Review by Ed Nguyen
Jennifer Garner, Terence Stamp, Goran Visnjic, Kirsten Prout, Natassia Malthe,
Will Yun Lee, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagama
Director: Rob Bowman
Audio: English DTS 5.1 or Dolby Digital Surround 5.1
Subtitles: English, Spanish
Video: Color, anamorphic widescreen 2.35:1
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Features: Commentary, Relentless: The Making of Elektra, Elektra: Incarnations, Elektra in Greek Mythology, deleted and alternate/extended scenes, multi-angled dailies, stills and storyboard galleries, teaser, trailer
Length: 99 minutes
Release Date: October 18, 2005
worry, death's not that bad."
literature and lore are filled with fatal couplings - Samson and Delilah,
Orpheus and Eurydice, and Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, to name some famous
pairs. On the other extreme end of
the spectrum, the less lofty and less cultivated comic book format has also had
its share of ill-fated romances - Peter Parker and Gwen Stacey, Cyclops and Jean
Grey, or Daredevil and Elektra, for instance.
Elektra? The last we saw of this
erstwhile female assassin in the movies, she had just stabbed her super-hero
lover through the shoulder in the flick Daredevil,
only to get her comeuppance moments later when the villain Bullseye impaled her
with her own sai blade. Talk about
quick repayment of a karmic debt! Elektra's
undignified and inglorious death was, of course, faithful to her actual demise
in the "Daredevil" comic book. Nonetheless,
if there is one universal law that comic book fans have come to understand and
appreciate, it must surely be that no one ever stays dead for long.
Villains and vigilantes alike are always finding clever ways to cheat
so it is with Elektra, who despite perishing like a human shish-kebob in Daredevil
has returned to life to star in her own "sequel," simply entitled Elektra (2005). Reincarnation
is as inevitable in comic books (and comic book movies) as it is in eastern
religion. Appropriately enough, the
"new" Elektra has even discovered a new sense of spiritualism,
practicing yoga and debuting a limited mystical ability - kimagure - to see into
for a second go-around as Elektra Natchios is the fetching Jennifer Garner.
This time, Garner is now garbed in a more faithful rendition of the
classic Elektra costume, unlike that off-color leather contraption she wore in Daredevil.
Fanboys can rejoice! There's
simply nothing quite as visually stimulating as a dainty super-heroine in
skimpy, red, cleavage-revealing attire beating up a muscle-bound steroid freak
masquerading as the villain-of-the-week. Or,
in this case, villains, as represented by the super-powered assassins of the
evil Order of the Hand clan.
Elektra's corner is Stick (Terence Stamp), a mysterious and blind mentor who
once instructed Elektra on how to wield her powers (in the "Daredevil"
comic book, Stick was originally the mentor of Matt Murdock, a.k.a. Daredevil).
Stick's agenda is unclear, but after Elektra survives several deadly
encounters with The Hand, she seeks out her former mentor, who once again
becomes Elektra's personal sensei and slowly guides her back to the path of
light from her current profession as an assassin.
the film's opening premise, Elektra has returned from the dead (don't ask) to
become a merciless killer-for-hire. Her
latest mission entails neutralizing some unlucky sap named Mark Miller (ER's
Goran Visnjic) and his young daughter Abby (Kirsten Prout, resembling a young
Renée Zellweger). Why?
Because. However, Elektra
botches the job after she is stricken with a sudden, conscientious case of mushy
killer-with-a-heart-of-gold sentimentality. Not to worry - assassins under the employment of The Hand
arrive to finish the job and perhaps to educate Elektra on the errors of her
ways. Educate with extreme
prejudice, that is.
summarily dispatching these latest nuisances from The Hand, Elektra leads Mark
and Abby Miller away to safety and slowly uncovers the secret that has made this
seemingly normal family the target of such a deadly foe as The Hand.
