Elektra (Christophe Beck)

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2005’s Elektra was a quasi-sequel, quasi-spinoff to 2003’s Daredevil, resurrecting Jennifer Garner’s slain character from the earlier film and placing her in a murky realm of assassinations and magic. If the response to Daredevil had been rather tepid, Elektra was greeted with even greater indifference and died a quick death at the box office, putting the franchise to rest until the inevitable reboot. As virtually none of the first film’s cast or crew was carried over, it was no surprise to see Daredevil composer Graeme Revell replaced by Christophe Beck.

Beck was, at the time, making a transition from television scoring (with credits like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel), one which would see him gradually become attached to higher-profile films over the course of the 2000s and into the 2010s. For Elektra, Beck chose to eschew Revell’s approach, which had been to follow the basic pre-Batman Begins Danny Elfman superhero template with a main theme, love theme, and occasional contemporary or world music elements. Instead, the composer decided to embark on an experiment, using pitch manipulation, dark orchestral textures, and other forms of orchestral timbre and electronic modulation.

What results is a score that is heavy on noise but light on thematic substance. Duduk (perhaps a nod to the title character’s Greek heritage), percussion specialty instruments like taikos, and effects created in the computer blend together to create and aggressive and often oppressive sonic atmosphere. At times, as in the brief but intense “Gnarly Gongs,” the effect is more that of in-your-face sound design than music. It’s a sound that suits the action-heavy and martial-arts-suffused picture well, but isn’t exactly pleasant listening apart from leather-clad, sai-weilding bosoms.

Beck’s biggest misstep in the score is failing to create a solid thematic core around which to wrap his experimental sounds. Some scores are able to rely on texture and style to hold them together in the absence of overt thematic material, but music as difficult (if creative) as Beck’s cried out for more islands of tonality. He does offer a few glimpses of more traditional scoring, most notably in the warm closing track “Elektra’s Second Life;” if only that theme had been broken up and deconstructed into the mix along with everything else, a much more intriguing score would have resulted.

In the end, one can’t fault Beck for his experimentation, and percussion lovers will certainly find more interesting textures here than in contemporary Remote Control/Media Ventures scores. But it’s not an easy listen, and often a tiring one. The composer would have to wait until The Lightning Thief in 2010 to deliver a truly satisfying large-scale action score, and he has had relatively few opportunities to revisit the genre since. Record label Varése Sarabande released Beck’s score some time after the inevitable lousy song album, but later liquidated its remaining inventory of the score in its “Family Dollar Housecleaning” in the early 2010s; as such, Elektra can often be found for as little as $3-4 new.

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