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Featured Blu-ray Review: Elektra

May 12th, 2010

Elektra - Blu-ray - Buy from Amazon

In 2003, Daredevil came out. It was a bit of a risk. Granted, the comic book boom was still strong, but Daredevil was definitely a secondary comic book character. Even so, the film became a $100 million hit. One of the breakout performances was by Jennifer Garner, who played the assassin Elektra. With the success of the first movie, creating a spin-off made a lot of sense. However, the production was plagued by bad buzz and by the time it was released in January, it was eviscerated by critics and failed to make much of an impact with moviegoers. So is it as bad as its reputation?

Jennifer Garner plays Elektra, an assassin whose job has taken a real toll on her mental state. She's hired to do a job and heads to an cabin on an island while she waits for details. While there, she encounters Abby (Kirsten Prout) who breaks into her house and tries to steal something. Her father, Mark, apologizes for her and makes Abby invite Elektra over for Christmas dinner. This is the first human contact she has had in a long time, but she later learns that Abby and Mark are her two targets. (What a twist!) She decides not to kill a 13-year old girl and her father, and instead defends them from other attackers. These attackers turn out to be from The Hand, an ancient society of evil mystical ninjas. It's a group that Elektra has encountered over and over again. There's Typhoid Mary, who can spread poisons and / or disease; Stone, who can turn to stone; Tattoo, who has living tattoos; etc.

Wait a minute. If there's a guy that can create zombies filled with gunpowder and if the leader can communicate through strings he holds in his teeth, then I think I've seen this Anime.

This brings us to one of the biggest flaws in this movie: the only real positive is the diversity in power of the ninjas, and even that isn't nearly unique enough. There's some cool fights, but they didn't have enough action. Slow motion is overused in this movie; it is overused to the point of self-parody. And don't get me started on that kiss between Typhoid Mary and Elektra. I don't know if that was supposed to be erotic, but I would have rather seen them get into a serious martial arts fight. Amazingly, there are none such fights in this movie, at least none that shine. They all suffer from too much style, not enough action. Four of the five fights with the members of The Hand end in anti-climactic ways. I say four of the five, because I can't remember how the fifth one died. One second, I'll go back and check... make that five out of five. (I forgot that one of them was killed by Mark and Abby. How sad is that? And how telling is it that I could not remember less than an hour after it happened.)

This movie does delve deeply into the character of Elektra and what makes her the way she is. Unfortunately, what she is is mopey. It is very hard to pull off emotionally detached without being boring. In this case, that is exactly what she is. It doesn't help that the movie's pacing is a little slow (to be generous) and the constant use of flashbacks to fill in the backstory doesn't help. It just makes the plot feel disjointed and robs the film of momentum. It kills what little excitement the movie does generate.

In short, an action movie should not be this dull.

Looking in at the extras on the Blu-ray, we see that they are all ported over from the Two-Disc Director's Cut DVD, but at least there's quite a lot of them. First is an audio commentary track with the director, Rob Bowman, and the editor, Kevin Stitt. They are a little overly complimentary, but that's true of the "making of" documentary as well. The two-part documentary is longer than the movie. That's too long. There is a four-take, multi-angle look at the fight at the well. There are three deleted scenes and six alternate scenes, with audio commentary tracks. Mythology is a 53-minute long look at the origins of Elektra and her various incarnations. This is better than the movie itself, as is Elektra in Greek Mythology, to a lesser extent. All of these are from the Director's Cut DVD and all are presented in Standard Definition.

The film's High Definition presentation is... well... sub-par. The film is very dark, but the black levels are a weakness, as they destroy all details. For that matter, details are not great even in the bright scenes. Add in compression artifacts, excessive grain... I just reviewed Legend of the Tsunami Warrior, which cost less than $5 million to make compared to this film's $65 million production budget and that film actually looked better on Blu-ray. That's not right. Elektra does sound better than it looks, with solid use of surround speakers. The subwoofers gets a workout as well.

Finally, we get to the price, which is $18.99 on I would consider this a little more than I would be willing to pay for shovelware.

The Verdict

Elektra as a comic book character is definitely worthy of a movie of her own, if done right. However, Elektra the actual movie is a huge mess. It's all style with little substance while there are more slow motion shots than anything approaching actual martial arts. It's not even so bad it's good; it's just dull. Meanwhile, the Blu-ray is pure shovelware and not particularly good shovelware at that.

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