ELEKTRA Studio: 20th Century Fox Film Year: 2005 Rating: PG-13 Film Length: 96 minutes Genre: Action/Fantasy Aspect Ratio:[*] 2.35:1, widescreen enhanced Colour/B&W: Colour Audio:[*] English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround[*] English DTS 5.1 Surround[*] French Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround Subtitles: English, Spanish Closed Captioned: Yes SLP: US $23.98 Release Date: April 5, 2005. Film Rating: / Entertainment Rating: / Starring: Jennifer Garner (Elektra), Goran Visnjic (Mark Miller), Kirsten Prout (Abby Miller), Will Yun Lee (Kirigi), Terence Stamp (Stick) Directed by: Rob Bowman She was left for dead. Now she’s back with vengeance. The movie Elektra is the response to the popularity of the Marvel female character from the Daredevil comic books as well as the movie made several years ago. Jennifer Garner is back reprising her role as this human, but emotionless sai-spinning superhero, ready to take a stab at any man standing in the way of her work. We learn that Elektra is brought back to life by Stick, the same man who taught Matt Murdoch/Daredevil how to fight. He’s a man who is very in touch with his inner self and the powers around him that he has this amazing ability resurrect. Learning the fighting skills that Daredevil has, Elektra comes back with even more of a vengeance. She is unable to get in touch with good and understands only violence and hate. Expelled by her sensei she is put back into the real world. But unlike Daredevil, she’s not here to help save people – she’s back to kill. She’s now a top assassin who is requested by all. She has fantastic martial arts skills and has an ability to see into the future. She’s known to be quick and to whisper in the ear of the person before she kills them. If you were to catch a glimpse of her, she’s donned in a red satin suit and her good looks can kill. But Elektra is not without her own problems. She is still a human and her feelings can get in the way of her work. Despite her wantonness to kill without emotion, she soon finds her weakness during her next assignment. Will this event signify an end to Elektra’s career as an assassin or will it elevate her soul to a new level? She will have to make some tough decisions and re-establish severed relationships, all while she’s hot on her heels running from another group of assassins more powerful than her. Her second life may time out quicker than her first. I am unsure what direction the writers wanted to take this film. It is mixed with odd character development and unfolds a plot that shifts the story from reality to superhero fantasy. In Daredevil, I never thought of the Elektra character as anything more than a regular woman with martial arts ability. The end of that film heightened her character’s abilities to be superhero-like, but not much beyond that. This film begins in a manner that I thought was going to be a cool thriller. The concept of her being a cold-blooded assassin seemed to fit nicely, but it seemed out of character in relation to the first film. We see little development of her life beyond her new career. Beyond her death, I also thought the movie failed to tell why all of a sudden this woman is so angry and taking such a vengeance. But this flat character development is for all who are featured in this movie; Stick, the Millers, as well as the antagonists are all crying for more screen time to tell about themselves. Alas, this is a fast moving action picture that seems to suffer the same fate as the theatrical release as Daredevil. Lots of action, little character. You would think those in charge of this project would learn from that last time, wouldn’t you? I guess not. The irony of this is that when this movie was advertised it avoided referencing it to Daredevil because of its poor reviews (for lack of character development). Instead it would associate itself to X-Men, a superhero film that I though had much better character development and was also reviewed much better by the media. Yet, the same mistake was made here again which is unfortunate. I thought this film was going to be a bit more mystical, but instead we are left with what I think is a poorly contrived and developed story based on themes we’ve seen and read about hundreds of times. In this respect, the film was a yawn. Aside: Daredevil was released in as a Director’s Cut in 2004 on DVD and was reviewed on Home Theater Forum here. With almost 30 minutes of deleted footage mostly containing character development, this was a far better film and I invite anyone who has not to see this film to watch only the Director’s Cut. The film also moved from a PG-13 rating to an R. Elektra’s original cut was also pieced together as Restricted. But due to contractual agreements, the film had to be cut to PG-13. I am not saying the R rated cut is going to be any better because it could be just small trims to the violence in this film. On the other hand, the action sequences are very involving and it’s a shame the same effort couldn’t be put into developing the characters or the story that feels very compressed. There are some great visuals here and moments that will leave you suspended in the action. I thought these scenes were very well done, although I’m not quite convinced Jennifer Garner has mastered the sai (something that can be hidden with quick cuts and good choreography – check out one of the deleted scenes and you’ve find Garner be less than fluid while rotating this rather heavy piece of metal). So how does this dual-layer disc perform in terms of A/V quality? Let’s find out… VIDEO QUALITY / The photography has a lot of silhouetted imagery that I can honestly not tell if it was intended or if was just bad lighting because its screen time is inconsistent. The image does have dark and deep black levels that are solid without grain. But throughout the movie something