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Elektra: Unrated Director's Cut

Marvel Studios — which kicked off the modern superhero-movie renaissance with the one-two punch of Blade and X-Men — finds itself at a bit of a crossroads. Their choice is simple: Are they going to keep pushing the limits of the superhero genre, or are they going to devolve into a modern version of '80s schlock-house Cannon Films? Unfortunately, it looks like Marvel could go either way at this point. In the wake of Ang Lee's wacky, gorgeous Hulk — a textbook definition of "ambitious failure" if ever there was one — the studio has produced one genuine classic (Spider-Man 2) and three pieces of utter dreck, films so lame you could almost classify them as "capesploitation": The Punisher, Blade: Trinity, and, alas, the Daredevil spinoff Elektra. In many ways, Elektra is the most frustrating of the new, bad Marvel adaptations, because it squanders the most actor charisma. Jennifer Garner is a genuine star, dishing out equal portions of sex, pain and angst 22 weeks a year on "Alias," and her martial-arts assassin Elektra Natchios was arguably the brightest spot in the compromised Daredevil. But in Elektra, she's positively dreary. We catch up with her after she's (inexplicably) risen from the dead; she's now raking in a tidy income as an assassin for hire, between long bouts of OCD, moping and flashing back on her murdered mother. This goes on for what feels like an hour — with the moping moving to a gray Canadian island that's the site of Elektra's next hit. And then the movie goes completely, utterly off the rails, and not in a funny way. Elektra finds out that her new targets, a father and daughter (Goran Visnjic and Kirsten Prout), are also being hunted by "The Hand," a band of magical ninja assassins with such names as "Typhoid," "Tattoo," and "Stone," with powers to match. The rest of the film is an endless slog of special effects and over-edited wire-fu fights that plays like House of Flying Daggers leeched of all its poetry and action geography. (Actually, that's too kind. It plays more like Big Trouble in Little China without the laughs.) On paper, this film had potential. Frank Miller's original Elektra comics offer some of the richest source material in the genre; adapting the political satire Elektra: Assassin or Miller's eerie Elektra Lives Again could have resulted in one of the greatest superhero movies ever made. Director Rob Bowman is a skilled craftsman who played a major role in the better years of "The X-Files." And, again, this cast had allure to burn. (It must take an actual effort of will to make a movie with charisma bombs like Garner, Visnjic, Terence Stamp, Colin Cunningham and Will Yun Lee in which none of them are particularly interesting to watch.) Instead, we end up with a piece of B-grade junk in which Elektra exchanges "banter" with the unexceptional Prout between fight scenes so badly shot that even Garner looks like a stunt double. It is, in short, a total Cannon film. And not the so-bad-it's-good kind, either.

Fox's second DVD release of Elektra, now in a two-disc "Unrated Director's Cut," features a solid anamorphic transfer (2.35:1) of the feature film with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio and a new DTS track. However, the Director's Cut is hardly epic, clocking in at 1 hr. 39 min. — two minutes longer than the theatrical version. Most of the features on this edition are new, including a commentary from director Rob Bowman and scenarist Kevin Stitt. Two trailers are also on board Disc One, while Disc Two divides its extras into two areas. Under "The Film" are the feature-length documentary "Relentless: The Making of Elektra" in two parts (2 hrs. 20 min. total), a "Showdown at the Well: Multi-Angle Dailies" feature, nine deleted/alternate scenes with optional commentary by Bowman and Stitt (and a "play all" option), and five stills galleries. Under "The Mythology" are two additional features, "Elektra: Incarnations" (52 min.) and "Elektra in Greek Mythology" (15 min.). Dual-DVD slimline keep-case.
M.E. Russell

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