In the process, Elektra even begins to ponder the righteousness of her
existence and vocation. In the
comics, Elektra was a cold-blooded assassin who operated in an urban criminal
underworld ruled by the Kingpin. In
this movie, throw in some guilt over her mother's death, saddle the character
with a soggy neuroticism, à la obsessive-compulsive disorder, and suddenly you
have one mopping heroine. Angst
worked for Spiderman, and the familial guilt trip worked for Batman, but for
Elektra, these characteristics dilute her mystery and allure.
At one point, Elektra even refers to herself as a "soccer mom."
mythical heroines simply do not say such things, even in jest!
the heroine of a mainstream Hollywood movie apparently can't be an entirely
cold-blooded killer, so during the course of Elektra, we see Elektra change for the better.
Regardless, this kinder and gentler Elektra is still one person you
wouldn't want to encounter down some dark...garden path (the movie has traded Daredevil's
nocturnal cityscapes and concrete jungles for sylvan landscapes, sparse jungles,
and elaborate hedge mazes).
central theme of Elektra suggests that
the path to enlightenment assumes many disguises.
Stick, initially unable to help her, has allowed Elektra to forge her own
path in the world until she is able to control the rage inside of her and is
ready to return to him for further spiritual guidance.
The film even starts with the premise of ancient prophecies proclaiming
the appearance someday of a conflicted Chosen One, a woman who by her life's
decisions will tip the balance in the eternal battle between Good and Evil.
Consider Elektra then a
"Kung Fu"-style film, the chief differences being that the protagonist
is female, there is little actual martial artistry on display, and the setting
has shifted to a wooded arena populated predominately by Caucasian actors.
most fans, though, the film's true raison
d'être will be its action scenes. Sadly,
Elektra's death knell in the theaters
was probably the ill-advised decision to pigeon-hole this film into a PG-13
rating. The fight sequences are all
too infrequent and brief and too often involve mostly running around or striking
sultry poses and stances. The best
stunts, for the most part, are computer-enhanced, and the best violence is only
suggested or is off-screen. At
least on this director's cut, additional footage is shown, although fans
expecting more blood and guts will be very disappointed.
As with TV's "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," vanquished enemies
still vanish in a puff of yellow smoke. There
are no guts, no splattering, no blood, just clean and hygienic deaths.
the fight choreography displays an over-reliance on CG effects, with
cinematography and editing so stylized that the action is drained of any
spontaneity or vitality. One might
as well flip rapidly through a book of pretty pictures for the same general
effect. In short, what worked so
wondrously in films like Hero or House of Flying Daggers has been bastardized in Elektra. Only the climactic fight between Elektra and Kirigi (Will Yun
Lee), an apparent successor to the leadership of The Hand, has real electricity.
Unfortunately, it is edited so hectically that following the action is
difficult, and the fight ends too quickly as well.
the bright side, the visuals possess the viscerally highly-polished oomph
and oohh quality that audiences have come to expect from Hollywood
action flicks. One can just about
sense Elektra's deadly skills as she grinds villains' craniums into sawdust or
scrambles innards into coagulated goo. The
supervillains are insanely fast and sport some wicked abilities, too.
One villain, appropriately named Tattoo, is covered with animalistic body
art that bursts into life and obeys his every command.
Another, Stone, is an incredible hulk of a man who ultimately gets
flattened like some dumb punk. Villainess
Typhoid Mary (Natassia Malthe) is truly a femme fatale - her lethal kisses are
to die for. Sadly, Typhoid Mary has
been trivialized in this movie (although she was Elektra's romantic successor
for Daredevil in the Marvel comic), and the big, expectant clash between
super-chicks regrettably never materializes.
It's just another disappointing bam, puff of smoke, and the fight's over.
the end, Elektra, despite some very
impressive visuals, fails to live up to the standards set by the likes of the Spiderman
and X-Men franchises. The
action, while exciting at times, is mostly un-involving and too intermittent to
truly draw in the audience. The
blame for Elektra's flaws must surely
fall upon the shoulders of director Rob Bowman and his screenwriter.
