Gort vs Ninjas: Is Elektra the live-action Ninja Scroll we always wanted?

Commander's Log, Stardate 13122012.2:

It always concerns me when Gort disappears for a period of time. This week, he didn't surface for several hours and, when I found him, he was in the genetics lab, hard at work over one of the cloning tubes.

"What are you doing?" I said with suspicion, prepared to run for my life.

"I'm helping. I've made you something for this week's post," he answered and opened the tube.

A reverberating cry filled the room as a tiny blur span from the tube and landed on the floor. What appeared to be a small rodent with a large bushy tail stood frozen, clad in a black outfit and mask, exposing just his eyes. He was twirling a rudimentary pair of nunchuks fashioned from acorns and twigs.

"No, you idiot! Ninja SCROLL!" I bellowed as the squirrel's cry ended and it lept at my face.

Marvel Studios is proof that respecting your story and characters will earn you a hell of a lot more money than sticking to Hollywood thinking and market research. Marvel is known throughout the Galactic Alliance as the perfect example of how to keep your audience for over 60 years. You only need to compare the quality and success of conventional studio attempts to adapt Marvel Universe properties to the publishing house's own efforts since. 

Take a look at the adaptation of Daredevil. Starring a host of big names, including Ben Affleck, a long-time DD fan, and with the support of comics legends Stan Lee, Frank Miller and Kevin Smith, things boded well. The result, however, was a generic action movie with very little to interest anyone. Conventional wisdom maintains that the director's cut is a vast improvement, but this only serves to bloat the film with a mishmash of extra scenes, only some of which are more like what you wanted to see in the rest of the film.

Jennifer Garner starred as one of the hero's long-term love interests, Elektra, a Greek ambassador's daughter who is also, somehow, a ninja. Garner's run on Alias made her hot property, so Fox were keen to push her into a spin-off; something Garner was contractually obliged to do, despite her alleged objections.

The resulting film is such a tonal shift from Daredevil that it's hard to believe this is even the same universe, let alone the same character. We are still, however, treated to another generic action movie that follows the plot beats of the comic while retaining none of its spirit. Assassin-with-a-heart-of-gold Elektra stumbles into a role protecting a teenage girl and ER's replacement for George Clooney, Goran Visnjic, from a band of magical assassins, with the help of her Obi Wan, bob-a-job Thespian and acting god Terence Stamp.

The legendary Cary Tagawa is the head of the evil ninjas and dispatches his son, a white-cloaked, pony-tailed, dual-katana-wielding Samurai who can lift bed sheets with his mind and zip about at superhuman speed. His crew includes a nasty piece of work based on the Daredevil villain Typhoid Mary, but unlike her namesake, the film's Typhoid is a walking toxic spill, decaying and rotting everything she comes near. Her toxicity stands in opposition to her allure as a femme fatale and her near-fatal attack kiss with Garner remains a highlight. Actress Natassia Malthe has turned up in a few other films you may remember, so is worth keeping an eye on. Also among the evildoers is a beefy guy with a club and indestructible skin; a man tattooed from head to foot in living animal tattoos that can depart his body to attack his enemies, imaginatively named Tattoo; and, for some reason, a dude who balances coins on his fingers and has knives... Maybe he was someone's cousin...

Garner phones it in, every word of dialogue is a cliche and the plot is Swiss cheese. Despite this, the film is fondly remembered for the winning presentation of the aforementioned demonic martial artists. There are some nice effects and setpieces that far outclass the quality of the rest of the film.

Those with a taste for Eastern animation, however, may realise that Elektra's cult success comes from standing on the shoulders of giants. Among the most fondly remembered of anime classics, up there with Akira and Ghost In The Shell, is Ninja Scroll. An original piece of work, not based on a manga comic, which is a rarity for anime, at least in the West, the film follows the adventures of mythological ronin Jubei, a wondering Han Solo-style ninja hindered in his quest for wealth by his moral compass.

He stumbles across an unconscious female ninja who is having her various private areas forcibly defiled by the tongue of a giant ninja with indestructible skin made of rock. He manages to rescue her from harm and her assailant soon succumbs to his own libido. You see, it turns out his victim is a food taster and years of exposure have made her both immune to all poisons and poisonous in herself.

**Is any of this sounding familiar yet?**

It turns out that the pair royally pee off Stone Ninja's buddies, the so-called Devils of Kimon. They include a guy who can't be killed; a one-armed ninja sorcerer who can disappear  into shadows, mind-control women by... uh, actually you don't want to know... and attack people with his extending prosthetic claw arm; a female ninja who can re-incarnate corpses as trojan-horse zombie bombs (I promise, I am not making this up); a guy with a wasps' nest in his back (still not making this up); a gay, pony-tailed, white-cloaked Samurai who electrocutes people with strands of wire; another white-cloaked Samurai who is a master swordsman; and a woman whose snake tattoos come to life and attack our heroes, not to mention sneak attack from within her nether regions.

**How about now?**

The Devils have a scheme involving recovering stolen gold and Jubei and the female ninja team up with a Yoda-like government agent to prevent them from causing a civil war. The plot is complex and light in equal measures, but like Elektra, it is the setpieces and the colourful villains that make Ninja Scroll an absolute treasure; not to mention some stunning visuals and beautiful animation.

You can take advantage of all this by acquiring the just-released Bluray edition of Ninja Scroll, which is a lovely thing to behold, we can assure you. We wouldn't recommend spending money on the Elektra Bluray, but it's good for casual post-night out viewing.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a squirrel to catch...