First, some background information. Rob Bowman's Elektra is based on the popular character created by Frank Miller which originally appeared in an issue of Daredevil published by Marvel Comics. She proved a pretty popular supporting character - sexy, mysterious and an interesting love interest/foil for Marveldom's red suited vigilante, but Miller killed her off not all that long after creating her. She was resurrected in the eighties in the eight issue Elektra: Assassin mini-series and then again in a standalone graphic novel called Elektra: Lives Again which Miller both wrote and lovingly illustrated, and then she was retired again only to be resurrected once again by Marvel, this time without Miller's involvement. This was kind of a big deal to comic fans, as Elektra was definitely best in Miller's hands. Cut to 2003 and Mark Steven Johnson brings Daredevil to the big screen with Elektra, played by Alias star Jennifer Garner, in tow as a primary supporting character. That film did well enough that the sexy assassin was spun off into her own feature, which brings us back to Bowman's film.
So yeah, picking up where Daredevil more or less left off, a resurrected Elektra is out on her own and away from Matt Murdoch's world, we meet up with her when she's tasked with assassinating a man named Mark Miller (Goran Visnjic) and his young daughter Abbey (Kirsten Prout). She takes the mission but soon decides she can't follow through with it, which pisses of the underground organization she has ties with, The Hand, lead by Roshi (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa). They decide that since Elektra can't do it, the next best thing would be to send in a team of ninjas to take the Miller's out for good. This doesn't work, as Elektra is tough enough to make short work of those guys, which simply serves to further piss off The Hand.
Having had enough, they decide to bring in their 'big gun' in the form of a master assassin named Kirigi (Will Yun Lee) who, along with his cronies, will stop at nothing to kill the father/daughter duo and Elektra too if she should decide to get in his way. As her past starts to catch up with her, Elektra finds herself in the fight for her life - thankfully though, she's not alone, as she has some help in the form of a strange old man named Stick (Terrance Stamp). But will it be enough?
Garner had already proven herself pretty capable of handling action-intensive roles with her work in Alias and she fits into the red leather assassin suit and plays Elektra fairly well in this picture. She's got the right amount of sex appeal and 'don't mess with me' toughness that, when complimented with her smarts and her cold stare make her a good choice for the lead. Terrance Stamp is also well cast as Stick, having a surliness to him that makes his wise ways seem believable enough to work. Sadly, the rest of the cast isn't all that interesting or inspired. The Hand characters are almost instantly forgettable and don't really bring enough sense of menace to the film to really work. Prout and Visnjic are nice enough people from the looks of things but you can't really invest enough in them to care that much.
With an uneven cast, can the film save itself with a great story and impressive action sequences? Well, we do get some impressive action sequences, that much is true. There's some cool martial arts on display here and there's something about a pretty girl with a pair of sai that it just completely great. The story, however, is a bit of a mish mash - the biggest problem being that Elektra just isn't given that much of a reason to care about the Miller's. She's having a change of heart and all at this point in her career but it happens very quickly and not entirely convincingly. On top of that, the movie falls prey to a lot of action movie clichés, from the heavy guitar-riff centric soundtrack to the bad CGI effects work. The story moves back and forth from mysticism to supernaturalism to reality based set pieces rather awkwardly, and it's hard to tell if the film is trying to be taken seriously or not at times simply because it switches tone so frequently and with such disregard for consistency. The result is a very, very uneven film that hits about as often as it misses and unfortunately balances its impressive action sequences and fairly decent lead performance with plentiful bouts of mediocrity.