This film has significant pacing problems, and the character development
scenes don't seem to progress anywhere or with any real conviction.
Even the new extra footage (involving mostly character development scenes
and a few action sequence extensions) feels extraneous and unnecessary.
After a mildly intriguing opening assassination sequence, Elektra
bogs down for nearly one hour of dull moping and running. As for the actual script, well, I've seen better storylines
for computer games. The character
of Elektra still holds a lot of promise, but she may have to wait to be reborn
in a new movie to really live up to her full potential.
is presented in a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen format.
At 99 minutes, the film is about three minutes longer than the original
theatrical cut. Whether or not that
justifies an extra purchase may depend more on the bonus features than on any
actual minor changes to this "director's cut" edition.
Elektra still bursts from the screen
in a vibrant display of motion, whirling colors, and quite evocative lighting.
Hollywood polish and sheen are on full display here, and Elektra
admittedly looks wickedly cool with an excellent transfer to match.
Skin tones are accurate, black levels are very solid, and the transfer is
demonstrates the power of DTS with a rocking-loud English DTS 5.1 track that
offers a truly exciting aural environment.
Meeker audiophiles can opt for the Dolby Digital 5.1, but the DTS track,
not surprisingly, is the more dynamic and immersive one and should be the track
of choice on capable home audio systems.
sound has also been sweetened on this "director's cut" version of Elektra. The soundtrack has been remixed specifically for the home
theater setting. Check out the
package insert for a brief note from director Rob Bowman explaining the new
changes made to the film's picture and sound.
surprisingly, the bonus features on this two-disc "director's cut"
version of Elektra blow away the
relatively short-circuited offerings on the original DVD release.
If you liked Elektra but have not yet purchased the film, then now is the right
time to do so.
One holds the film, a teaser, a trailer, and a new commentary by director Rob
Bowman and editor Kevin Stitt. The
commentary is fun and energetic but does not offer anything really revelatory or
anything that cannot be gleamed elsewhere in this two-DVD set.
Bowman and Stitt mostly discuss the construction, lighting, and editing
of various scenes and also point out changes made for the "director's
cut" version of the film.
remainder of the bonus features are on Disc Two. The main attraction here is the documentary Relentless: The Making of Elektra, which comes in two parts.
The first part covers the production itself, while the second part looks
at the post-production work. Each
section is quite long, so set aside enough spare time if you wish to watch the
documentary in its entirety in one seating.
The first half of Relentless
(87 min.) has narration by Rob Bowman and shows many of the action sequences
being rehearsed or performed for the camera.
There are even a few deleted action sequences not found on this disc's
"deleted scenes" section. The
highlight of this first half was watching popular K1 fighter Bob Sapp
("Stone") literally lifting up Jennifer Garner like a weightless twig
and twirling her about in one arm! Sapp
is one hefty monster of a man! The
reward for scariest actor, though, must go to the frightfully real wolf used in Elektra; we get to see a lot more of this not-entirely-tamed
creature in the documentary than we see in the film.
second half of Relentless (53 min.) is
more technical and perhaps less interesting to the casual fan.
Editing and splicing techniques are discussed somewhat dryly along with a
quick glance at the scoring, the color correction, and sound mixing.
There is a small portion about the special effects, too. This documentary concludes with bloopers shown over the
closing credits, so be sure to watch until the end.
at the Well
is a short "multi-angle dailies" section offering a look at four
different takes of the climactic clash between Elektra and Kirigi. You can use the "angle" button on the remote to
switch between several viewable camera angles of the fight.
you're wondering where Daredevil is during the proceedings in Elektra,
check out the three deleted scenes. These
are the same ones as seen on the original Elektra
disc and come with optional commentary by Rob Bowman and Kevin Stitt.
