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ELEKTRA – Christophe Beck

January 14, 2005 Leave a comment Go to comments

elektraOriginal Review by Peter Simons

A spin-off of Daredevil, Elektra is the latest entry in a long series of comic book adaptations. Starring Jennifer Garner of Alias-fame as the titular character, the movie tells the story of a warrior assassin with a heart who leads a secluded life only to spring into action when a secret order calls upon her to execute a widowing Mark Miller (Goran Visnjic) and his teen aged daughter Abby (Kirsten Prout). When she actually befriends them and refuses to kill them, she ends up protecting them from other assassins and ninjas. The movie is directed by Rob Bowman who previously directed episodes of The X-Files and its spin-off series The Lone Gunman as well as the motion picture Reign of Fire.

Best known for his work on the Buffy the Vampire Slayer television series, Canadian-born Christophe Beck has also composed the scores for many a movie production such as Under the Tuscan Sun, American Pie: The Wedding, Cheaper by the Dozen and last year’s critically butchered Garfield: The Movie, on which he served as a last minute replacement for Rupert Gregson-Williams. While Elektra was not the box office success the producers were hoping for, the movie gave Beck an opportunity to write a powerful, balls to the wall-type score, which features a striking combination of tense orchestral performances, original synthesizer programming and forceful, ethnic-flavored percussion; with some tender moments thrown in for good measure. In general, Beck seems to be combining Thomas Newman’s wistful thematic ideas and colorful orchestrations with Graeme Revell’s edgy synthesizer noises.

“Main Title” and “DeMarco’s End” contain some snappy rhythms and playful bell-sounds reminiscent of many typically Thomas Newman scores. “Main Title” also introduces Elektra’s theme, a noble, melancholy if quite subdued ascending motif that seems to reflect on Elektra’s philosophical personality rather than her heroic actions; and which is reprised in several cues such as the reflective “Ferry Crossing” and the gentle “The Kiss”. It is heard at its most boldly during the album’s closing cue “Elektra’s Second Life”. These titles are among a handful of tender tracks, also including “Just Sit Quietly” and “Just a Girl”, that form a satisfying contrast with the score’s otherwise hard edged-core.

“Ninjas” is a particularly aggressive cue with plenty of percussion and Goldenthalian brass clusters. “Gnarly Gongs”, with its digitally processed piano-sounds and muted synth noises, is comparable to the works of Craig Armstrong. “Stick”, “Tattoo”, “The Forest” and “Candle Trick” are remarkably fast-paced tracks consisting of racing strings, grinding brasses and agitated rhythms creating a nerve-wrecking atmosphere. “Escape from McCabe’s” is an energetic cue with various percussion instruments and a Revell-esque string motif creating a mysterious mood before the brass come in to give the cue a much more angry sound.

One of the album’s highlights, “Wolf Run” contains big drums and tense arpeggios for brass and strings, while “Typhoid” relies on mysterious sound design. “Kirigi” and “Hedge Maze Brawl” form the album’s finale with plenty of impressive percussion, edgy guitar riffs, uncanny sound effects and belligerent brass chords.

While Beck’s score was the subject of several negative reviews, a direct result of the lack of strong thematic material, I found the album to be more than rewarding. Compared to most other superhero scores, Elektra features some brave and experimental choices in both its electronic sound design and its orchestral performances. The decision to avoid clichéd heroic music and instead focus on the title character’s melancholy persona is another aspect that speaks in favor of this score, sad though it is that most listeners may be put off by the lack of a traditional hero theme.

Rating: ****

Track Listing:

  • Main Title (1:31)
  • DeMarco’s End (2:07)
  • Ferry Crossing (3:19)
  • Insomnia (2:11)
  • Ninjas (4:04)
  • The Hand (1:23)
  • Gnarly Gongs (1:15)
  • Stick (2:04)
  • Just Sit Quietly (1:04)
  • The Kiss (1:39)
  • Escape from McCabe’s (2:18)
  • Tattoo (0:47)
  • The Forest (1:49)
  • Wolf Run (1:58)
  • Typhoid (2:17)
  • Just a Girl (1:49)
  • Homecoming (1:54)
  • Candle Trick (1:41)
  • Kirigi (2:29)
  • Hedge Maze Brawl (2:36)
  • Elektra’s Second Life (4:55)

Running Time: 45 minutes 14 seconds

Varèse Sarabande VSD-6633 (2004)

Music composed by Christophe Beck. Conducted by Mike Nowak. Orchestrated by Kevin Kliesch and Richard Bronskill. Recorded and mixed by Casey Stone. Mastered by Dave Collins. Album produced by Christophe Beck.

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