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Elektra: Director’s Cut DVD Review

Elektra: Director’s Cut

February 8, 2006

Director: Rob Bowman,
Starring: Jennifer Garner, Goran Visnjic, Will Yun Lee, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Terence Stamp, Kirsten Prout, Natassia Malthe, Bob Sapp, Chris Ackerman, Edson T. Ribeiro, Colin Cunningham,

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DVD Review

Based on the lukewarm critical and commercial reaction to Elektra (2005), is a Director’s Cut really warranted? Apparently, somebody thought so and following on the heels of the much better Daredevil (2003) Director’s Cut we get a slight tweaking of Rob Bowman’s atrocious misfire. The main difference from the previous DVD is a wealth of supplemental material that does little to enhance the experience of this movie.

When she’s not dutifully scrubbing floors (“To get rid of her DNA,” she explains), Elektra (Garner) is a deadly and ruthlessly efficient assassin resurrected by her mentor and martial arts guru, Stick (Stamp). While staying at an island retreat—her down-time between jobs—she meets her neighbour, Mark (Visnjic) and his daughter, Abby (Prout). The only problem: she’s assigned to kill them. It may have something to do with an evil clan of ninjas known as The Hand.

Through flashbacks we learn that Elektra’s motivation comes from a crappy childhood and a strict, pushy father. The screenplay features dialogue exchanges that are flat and uninteresting. They are merely functional and barely take us from one action sequence to the next. It is thinly-sketched and cliché-ridden. The character of Abby is supposed to humanize the distant Elektra but instead she just comes across as annoying. Abby is a plot device as opposed to a fully-realized character. Of course, those looking for any kind of depth are watching the wrong movie.

From the outset, one of the many problems of Elektra is the casting. While Jennifer Garner is more than capable of the physical demands required for the role, she doesn’t look anything like the character from the comic book, which, for starters, was of Greek descent. In Daredevil, her costume bore no resemblance to the one in the comic. In Elektra, at least they finally got the colour right.

With a montage depicting Elektra’s impressive workout regime and the countless acrobatic fight scenes, the movie becomes more like a Jennifer Garner workout video than an enjoyable movie-going experience. Elektra often feels like it wants to be something along the lines of Christophe Gans’ underrated action film, Crying Freeman (1995), which shares the same setting and similar plot points but Elektra lacks that film’s style or the substance. Instead, Elektra is strictly by-the-numbers filmmaking that is so obvious in its pathetic attempt to build a franchise and in the process jettisons everything that was cool and interesting about the character in the comic book.

Special Features:

The first disc features an audio commentary by director Rob Bowman and editor Kevin Stitt. There’s a touch of bitterness in his voice as he talks about the problems the studio caused him (pressed for time, rushing to film and to edit the movie), like forcing cuts to a major action sequence and the conflicts he had with Stitt (although, they assure us that they’re buddies now). Bowman points out the bits of violence that were cut by the MPAA and that are now reinstated in this new version. It’s funny to hear the director wax pretentious as he tries to talk about a character he clearly does not understand while praising the “layers of reality” in Stitt’s “legendary editing.”

Also included are teaser and theatrical trailers.

The second disc kicks off with a two-part making of documentary entitled, “Relentless: The Making of Elektra.” The screenwriters talk about what Elektra is like in the comic books and then proceed to mention the changes that they made which explains, in part, how she was ruined in this movie. Another problem that plagued the production was the limited availability of the two leads. They were on different successful TV shows and had a small window in order to shoot this movie. Bowman talks about his trepidation in making a comic book superhero movie and living up to the legacy of the successful ones.

“Showdown at the Well: Multi-Angle Dailies” allows you to watch several takes of a fight scene from different angles.

Included from the previous DVD are three deleted scenes but now with optional commentary from Bowman and Stitt. These include one that has Elektra spying on Mark and Abby. It is supposed to be tense but comes across as boring. There is also a scene featuring Ben Affleck reprising his Matt Murdock role in a dream sequence that was wisely cut out.

There are six “Alternate/Extended Scenes” with optional commentary by Bowman and include a slightly tweaked prologue and a flashback to Elektra’s happy childhood. This footage actually fleshes out some of the characters a bit more and should have been integrated back into the movie instead of just the added violence.

Also included are “Galleries” for costumes, production design, weapons, stills and storyboards.

Easily the best extra on the entire set is “Elektra Incarnations” which examines the comic book origins. Legends Frank Miller, Klaus Jansen and Bill Sienkiewicz are interviewed and rightly so – they created the best Elektra stories and should have been the ones working on this movie. It’s great to hear these guys talk and what they say proves to be a sharp contrast to the filmmakers’ take on Elektra. And therein lies the problems with the movie.

Finally, there is “Elektra in Greek Mythology” that features a professor in Greek Studies talking about the original Elektra story in Greek mythology and how it relates to the present interpretation in the movie.

J.D. is a freelance writer who is currently doing research for a book on the films of Michael Mann. He likes reading anything written by Jack Kerouac, James Ellroy, J.D. Salinger, Harlan Ellison or Thomas Pynchon. J.D. is currently addicted to the T.V. series 24 and enjoys drinking a lot of Sprite. This is not a blatant plug for the beverage but if they ever decided to give him a lifetime supply he certainly wouldn’t turn them down.
view all DVD reviews by JD Lafrance

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Rating: 46%

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