivid everything looks, and the clarity which it all comes out with.
The five channel Master Audio track has an incredibly dynamic range. The only problem is often the dialogue is nearly whispered to come off as intense, and then the gunfire or explosions kick in at a deafening level. Your neighbors may feel the shakes.
Extras include all of the special features from the previous DVD release of the director's cut. We get an audio commentary from director Rob Bowman who is joined by editor Kevin Stitt. The two men provide a refreshingly honest look at the movie, admitting the flaws here and there, as well as talking about what they were shooting for. There are deleted scenes that offer some further commentary on selected ones. There is a two part "making of" documentary which runs just as long as the feature itself when you combine the two. There are multi-angle dailies if you want to see some of the raw footage from the shoot. There is a documentary on the history of the Elektra comic character, and then a feature looking at the Greek mythology namesake. The only missing item from all of this is a comic that came as a booklet for the DVD which provided a nice bridge from the first film to this one.
There's no logic to the narrative, and Elektra is laughable in how it plays out sometimes. The film never explains the character well. We see her arrange fruit in a compulsive way, jump in a lake to swim, and then get nightmare visions of her father making her tread water endlessly. In gauzy flashbacks some random demon kills her mom, and when we see the thing it looks like something straight out of an Ronnie Dio video. Basically Asian people in pajamas attack our girl, and we get lots of bad CGI tattoos that are supposed to wow us halfway in. It's silly, and Jennifer Garner and Elektra deserved more than this.
In the final analysis Elektra works as a goofy martial arts fantasy about a glamorous assassin who kills people with knives and arrows. It doesn't seem to work to bring the comic character back to life, and it certainly does not match the great turn Garner provided in Daredevil. Yet the Blu-ray offers us a killer transfer and all the extras anybody could ever wish for with this film. It's a step up from the DVD world, although I wonder if many fans are clamoring for it, since the previous editions were good enough. I can't say you should run out and replace your old copy, but certainly Elektra on Blu-ray is now the best way to experience this flawed yet entertaining sequel.
Guilty of being behind the curve in relation to what came before,
Elektra isn't as epic as her Greek tragedy name would have you
Review content copyright © 2010 Brett Cullum; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
Running Time: 100 Minutes
Release Year: 2005
MPAA Rating: Unrated
* Deleted Scenes
* Multi-Angle Dailies