ElektraJennifer GarnerTerence StampBob Sapp
Medium: film
Year: 2005
Director: Rob Bowman
Writer: Zak Penn, Stu Zicherman, Raven Metzner, Mark Steven Johnson, Frank Miller
Keywords: superhero, action, gangster
Country: USA
Actor: Jennifer Garner, Goran Visnjic, Kirsten Prout, Will Yun Lee, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Terence Stamp, Natassia Malthe, Bob Sapp, Chris Ackerman, Edson T. Ribeiro, Colin Cunningham, Hiro Kanagawa, Mark Houghton, Laura Ward, Kurt Max Runte
Format: 97 minutes
Series: << Elektra
Url: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0357277/
Website category: Superhero
Review date: 9 December 2008
That was a surprise. I'd been led to expect a disaster, but in fact it's a perfectly workmanlike piece of filmmaking. 'Daredevil' has far more flaws. Elektra is too simple and straightforward even to be capable of committing any of the stupidities of its predecessor. Amusingly the studio downplayed the 'Daredevil' links and tried to tie it in with their much more successful X-Men series instead when promoting the film, although I don't think this worked.
It only has two problems, really. Firstly, there's a teenager I wanted to see dead. Secondly, it's not interesting.
For those who aren't up to speed on their Marvel comics, Elektra is an assassin created by Frank Miller in the pages of Daredevil. She's not irredemably evil, buton the downside she does go around killing people for money. Since Jennifer Garner did okay with the character in 2003, they gave her her own movie and she filmed it during her summer hiatus from Alias. Incidentally her co-star Goran Visnjic was on his summer hiatus from ER. The character in Daredevil didn't bear much resemblance to the version from the comics, being basically a good girl who met a bad end and for no explained reason happened to be a superb martial artist. Not too bright, mind you.
What we get here is... less dissimilar. Garner works hard on looking mean and moody, but that's not inappropriate. The Elektra of the opening sequence is recognisably Elektra and you'll wish they'd had the balls to insert that character into 'Daredevil'. (The film.) We'd have got a three-hour epic that made The Dark Knight look like the Care Bears, but it might have been a laugh. Anyway, you can tell it's her because she wears the red swimsuit and kills people. I think those are the main criteria. She hadn't done either of those before. Now I can't say I approve of turning hit men into heroes, but I can't deny that such movies can be fun. The problem is that after about half an hour, she mysteriously decides not to kill her latest targets and instead becomes their bodyguard. Why, the movie doesn't say. I could make it work with reference to the comic book characterisation, but here I just have to assume she's taken a knock on the head or something. She kills people for money. These are people. Here's some money. Had she been the sentimental sort, she probably wouldn't have entered this profession in the first place.
I'd even been hoping she'd pull the trigger. Some people improve a movie by their absence, if you know what I mean. It's later implied that she was given the job by a good guy who was testing her, which leads me to ask dark questions about this alleged goodness. Anyway, from that point Elektra's on a journey away from her Elektra-ness. She doesn't even don the outfit again until the finale. The 'Daredevil' film took its hero on a journey from scary killer loner to eventually becoming the comic book character, but this film does a sort of half-opposite. She's Elektra at the beginning, not the end, although otherwise their emotional stories are fairly similar.
There are two apparently normal people, played by Goran Visnjic (who's good) and Kirsten Prout (whom I wanted to see dead). "I have authority issues and I've got no time for bullshit." Uh-huh. In other words, you're a tosser. For the most part I screened her out as a mere plot coupon, but there are five minutes at the end of the film which had me reaching for the fast-forward button. I resisted. Don't make my mistake. This teenager is actually for me the film's gaping wound, in that I think I'd have enjoyed it had she been fun to watch.
The only other character worth mentioning is McCabe, a character with no comic book counterpart. He's Elektra's agent, played by Colin Cunningham, and he's rather good. Terence Stamp is a waste of space as Stick, looking enough like Malcolm McDowell to make me puzzled about why I wasn't enjoying his performance. Everyone else is an evil killer, usually with superpowers. I liked Tattoo, but after a decent introduction Stone turns out to be the dumbest indestructible man-mountain you'll ever see. Honestly, the way he dies is like Tom and Jerry.
That's about it for the film. I think I've covered everything. Story? You want a story? Okay, there is one, but it's the kind of slow, one-note affair that's going to be entirely dependent on the chemistry of the actors. Luc Besson's Leon had Gary Oldman, Jean Reno and what's still Natalie Portman's best performance. This film has Visnjic, Cunningham, a charmless Garner and an actually repellent Prout. Nonetheless I still didn't mind it. It didn't really engage me, but I don't think it deserves the slatings it's received from many quarters. It's no Catwoman. It's solid in its mediocrity. It's not a "beer and buddies" movie, being too slow and serious to do anything you could jeer at. I was losing patience in those last five minutes, but that's just my reaction to Kirsten Proust's character rather than anything fundamentally misconceived in the story.
Overall, I'd never recommend this film but I wouldn't warn anyone away from it either. It has nice cinematography and some Japanese assassins, although the downside of this is that Jennifer Garner has to say a line of Japanese that she clearly in no way understands. Apart from the obvious problem with its female companion, you could only call this bad in as much as it's dull and uninspired. It's the movie equivalent of a Cole-era 8th Doctor BBC Book.