Elektra Movie Review

Scantily clad action heroine with a sexy-tough pout? Check. Supernatural bad-guy gang of tattooed, Goth-punk clowns? Check. Hard-to-follow kung-fu fight scenes flash-edited to disguise actors' martial arts deficiencies? Check. A complete lack of adherence to its own internal logic? Double-check.

"Elektra" is the latest Marvel Comics superhero flick to roll off the assembly line, and it's such a half-hearted, prefabricated effort that even the normally charismatic Jennifer Garner can't save it.

Reprising her role from 2003's disastrous "Daredevil" adaptation (which she almost did save), Garner plays the title character -- a stereotypically brooding, ninja-trained super-assassin with a conscience who has been brought back from the dead by a generic, mystical army of good that is fighting a generic, mystical army of evil.

In the film's early going she's still working as a highly paid hired killer and stupidly accepts a very suspicious assignment in which she's sent to a picturesque, remote island location and made to wait around several days before being told who her target is. Its anybody's guess why this doesn't raise red flags for her supposedly super-attune character who can see briefly into the future, but the practical upshot is that she soon befriends and protects the handsome father (Goran Visnjic) and teenage daughter (Kirsten Prout) she was supposed to kill.

From that point forward, "Elektra" lacks any hint of comic book creator Frank Miller's creativity -- or even a single surprise, save that our anti-heroine isn't smart enough to realize there's more to her new charges than meets the eye.

Garner, who brought subtle, visceral emotion to this same character in "Daredevil," seems to be in over her head here, giving only cursory weight to the haunted internal struggle between the savior she now wants to be and the killer she had become. Only when aided by well-executed flashbacks to the murder of her mother does Garner seem to find Elektra's humanity.

Yet Garner is still the best this movie has to offer. Director Rob Bowman ("The X-Files," "Reign of Fire") seems more concerned with the stylistic slow-motion blowing of his star's hair during fight scenes than he is with giving those scenes clarity -- except when he goes into super-duper slow-mo for an almost lethal lesbian kiss that a sexy poison-puckered hench-babe called "Typhoid" lays on Elektra's lips.

As a result, the plot is laden with stock action-movie elements (the teenage girl screams, giving away her hiding place to the bad guys) and is often left wanting for common sense. Why send a whole squad of inept ninja assassins to kill the father and daughter when they so frequently stand in front of large windows, making them easy targets for a sniper?

Comic-book action movies don't have to be as intelligent and gaffe-free as a Sam Raimi "Spider-Man" picture to be worthwhile. But when a comic-book movie takes itself as seriously as "Elektra" does, popcorn forgiveness goes out the window. Although fundamentally unoriginal at the script level, had Bowman made an effort to lighten up or smarten up, this flick might have squeaked by on charm or ironic self-awareness instead of sinking toward the bottom of the genre barrel.


Elektra Rating

" Terrible "

Rating: PG-13, WIDE: Friday, January 14, 2005


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