Elektra Movie Review

Allow me to geek out for a minute. Renowned comic book writer/artist Frank Miller first introduced his assassin-for-hire character Elektra in the pages of Daredevil (issue No. 168, to be exact). His contributions to the ensuing story arcs are widely considered some of the strongest character-development work done in the comic industry to date.

Elektra, a needless spin-off from Mark Steven Johnson's already flawed 2003 Daredevil film, might have had a fighting chance if it stayed within the boundaries of Miller's rich source material. Instead, it can't even stay consistent with the lackluster film that inspired it.

Left for dead near the end of Daredevil, Elektra (Jennifer Garner) is resurrected with a suitcase full of issues. She's obsessive-compulsive, overworked, underpaid, and suffering from insomnia - which is fine because nightmare memories of her mother's murder plague her restless sleep.

Her latest assignment sends her to the Pacific Northwest (Vancouver, actually), where she reluctantly befriends single father Mark (Goran Visnjic) and his cynical daughter, Abby (Kirsten Prout). Bonus points if you immediately deduce that these two are Elektra's next targets. An uncharacteristic dose of guilt prevents Elektra from rubbing out her new friends (awww!), and she commits to rescuing the twosome from the impending threat of rival assassins.

You see, Abby is more than a Mini-Me for Elektra to mold, train and protect. A gifted warrior in her own right, she's known in certain circles as The Treasure, and she's sought after by members of an ancient group dubbed The Hand. This evil association sends four warrior rejects from the Mortal Kombat video game to finish the job Elektra started. The resulting action produces levels of excitement typically attained by proofreading science textbooks. Flashbacks give insight into Elektra's motivation while shamelessly plundering the Daredevil universe for inspiration. We witness her training at the hand of Stick (Terence Stamp), a blind sensei constantly pushing the warrior to find her inner purity. Stick, for the record, first appeared in Daredevil comics and also trained Matt Murdoch to fight. We also watch Elektra duke it out with Typhoid Mary (Natassia Malthe), a lanky villain with a lethal kiss who also made her debut in the pages of John Romita Jr.'s Daredevil books. Do you see a pattern? I'm left to assume these characters initially were reserved for a Daredevil sequel that probably won't ever happen.

Director Rob Bowman, meanwhile, leads Elektra into dark territories, literally. Bill Roe's murky cinematography nearly cloaks Kevin Stitt's choppy editing, but ultimately, they're both outdone by the predictable script (credited to three separate writers) and the film's flat, somber delivery. Repetitive fight choreography counters decent effects, but the battle for one girl's soul and the redemption of a hero we know little about isn't a very interesting hook.

In hindsight, 20th Century Fox and Marvel Comics would have been better off spinning Colin Farrell's sinister Bullseye character into a feature film, instead. For starters, scheduling conflicts might have prevented Farrell from filming Alexander, a win-win situation for both the actor and the audience. And secondly, it might have put the kibosh on this milquetoast comic adaptation.

By the end of Elektra, I found myself hoping for an Affleck cameo in his Daredevil duds. Now when was the last time you ever thought Affleck's appearance in a movie would improve things?

Affleck does appear on the Elektra DVD -- in the deleted scenes -- which can be found alongside a couple of making-of featurettes and footage from a live appearance of Garner at geek-fest Comic-Con.

Garner plays dress-up, but not in the way you're hoping.


Elektra Rating

" Terrible "

Rating: PG-13, 2005


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