"Elektra...like the tragedy."
With the lukewarm adaptation of 'Daredevil' in 2003, fans of the comic got what they should get in a comic book movie: a story about the main characters: Daredevil, Bullseye, Kingpin, and Elektra. Of course, fans of the comic also know that the man who created Elektra, Frank Miller ('Sin City'), also killed her. Comics being what they are, of course she didn't stay dead (few do). There was still too much to be done for the female warrior/assassin. As much hate as 'Daredevil' was shown, even its (hugely) inferior theatrical cut stacks up better than the spin-off film it would inspire, as Jennifer Garner ('Alias') would again be tapped to play the hooker with the heart of...no, sorry, the deadly yet warm hearted tragic character. Apparently, neither she nor the fine folks at Marvel or Fox learned their lesson the first time when audiences almost universally decried "do not want."
The powers of light and darkness have waged a timeless battle, one that will only end when one warrior tips the balance between good and evil. This warrior will be lured by both sides, as she is a living and breathing weapon. Elektra, risen from the dead, doesn't seem to have much light in her, as she takes odd assassination jobs, killing with a frenzy that shows her disconnect from the humanity in which she once lived. But when a well paying assignment to take out two targets doesn't sit right with the merciless anti-hero, and the job is refused, Elektra will become a target herself, as the powerful forces of The Hand seek to destroy all that is good. Elektra is forced to protect the two would-be targets, despite not knowing why The Hand wants them dead, while trying to avoid the autopsy table herself for a second time.
When I first saw 'Elektra,' I was greatly dismayed. As loathed as it is, I've always had a soft spot for 'Daredevil,' despite all its flaws, and its massively superior director's cut resides near the top in my favorite superhero film list. Elektra was a one-dimensional character in either cut of the film, with horrible development, cringe-inducing chemistry with the heroes and villains alike, and entrances so contrived that she may as well have parachuted into the film at random intervals. Her death in that film was well deserved. Bullseye on the other hand, played with a nasty, brooding appeal by Colin Farrell, was given an ending that opened the door for a return.
They brought back the wrong character.
Superheroines haven't been blockbuster material, as 'Supergirl' and 'Catwoman' proved. Part of the problem is the lack of respect given to the characters, with cheeseball writing placing emphasis more on sex appeal than feats and sacrifices implausible to the ordinary man or woman. 'Elektra' may have been one of the final nails in that particular coffin.
It's not Garner's fault. She plays the part more convincingly her second time around, as she's believable in her struggles with her own mortality, love and loss, and responsibility, and despite being a zombie, she holds back her craving for the flesh of the living, which is quite admirable. She's cold and enclosed, yet warm and open at the same time. There's even a part of her yearning for Matt Murdock, her past lover, but that scene was cut. Apparently 'Elektra' had a "no Affleck" clause. Of course, her dialogue remains painful, but that isn't exactly her fault. It's not like she asks what happens to toads when they're struck by lightning, or anything.
What makes a good action film is the villain. The best James Bond films have the more memorable villains, and the same can be said about comic book flicks. With 'Elektra,' there is no obvious lead villain. We get Kirigi (Will Yun Lee), the leader of The Hand, and his powers are a complete unknown. Behind him, there's a band of faceless ninja fodder, and a pile of superpowered beings - superpowered beings so meaningless that they're hardly even given names in the film. They just show up. Wow, a really strong/impervious guy. Scary. Gee, a guy whose tattoos come to life. Thank goodness he doesn't have one of Captain America wearing assless chaps. Then there's Typhoid, a play on the Daredevil villain Typhoid Mary, only she is never truly given a name in the film. Her powers work, and they're a doozy, as she poisons and kills everything around her, and she was at one time considered the great prize that light and darkness fight over. With so many villains, you'd think there would be at least one who could take more than a single punch without disintegrating. It's a tad anti-climactic, considering they're fighting the only person other than Jesus and Lazarus to be resurrected.
Elektra's change of heart, the one that creates the conflict in the film, isn't truly explained either, especially considering the fact she caught one of the two targets stealing from her the day before. Hell, give me the chance to take down someone who wronged me, to get away scott free with it, and get paid to do it, and I'd be halfway to my weapons cache before you could even finish the proposition. Perhaps, since Elektra is a motherless daughter, she feels for the people she is supposed to kill, as she sees a lot of herself in the daughter (Kirsten Prout). Perhaps it's just damn lazy to play "mommy" issues in a film about a ruthless assassin. 'Elektra' is full of one-dimensional characters, despite the fact that the titular character is actually fully realized. Much like Buzz Lightyear in the middle of 'Steamboat Mickey,' she doesn't quite fit in the menagerie surrounding her as such. Fight scenes can be interesting, but at times can be incredibly frustrating, while silly CG effects are overused, cheapening the entire affair.