didn’t look right. I’m going to attribute this feeling to the mild ghosting that appears around edges and conclude this gave the picture a mild blurriness that just wouldn’t go away. I wanted to think that I could adjust the focus on my projector for better results but I know that’s not the case. It also doesn’t help there are several shots in the film that are naturally blurry for whatever reason. I wasn’t impressed at all. (This blurriness was evident on the special features too). Still, the image was clean from compression artefacts and film grain. I have zero complaints about that. One other minor quibble I have that is not DVD quality related is the orange flesh tones in many indoor scenes. I know this is representative of what was seen theatrically and I’m not sure why it was chosen to do this, but it looks unnatural and everyone looks like rotting mangos. This DVD is presented in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio and is widescreen enhanced. There is a separate 4:3 fullscreen version available that you would only need to see if you like missing 45% of the original film frame. AUDIO QUALITY / Whatever pizzazz the video lacks the definitely audio makes up for. Both DTS and Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack options are available here and both are outstanding in terms of performance. If I were to give a definition of “sound effects” to someone I would refer them to this film. Sounds effects are much exaggerated for this movie giving the impression of a wide soundscape all around the viewer. In many scenes, such as at the cottage on the lake, the front channels alone give the impression of a surround environment. Dialogue is clear and never too emphasised, and the theme music (that I really liked) marched to Elektra’s downbeat character. This is an action film so it is expected the sound effects are as dynamic as the visuals. A trend that I’m starting to see recently is the loudness of these soundtracks. I’m used to keeping my volume level at a particular reference point for all movies, but this was a soundtrack I had to turn down a little to save both my ears and my HiFi equipment. I could tell this soundtrack was pushing the limits of both my amplifiers and speakers and it was necessary to trim the volume back a bit. Louder volumes can give an audible glare to some equipment and no doubt it was probably putting a bit of stress on my speakers, which require a lot less power to drive than what my amps are capable of giving to them. What I was hearing though was not entirely equipment related. After trimming the volume back a bit, I’ve decided that this soundtrack was definitely designed for – and only for - theatrical playback systems. It’s just not optimized for home theatre playback because of the obviously heavy EQing for theatrical systems. The bass was overpowering and the mid-bass in sound effects was overwhelming (didn’t affect the dialogue). While there is a lot of high frequency, I didn’t find it bright like other movie soundtracks sometimes suffer from; but that could be because I was deafened part-way through. This soundtrack is LOUD and I advise you to exercise caution if you also have your favourite “reference level” when watching movies. The need for ALL film soundtracks to be repurposed for home environments is desperately needed. Switching between DTS and Dolby Digital is as easy as tapping the “audio” button on the remote control. What differences did I hear? They appeared to be the same level in volume, bass was much punchier on the DTS soundtrack and the high frequencies were more extended on the Dolby Digital soundtrack. The Dolby soundtrack was forward and leaner in the mid-bass making vocals sounding more naked in comparison to the DTS encoding, which sounded more rounded in that area as well as making it sound deeper in the soundstage. SPECIAL FEATURES / There are three deleted scenes that add up to about 5 minutes. One of them includes the cameo by Ben Affleck in his role as Matt Murdoch; a scene that I’m glad was edited out of the picture. There is no other reference to Daredevil in the movie making this scene useless. Plus, Affleck is in casual attire: running shoes, pants and a long-sleeves shirt and it looks like he just stopped by to film a scene on a coffee break (not to mention the poor dialogue and unconvincing performance). Next we have The Making of Elektra, a thirteen minute behind the scenes look at the movie mixed with scenes from the film and interviews with cast and crew. In my opinion, it is of moderate value and is edited to death during the interviews – you can hear where sentences have been shortened to keep the fast pace of the featurette. The minute-and-a-half San Diego Comic Con Presentation is included here as well as a quick little Inside the Editing Room featurette presented by the director. While the title may suggest this is a feature discussing how the film was edited together, it really isn’t. It’s just a quick discussion of why he chose to present certain scenes with a particular look and then the scene from the movie was played. Not very informative, but at least something was included. Also on this disc is the theatrical teaser and the theatrical trailer, both are not widescreen enhanced and the latter having the proper aspect ratio. There is a quick bit on the soundtrack available in stores as well as television previews for the next seasons of American Dad and Family Guy. Also there is a three and a half minute inside look at upcoming projects from FOX. IN THE END… While not quite satisfying in terms of storytelling, Elektra will satisfy fans of this genre with the emphasis on action, martial arts and villains. While the video could have been a lot better, the audio is a real knock-out. Try it out and see what you think. You may like this action filled adventure. Michael Osadciw April 03, 2005.