Directed by Rob Bowman
Elektra, a spin-off from 2003's Daredevil with Ben Affleck, isn't a massive misfire of Supergirl proportions, but it also is nowhere near the highflying success of the current Spider-Man franchise.
Darker in tone than the sugar-coated sweetness of other girl-power movies like Sheena: Queen of the Jungle and Catwoman, Elektra mimics the mood found in Daredevil. It was in Daredevil, true believers may recall, that Elektra Natchios (Jennifer Garner, TV's Alias) met her demise at the hands of the maniacal Bullseye.
As can only be done in comic books and the movies, Elektra is brought back to life by Stick (Terence Stamp, Superman II), a blind sensei who has the power to do that sort of thing. Elektra and her ass-kicking ways were arguably the best parts of the Daredevil movie, but this incarnation isn't merely a cheap ploy to resurrect the character and cash in at the movies. This back-from-the-dead element actually follows its source material, those anything-goes comic books.
Much like Batman, Elektra is a conflicted soul filled with anger about the murder of her parents. That anger has stunted her growth; after Stick deems her unfit to continue training in the ways of the undead super hero, Elektra forges a career as an assassin (which, in a rare moment of humor, she deftly euphemizes as a career in "layoffs and payroll reductions").
In need of a break, but also enticed by a buck (well, 2 million of them), Elektra accepts one more assignment that winds up being quite the life altering experience.
Elektra is intended to be a comic book movie that puts the fantastic, mythical martial arts elements found in movies like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon in a modern context. But the story and the execution don't live up to those ambitions. Much like Daredevil, the action sequences are leaden rather than invigorating and the entire movie is presented with a persistent level of detachment.
Just as Elektra stole the show in Daredevil, it is Abby Miller (Kirsten Prout, Mindstorm) who chews up the scenery this time around. She's a young girl protecting a very big secret, one that an evil clan called The Hand want to get their... um... hands on.
The Hand is an oddball group indeed. They're a bunch of stuffed suits planning world domination while sitting in a luxurious boardroom. They leave the dirty work to people like Kirigi (Will Yun Lee, Die Another Day), who heads a clique of evil-doing misfits including Typhoid Mary (Natassia Malthe, Awake), a deliciously creepy hottie who makes more than plants wilt in her presence, and Tattoo (Chris Ackerman in his debut role), a bad boy who, when he sets his mind to it, can bring his zoo of tattoo creatures to ferocious life.
With Elektra protecting Abby's secret and Kirigi in hot pursuit of same, it's only a matter of time before those forces of good clash with those pesky forces of evil.
Good v. Evil
Elektra works best when Elektra banters with Abby, but it sinks to a level of cheese when Abby's father, Mark (Goran Visnjic, TV's ER) makes moves on the lady in blood red.
But the biggest problem with the movie is its inability to generate much sympathy for Elektra and her undead predicament. She's a hard woman, as cold as ice, but flashbacks to her childhood memories that try to flesh her out, fail in their goal. The scenes, focusing on traumatic swimming lessons and her mother's murder, don't play quite right.
In Daredevil, Elektra was a hot, rich babe in black leather. She had an attitude and she had a very real screen presence. But apparently death takes it all out of ya and here she's a bore. Instead of taking advantage of the situation, she's stuck in her own mental purgatory.
In coming across as a female Terminator, Elektra has the limited conversation and facial expressions down pat. But at least The Terminator had some decent action sequences to balance out the one-note lead character. Elektra lacks that balance and matters are only made worse by the secluded locations such as the quiet of a lakeside resort (in off season) and empty country houses. Everything is too subdued and kept at a distance.
As it stands, Elektra is simply average and it will be quickly dismissed. That's unfortunate, because Elektra is a solid character and her story is worth telling. But this story isn't the one.
• Originally published at MovieHabit.com.