Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Elektra: No Curls, Less Outfit, Better Than Expected!

The Good: Costuming, Acting, Villains, Character development
The Bad: Moments of photography, Pacing
The Basics: When Elektra returns from the dead, she becomes a ruthless assassin until she questions an assignment that puts her on the run from some real villains.

Elektra is a movie that I knew almost nothing about before going to see. Indeed, I believe that I had an almost ideal viewing of the movie because I have never read an Elektra comic book, I've never seen any shows with the character Elektra (outside the film Daredevil), and I had not read much about the movie before seeing it. My review will attempt to persuade the reader to see the movie without corrupting the experience I (and hopefully, the reader) had.

Elektra tells the story of Elektra Natchios following the events of Daredevil (reviewed here!). Essentially killed in Daredevil, Elektra's body was taken to a mystic who was able to resurrect her. Under the tutelage of Stick, a blind martial arts master, Elektra trained and became an even more formidable warrior. However, Elektra and Stick part ways on unfriendly terms and Elektra begins her life anew as a deadly and infamous assassin. This is where the film begins.

Elektra is hired, using an agent named McCabe, to commit various assassinations. While on a short vacation from the killing business, Elektra receives a new job paying an obscene amount of money. However, circumstances cause her to defy the orders and she finds herself protecting the individuals (a father and daughter) she had been sent to execute. She takes the pair on the run from the Hand, a committee of assassins who employ supernatural warriors. Within the Hand, there is a schism, and the son of the leader of the Hand, a young warrior named Kirigi, seeks to ascend to the leadership of the assassins guild. With his small gang, Kirigi sets out to capture Mark and Abby Miller and kill Elektra.

One of the aspects of Elektra I enjoyed the most was not knowing anything about the villains. Thus, the entrance of such adversaries as Stone and Tattoo were interesting and genuinely surprising. In fact, the entrance of Stone is one of the best villain entrances I can recall in movies. His exit, however, is somewhat baffling considering his strengths. Elektra is populated by intriguing villains in Kirigi, Typhoid, Stone and Tattoo. The only awkward aspect of not knowing anything about the characters is the lack of understanding how the other three villains survive being in close quarters with Typhoid (she is incredibly lethal).

As for the heroine? Elektra is interesting and not as dark as I had anticipated. While I figured she would possess some of the brooding of a Batman-type character, there was almost none of that. It is somewhat unfortunate, as her character is interesting, yet somewhat nonsensical. One moment, she is a heartless assassin, the next she is rethinking her life. The movie covers that, though, and it is explained away adequately. Indeed, there is little left in terms of character development for a second film; Elektra's emotional journey in this one is so significant.

Somewhat disturbing as well is the "winner take all" attitude of the film. This may seem odd coming from someone who does not enjoy when a movie belabors setting up a sequel, but the strength of Elektra's emotional journey and the resolution to the battles between herself and Kirigi's band tell a very complete tale with almost no room for a follow-up.

Elektra's costume is fabulous and it is easy to watch the movie with Jennifer Garner as Elektra. One of my few reservations going into Elektra was with the costume and hairstyle. Unlike much of Daredevil, Elektra is not endowed with long curls and a tight black outfit. Instead, her hair is straight, her outfit is red and revealing. In short, my reservations with Garner as Elektra in Elektra was that I believed that her appearance and mannerisms might be too distractingly similar to those of Sydney Bristow, Garner's character on Alias. I am pleased to say that Garner never once slips in her facade to reveal either herself or any other character she has played. She is distinctively Elektra here, through and through.

I am also not a big fan of special effects, but the computer generated effects in Elektra are pretty spectacular. The work with Tattoo, especially, works quite well.

So, why not go see this movie? Well, photographically, much of the movie is surprisingly poor. Lighting in the scenes is excellent, especially a scene featuring a gazebo a night that uses a lot of camera angles but only one light source; the lighting direction remains wonderfully constant. But there are several points in the movie, both during battles and at the very end of the film, where the edges are somewhat hazy and dark. Because it changed obviously throughout various portions of the movie, I am left to conclude that this was a choice by director Rob Bowman. It is a choice that does not work terribly well.

The only other detraction from Elektra is its pacing. Elektra starts quite slow. While it is providing varying amounts of characterization, it feels slow, it feels like a setup. Once Elektra defies the Hand and sets the movie in motion, the story and pacing become much more regular, less uneven and anything but slow. Indeed, once Elektra and her group leave McCabe's residence, the movie seems of very even pace and is quite engrossing. Unfortunately, I believe that's about halfway through the movie.

The only other note is that this is a PG-13 movie. Parents who are squeamish about sending their children to movies with a lot of graphic deaths need not fear Elektra. If anything, Elektra is somewhat disappointing in the tone as it fails to establish a sufficient air of menace by revealing fully how bad the villains are. On at least two occasions, people that are killed by the villains are cut away from before their actual deaths. This no doubt helped Elektra achieve PG-13, as opposed to "R," but it also leaves some ambiguity about at least one of those deaths and in some ways weakens the quality of evil in the villains.

Is Elektra entertaining? Yes. Am I glad I saw it? Yes. Have I spent a lot of time thinking about it since I saw it? Not really. Will I likely buy it on DVD? No. If it appeared as a gift would I return it? No. It's a good film and better than many super hero flicks I've seen. I enjoyed it, for example, a LOT more than Spiderman.

For other movies based upon the Marvel comic books, please check out my reviews of:
X-Men: First Class
Iron Man 2
Blade: Trinity


For other movie reviews, please be sure to check out my index page by clicking here!

© 2011, 2005 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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