'Elektra' was received better this second time around, but damn if it isn't still a failure of a comic book film.
'Elektra' can spin its sais around all bad ass, look at me menacingly, and even run at me while screaming to try to intimidate me, but damn if I'm not going to a) hope that happens so I can get closer to Jennifer Garner than any of you without having to be named Ben Affleck, b) scream like a little girl and soil myself, c) call it out for looking straight out of 2006, or d) all of the above.
The 1080p 2.35:1 AVC MPEG-4 encode looks similar to what fans would expect with the notoriously bland MPEG-2 discs Fox used to put on the market. The problems start from the opening sequences, and continue on through the rest of the film, marring the promising moments. Delineation is problematic throughout, but at least that's consistent. Detail is just all over the place. Shots can go from beautifully sharp, where you can see stray hairs leaping from any body part (and yes, that includes Garner's chinny chin chin) or wear and tear on a pair of sais, to blurry, muddled messes, that are too ugly and prolonged to miss. Artifacting is a minor issue, while noise pops up on more than a few occasions. Skin tones are notoriously awful, as characters constantly look like they're staring at a funeral pyre, with yellows and oranges enveloping them. There's some ringing in flashbacks, but this may be an aesthetic choice, since natural shots sport fantastic edges. Shots can look overly digital to the point that 'Tron' doesn't seem too far removed, but that isn't so much a transfer issue as it is an effects issue brought to light more by the bump in resolution. Aliasing pops up a few times, mostly in the longer hair of the two female leads.
One last thing...the multiple choice question above was a trick, I'm afraid. Not because both options a and c were equally correct, but because I'd hire Colin Farrell to go all Bullseye up on her again, and that wasn't one of the choices.
The audio for 'Elektra' is pretty damn impressive, honestly. With a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix leading the way, this subpar film feels like a blockbuster, and the mix reminded me a bit of the more recent action extravaganzas, both in strengths and weaknesses. From the very start, we get proper ambience, light movement, great use of the entire soundstage, and some light atmospheric bass action. Bullets move through rooms perfectly, with great pitch variance. The dart gun also shows off, with an even higher pitch, and just as much movement. Sais, as well as some punches and kicks, cut through the air, leaving a high pitched waft behind them. There's some (exaggerated) pronounced thuds on any fighting move impact, as though the film were some cheesy kung fu flick, with plenty of localization for each blow or impending attack.
The entire time watching 'Elektra,' I felt as though the film were designed to put me in her shoes, as the entire room is immersed realistically, and the effect worked so much better than other experiences that tried to mimic this effect. Volume spikes properly for some good jump moments and presence, and, when called for, quietness also played a solid part in this release that has dynamic range and speaker usage aced. So why not a higher score? The dialogue for the film often finds itself being left behind, as it is never anywhere near as loud or prioritized as action, leaving a somewhat lopsided balance to the whole affair. 'Elektra' will give a good home theater a proper workout, but it just isn't demo material.
Few films deserve such thorough supplement packages. Sometimes it's just beating a dead horse, or documenting the uninteresting. 'Elektra' may be one of the oddest choices to get such a superb and expansive pile of goodies, which often overshadow the quality of the film itself.
I just wish there were more effort in the menu. I don't mind the static background, but the way selections work, the selector is slow to respond to commands (on both of my players), and there is a general sense of unease to the whole thing. Go to the deleted scenes tab, and you have to press to the side to play all. If you press off, for the commentary option, it just selects commentary to on, leading you to have to fix it. Pressing up at any time resets the menu back to normal, another annoyance.
'Elektra' isn't necessarily a good movie, but there are worse comic book movies out there. On my first go round with the film, I couldn't have been more disappointed, but going into it this time, with rock bottom expectations, I wasn't anywhere near as let down. The Fox Blu-ray has some pretty meh video, good audio, and a superb pile of extras. It matches up fairly nicely with the Hong Kong release as well, and offers the slightly extended cut of the film. As much as I hate to say this, 'Elektra' is worth a look.