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The notion of “spinoffs” – where a character or characters from a particular narrative are given their own unique storyline – has been around in the comic book world for years. So when the comic-to-film adaptation became the flavour of the month a few years back it was only a matter of time before the practice was adopted in Hollywood. Mark Steven Johnson’s Daredevil was the perfect candidate, thanks largely to a heavily cut down theatrical version boring audiences into wanting more from Jennifer Garner’s character, Elektra. There was no chance Ben Affleck would be allowed to return, so Elektra became the next cab off the rank, even if the writer’s had to explain how she had miraculously come back from the dead.

Elektra
Movie
Following her apparent demise in the disastrous Daredevil (which, for the record, I actually enjoyed somewhat following a Director’s Cut viewing), the tough-as-nails Elektra now lives the life of an assassin, saved from impending death by a man named Stick, played by Terence Stamp. And like all good assassins she is totally devoid of emotion, giving Elijah Wood a run for his money in the “one look fits all” stakes. Her current career path allows for an action packed opening, where the brooding Elektra dispatches numerous bodyguards with clinical precision. Following that, her next job involves a hefty pay packet and the promise of another easy mark.

Naturally, things don’t always go according to plan. While laying low in a rental property for no real reason other than a change of location, Elektra meets Mark (Goran Visnjic) and Abby (Kirsten Prout), a father daughter team with several relationship issues of their own. Before long our intrepid hero receives a phone call from someone resembling her agent letting her know that he’s found the latest targets. Yep, you guessed it. Mark and Abby.

Now, a thirteen year-old girl isn’t your usual target for a high-profile killer, but after seeing her on screen for five minutes you’d be thinking that members of the audience arranged the hit. Kids in film usually fit into one of two categories; adorable and cute (Jonathan Lipnicki in Jerry Maguire) or downright annoying (Haley Joel Osment in, well, anything). Kirsten Prout isn’t actually that bad on the surface, yet the writers have given her such an obnoxious character that no amount of talent could save poor Abby.

Needless to say, Elektra can’t go through with the hit. She soon finds out the pair are actually being pursued by a gang of Asian fighters known as the Hand. They too want Abby dead, but not because she’s just downright annoying. Somehow she has stumbled upon “chosen one” status and is the missing link between an ancient battle that has been raging for years. Aided by Stick and his buddies, Elektra does her best to protect the little bugger and her father, who ends up being the token love interest for our heroine.

Elektra
It comes as no surprise that the script is a downright stinker. Even before the film was released there was an undercurrent of derision from general film circles which anticipated a very poor narrative which might only be saved by some creative battle sequences and special effects. Unfortunately the fight scenes aren’t exactly top notch either, and are merely slotted in at regular intervals to save the audience from falling asleep. For a character so potentially brutal as Elektra there is little exploration of real conflict, mainly because she seems to take care of her foes with relative ease. The whole film follows a consistent formula of a few dramatic scenes, the odd flashback or two, then a fight scene basically out of nowhere. The villains don’t help all that much, either. Take the female baddie who kills with her deadly lips and breath, which is basically an excuse for a rather lackluster lip-lock with Elektra. And the writers stopped just short of naming the goons Bepop and Rocksteady with callsigns like Stone and Tattoo.

The whole exercise smacks of trying to gain a quick buck without putting the steps in place to make the most of a potentially entertaining title character. Both Jennifer Garner and the Elektra persona are quite bankable elements, but coupling them with an incredibly rushed script, supporting characters that might as well be cardboard cutouts and fight sequences that are just dreadfully uninspired is a recipe for disaster. Thankfully audiences voted with their feet at the box office and basically ensured we won’t be subjected to another disappointment in the form of a sequel.

Video
The 2.35:1 presentation served up here from the folks at 20th Century Fox is absolutely top notch. The sharpness and vibrancy is incredible, helped largely by the cinematography and creative colour palette. There are very few instances of aliasing, and those that do come up aren’t distracting in the slightest. We’ve probably come to expect this kind of transfer from a big-budget new release but the look of this disc cannot be faulted. Let’s hope that presentations like this become the standard.

Elektra
Audio
A perfect candidate for the best audio mix that digital video has to offer, it is good to see the Elektra disc has been given the DTS treatment. The 5.1 DTS mix does the job quite well but is probably hamstrung a little by the rather flat action sequences throughout. Comic book flicks generally give the audio mix scope to become quite creative and that is pretty much the case with this mix. However, the action sequences just haven’t been pumped up enough for the DTS track to really take hold.

The music used in the film helps to lift the mood a little during the more dramatic scenes (plus the countless flashbacks we are subjected to), and they really do sound quite good coming out of the rear speakers at times. Ambient effects bounce around the stage when necessary, while the dialogue sits firmly in the front without a hitch. The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix is also a solid presentation but lacks the necessary punch to really drive home those few moments the audio can really take off.

Extras
The extras section is surprisingly light on, pointing to the distinct possibility of a special edition director’s cut somewhere down the track (it has already been touted in the US). The first extra we are treated to is a collection of deleted scenes, three in total, which really just flesh out little bits of the story. Director Rob Bowman commentates on the first two, which makes it even more surprising that he didn’t record a full track for the feature. In all there’s little to get excited about here, save for a brief appearance from Ben Affleck which tries in vain to link the two films together a little more.

Next up is a short puff piece called The Making Of Elektra. It’s nothing we haven’t seen before, and is more akin the fluff you see on late night TV a week before the film’s theatrical run. A nice addition if there are a heap of press materials surrounding it, but on its own there is no value at all in checking this one out.

Elektra
The one valuable piece of the whole set is a lengthy documentary entitled Elektra: Incarnations. The subject of the film is put into the comic book context, with several interviews and clips exploring the notion of the Elektra character. Fans of the comics will almost certainly get a kick out of this piece, as will fans of the film. This is what all documentaries should be like and, while not breaking much new ground overall, really does become the showpiece extra feature on the current release.

Last but not least is a sneak peek to the Director’s Cut of Daredevil, a set which has been out in the US for months. Good to hear that it’s coming to Region 4, but I’m guessing those Aussie residents who really wanted to check this one out have exercised their right to import from the States. One must assume there will be an improved (or just a longer) cut of Elektra some time down the track, so there’s a decision to be made here.

Overall
Such a potentially appealing character has been given a lackluster film on so many levels. The script is unsurprisingly poor, the action sequences fall completely flat and the characters just aren’t likeable (or dislikable) enough for the audience to care. The disc itself isn’t a bad little release, with a top notch video and audio mix coupled with a couple of handy extras. Beware the double-dip, however, as you may find the studio releasing a special director’s cut of the film some time around Christmas.


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