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Elektra - Unrated Director's Cut
Marvel Comics has had a great run of Hollywood hits over the past few years. Stuff like X-Men, Spider-Man, and Fantastic Four showed the world that comic books can actually break successfully into other forms of media. In case you missed it though (and I doubt you did if you're reading this), Daredevil (DD) also got his own movie with Ben Afflec as the leading blind man in red tights. DD has always been one of my favorite Marvel characters, but something about the film adaptation didn't grab me like the other comic licenses did. Even so, I appreciated Jennifer Garner in the role of Elektra, and was very pleased when I heard that the character was getting her own movie.
Despite having a cool character and setting, the film unfortunately flopped and wasn't well received by audiences or critics. Though Jennifer Garner in the lead role gave the movie the promise a butt kicking action fiesta, it never really delivered. The fighting is very reminiscent of other comic book fare, such as Spider-Man, with a little dash of Crouching Tiger tossed in; however the rest of the movie leaves a lot to be desired.
Directed by Rob Bowman, Elektra mashes together a hodgepodge of plots and ideas but never seems to elevate beyond an average experience or gains a voice of its own. The movie at no time connected to me on any level and instead it felt like a soulless and uninteresting adventure, with a few decent bits tossed in for good measure. It was not only highly predictable but I can't even begin to describe how upset I was when the film basically turned into a "Marvel Comics Presents: The Next Karate Kid" spin-off. There was so much more that could have been done with the Elektra character on the big screen, but the potential had been squandered in an attempt to placate to stereotypes and hormonal teenagers.
When we last saw her in the Daredevil movie, she had just been effectively taken down by Bullseye. Fortunately for her, she has friends in all the right places, so she was brought back to life by mystical powers. The character of Elektra is a legendary assassin, so one of our first glimpses of her this time around is while she's fulfilling a contract. The movie starts out with some good potential, but things become much worse once she accepts her next assignment.
She is given a boatload of money and sent to a remote island. There she has to wait for information on the mark to come in, but in the meantime she runs into a bratty teenage named Abby (Kirsten Prout) and her father Mark (Goran Visnjic). Before I even learned about who Elektra had to assassinate, I just knew it was them, because quite frankly, the film doesn't do a good job about keeping you in the dark. So Elektra gets the orders to kill them, and naturally defies them, meaning that now she has become a target as well. Some ninjas show up on Christmas (who doesn't love Christmas ninjas?) and after a quick fight, allude to greater events to come.
As Elektra tries to protect the two, she also learns why the Order of the Hand wants them so badly. This is where the movie completely lost my interest, because the bratty little teenage girl is considered to be "the chosen one" who will tip the scales of good and evil, blah, blah, blah. Out of nowhere the little headache starts breaking out the kung fu and beating up ninjas. This is such an old cliché that doesn't suit this movie well and really takes the attention away from Elektra (who you came to see in the first place). At any rate it's up to her to protect the prodigal child from the dangers that she is about to face. Queue up the circus freak ninja troop lead by Kirigi, and you've got a supernatural mess that isn't faithful to fans of the Elektra comic character and not very interesting to viewers of the movie.
To make matters worse no actors have any chemistry what-so-ever, the dialogue is cheesy beyond belief, and the action is so cartoon-like at times that it's not exhilarating at all. I wanted to like Garner as Elektra, but the way that her character was written, it's almost like even the folks behind the movie didn't know how they wanted her to be. Toss in a random, and unfelt, love plot between Elektra and Mark, and you are left with a confusing motion picture that doesn't really have a target audience beyond those that have come to see Garner run around in a red bustier.
Previously there had only been a PG-13 edition of the film, but this review is for the unrated director's cut version that wasn't seen in theaters. If you had appreciated the efforts taken with the Daredevil director's cut and are interested to see if the same steps were used here, you'll unfortunately be left in the dark. There is literally nothing of significance added beyond a few extended actions scenes, some more violence and language, and a couple of character interactions that weren't there before. I had seen the picture in the movie theater when it had come out, and sitting down to watch the unrated DVD didn't offer all that different of an experience.
Elektra is presented with a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer and features some very nice image quality. The picture is clean with very little grain, there is next to no edge enhancement, and there don't appear to be compression artifacts of any kind. Colors remain vivid, though compared to some of the special effects that are used they can seem a tad washed out. The action scenes in particular looked astounding with a very crisp image during all of the commotion.
Just like the PG-13 release, the Director's Cut comes with a 5.1 Dolby and DTS soundtrack. The audio quality is quite good with a decent channel mix and clear content. I didn't notice any distortion at anytime and things stay pretty consistent for the most part. The speaker play is a little more subdued than I would have preferred, but the rear channel really picks up once the action does. The disc also includes option English and Spanish subtitle tracks.
The Director's Cut of the film means that there is not only some new content added to the picture, but also a wealth of special features.
Predominantly there is a commentary with Director Rob Bowman and Editor Kevin Stitt. The two talk about a lot of their personal feelings on different scenes and also how they came to be about. The production information that they bring up is pretty interesting and I didn't really feel that it was dry at all, since they add a little bit of humor to keep things interesting. It's fascinating to hear about what they had to adjust to make the character work for the film and the process involve in making the picture, but a lot of it is basically them patting each other (and some of the crew) on the backs for such a good job.
There is also a whopping two hour long featurette included called Relentless on the second disc. It encompasses just about everything and anything you'd even want to know about the picture, and is split into two halves. The first half is basically crew interviews and behind the scenes video with a lot of information. There are also some candid moments that were caught on film and it's interesting to see how many scenes were conceived. The second part basically involves the film being edited together and offers up a lot of production info.
Another interesting feature is a look at a fight scene towards the end of the film, but instead of being at a static view, we get to see it from different angles. Movies use many cameras obviously, so I always think it's interesting how one option is picked over another. Three deleted scenes are available with optional commentary, as are an alternate opening and five extended scenes. A nice variety of image galleries also is available in case you wanted to get a better look at costumes, production stuff, and some storyboards.
A little mythology section offers up a decent look at the background of the character and how she got her roots. I enjoyed one of the features since it offers up Frank Miller talking about the character and working at Marvel Comics. Overall the feature runs at about 53 minutes and provides so much insight into the character that it will make a comic geek's head spin. Likewise there is also a mythological featurette about the character and her Greek heritage.
When you hear the words "Director's Cut", you typically think that it's a greatly extended look at the film, through the eyes of the director. Unfortunately that's not really the case with Elektra, since there really are only a couple of very minor bits added. Nothing is so noticeable that it changes the fact that the film is mediocre in almost every regard, so if you were hoping for a great adventure, I'm sorry to burst your bubble. Nice disc presentation and bonus materials are included on this release, though not enough for a double dip if you already own the prior edition. Rent It