Note: The version of Elektra contained on this Blu-ray release is Rob Bowman's director's cut of the film. It's three minutes longer than the PG-13 theatrical cut of the film, but without the theatrical cut on hand to compare, it's tough to say what has been added and/or taken out. There's nothing here in this unrated version that would push the film into R-rated territory, however.The DVD:
Elektra arrives on Blu-ray in an AVC encoded 2.35.1 anamorphic widescreen 1080p high definition transfer. Now, this is a very dark film from the start so you're not going to get the sort of color pop out of the image that you might want but this Blu-ray release does improve on some of the standard definition release's problems, mainly with the encoding. There aren't any problems with compression artifacts or edge enhancement nor is there much shimmering either. That said, shadow detail is still a bit uneven. The black levels are pretty deep, which is definitely a good thing, but there are intermittent scenes where some background detail gets swallowed up. Thankfully skin tones look nice and natural and both texture and detail are a fair bit better than what we had before but still not on par with the best that Blu-ray has to offer. Colors have been tinkered with in this movie and so sometimes certain hues look a bit off and sometimes things look a bit soft, but Elektra's high definition debut will offer a marginal upgrade for fans of the film.Sound:
The English DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track is a pretty decent one but it doesn't quite pack the same sort of wallop as newer superhero fare like Iron Man. There's a good amount of surround activity present in the fight scenes and the score is mixed in quite nicely along the various effects bits. Dialogue is always easy enough to understand and perfectly clear. There aren't any problems with hiss or distortion, nor should there be, and the lower front end provides some nice bass and rumble when it's called for. There's some good directionality present in the mix but so too are there times where things are mixed just a little bit low and as such don't quite have the same sort of impact as they could have. The good definitely outweighs the bad here, however, and Elektra sounds good.
Alternate audio options are provided in Spanish and French dubbed Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound tracks, and subtitles are offered in English SDH and Spanish only.Extras:
Fox has carried over the extra features from their standard definition release (with the exception of the bit that contained Garner's appearance at the Comic Con for some reason), though all of them appear in standard definition and nothing new has been added to this high definition debut. First up is a commentary track from director Rob Bowman who is joined by editor Kevin Stitt. Bowman is obviously quite proud of the film that he made despite the fact that it failed to set the box office on fire, and he's more than happy to heap accolades of praise on pretty much everyone who pitched in on the effort. On top of that, the pair talk about piecing the story together the way that they do in the film, casting choices, storyline changes, effects work and stunts. It's a pretty decent track, actually, and a fairly interesting one to listen to. Bowman and Stitt also provide an optional commentary one some of the deleted and alternate scenes that Fox has included here. There's just over nineteen minutes of material here in total, though honestly most of it was cut for good reason.
From there we move on to the featurettes that have been created for this release, the first of which is the two part Relentless: The Making Of Elektra, a two part documentary cut into Production and Post Production segments that runs over two hours in length, a fair bit longer than the feature itself! Here we witness some of the key scenes being shot, blocked, and worked over as well as some bits that were filmed but not included. There's a lot of emphasis here on the stunt work and on Bowman's directorial process. We also see how the credits were done, how and why the score was made the way it was, and how the film was edited. Honestly, for a documentary as long as this one is, it could have gone into more detail or been chopped down considerably. There's some very good stuff here but there's also a lot of filler.
Two other featurettes are also included - Elektra: Incarnations is a fifty-two minute segment that includes interviews with a bunch of the comic book artists and writers who have worked on the Elektra character for Marvel over the years, both in the Daredevil series and in her own series. Comic fans will appreciate seeing her creator, Frank Miller, here along with one of her earliest artists, Klaus Janson. Bill Sienkiewicz, who worked on Elektra: Assassin with Miller also pops up, as doe Brian Michael Bendis and Greg Rucka. Elektra In Greek Mythology allows a Greek mythology expert to talk about the character's origins in that country's folklore and history and about the different versions of the character that has appeared in different plays throughout history.
Rounding out the extras are a teaser, a theatrical trailer, a two and half minute alternate angel sequence for the Showdown At The Well scene, menus and chapter stops.
Elektra has its moments but isn't cohesive enough to really work all that well. Garner isn't bad in the lead and some of the action sequences are impressive, but sadly some plot inconsistencies and odd stylish choices bring things down a notch or two. Fox's Blu-ray offers a slight upgrade from the standard definition release but those expecting a revelation will likely feel disappointed, even if the sound mix is pretty strong. Almost all of the extras from the SD release are here, but nothing new has been added. The film's fan base will want this, everyone else should consider a rental first.