"Sai Approach" is an initial aborted attempt by Elektra to
assassinate the Miller family. "Come
Back to Me" offers a bittersweet dream sequence with Ben Affleck as Matt
Murdock, Daredevil's alter-ego. "Rounding
Up the Troops" is a short scene between Stick and Matt Miller after Elektra
and Miller's daughter have vanished. There
are also six alternate/extended scenes, again with optional commentary by
Bowman. The first is an alternate
opening (with its corresponding closing sequence), while most of the remaining
scenes are dream sequences or flashbacks involving the young Elektra.
are five art galleries. The first
three, for costumes (26 stills), production design (18), and weapons (4),
contain production artwork. The
unit photography gallery contains 84 production photographs.
Also available is an extensive storyboards gallery with seven sections -
"Elektra in Pool," "Mark's House," "Alley/Hawk,"
"Abby in the Woods," "In the Maze," "Kirigi's
Death," and "Natchios Estate."
Most of these storyboards center on major action sequences from the film,
and there are well over 300 individual frames to look over.
(53 min.) focuses upon the various renditions of the heroine in the Marvel
universe. This documentary will
appeal strongly to comic book fans of the character.
Interview clips with major contributors to the Elektra character are
accompanied by a continual stream of artwork from various Daredevil comics or
Elektra graphic novels. Frank
Miller, writer and penciller extraordinaire, starts the proceedings with
comments about Elektra, the character he created for the Daredevil comic book
back in the late 1970's. Miller
also wrote a couple of graphic novels based upon Elektra, and his rendition of
her remains to this day the gold standard against which any other
interpretations are judged. Also on
hand is Klaus Janson, Miller's regular inker for the Daredevil comic book.
Janson's comments are particularly insightful from an artist's
standpoint, and aspiring cartoonists or future comic book illustrators will want
to pay attention to his comments.
Bill Sienkiewicz likewise offers his thoughts.
Sienkiewicz was the illustrator on "Elektra Assassin," one of
the first "painted" graphic novels ever produced.
He speaks at length about the impact and influence of "Elektra
Assassin," which was penned by Frank Miller.
remaining comments are by two later Marvel writers. Both Brian Michael Bendis, who revisited the Elektra in
2001's "Elektra: The Scorpio Key," and Greg Rucka, who wrote other
recent Elektra graphic novels including one with Wolverine, offer honest
assessments of their work in comparison to Frank Miller's original
interpretation of the character.
Feud: The Greek Tragedy of Elektra (15 min.) is a fascinating interview with Greek university professor
Katerina Zacharia (chosen for her youthful resemblance to the comic heroine,
perhaps?). Do not be fooled by
not-so-coincidental appearances, however; Zacharia gives this featurette such an
informed and scholarly tone that it seems a more suited candidate for a History
Channel documentary than for a comic superheroine DVD.
Zacharia recounts the Mycenaean Greek tragedy concerning the downfall of
the House of Atreus and its greatest son, Agamemnon following the Trojan War
(check out a copy of Aeschylus' The
Oresteia for further details about this tragedy).
Electra was one of Agamemnon's daughters who avenged his death.
Zacharia also discusses Sophocles' rendition of the tragedy, which placed
Electra more in the forefront of the story as an avenging angel of sorts caught
in a never-ending cycle of death. Lastly,
Zacharia discusses Euripides' version of the tragedy, which offers the most
modern and violent portrayal of the Electra character.
Dr. Zacharia closes with a parting word about how the three versions of
the Mycenaean Greek tragedy have been re-interpreted by playwrights and authors
over the centuries. Frank Miller's
tragic Elektra is derived mostly from Euripides' characterization of the Greek
the DVD case, be sure to check out the bonus comic book as well.
It provides some background information to flesh out the interval between
Elektra's death in Daredevil and her re-emergence as an assassin-for-hire in Elektra. The comic book ends with Elektra's latest assignment to kill
DeMarco, her victim in the film's opening action sequence.
there is a limited time rebate coupon ($10 off!) applicable for various Fox DVD
titles (Dodgeball, The
Day After Tomorrow, I Robot, Man on Fire, and AVP).
second life's never really like your first, is it?"