With the outlook of Ben Affleck's career appearing rather dim at the moment, it's understandable that instead of prepping a sequel to his superhero starrer Daredevil, Fox execs would develop a film based upon "Elektra Natchios," Jennifer Garner's more impressive action character from the same movie. Garner, a beautiful and talented rising star, has already launched her career big time with ABC's Alias, and I see great things for her on the horizon, including more challenging roles than the silly superheroine mess she's gotten herself into now.
Though Elektra accomplishes its task of solidifying Garner's status as an action talent, its vibe resembles a dying franchise's last cry for help. It's a goofy and mediocre action flick that throws everything on the shoulders of its star when everyone involved should be chipping in with at least a little effort to make the movie a winner.
When audiences last saw the limber and deadly warrior Elektra, she was presumed dead before Daredevil rolled its final credits. Fortunately, thanks to the mystical skills of a blind martial arts master named Stick (Terence Stamp), Elektra has been brought back from the dead and, having distanced herself as far as she could from society, is using her second life as an assassin for hire. Elektra's latest assignment involves taking down, for some unknown reason, Mark and Abby Miller (Goran Visnjic and Kirsten Prout), a father and daughter enjoying Christmas at a cabin by the lake.
However, Elektra's feelings overpower her cold killer instincts, and she switches sides, now serving as the protector of those she was once sent to kill. As it turns out, Elektra has one heck of a fight ahead of her, as she and the Miller's find themselves being hunted down by the Hand, a group composed of the following five shadowy villains with lethal superpowers:
- Kirigi (Will Yun Lee), a ninja who can defy the laws of speed and manipulate sheets with his very mind.
- Typhoid (Natassia Malthe), a woman with a literal kiss of death and the ability to look extremely hot while delivering it.
- Tattoo (Chris Ackerman), whose body paintings can come to life -- and when he runs out of wolves and snakes, he can attack you with a "MEGADETH RULZ" tattoo.
- Two other bad guys (Bob Sapp and Edson T. Ribiero) who have the astounding ability to be completely and utterly dispensable.
Yes, Elektra looks a bit like X-Men, only it's a lot more difficult to sit through with a straight face.
Movies based on comic books started getting really good when the filmmakers behind them actually cared about how the source material was being portrayed. The first Blade perked up the world's ears, and 2000's X-Men delivered the smooth, highly-entertaining product fans were waiting for all these years. Not being too familiar with the character of Elektra, I can't judge whether or not the film of the same title has done it justice. What I can say, though, is that Elektra comes across as nothing spectacular; its drive, special effects, and stuntwork barely rise above that of any other action flick. Its intentions apparently aren't to dazzle audiences with awesome new sights but to see if Marvel Comics can repeat the sheer cheesiness of Batman & Robin.
Well, maybe Elektra really isn't that bad, but the filmmakers clearly depended too much on Jennifer Garner's name. She's definitely got her martial arts skills down pat and has a knack for expressing her character's inner conflicts without making it seem too obvious, but those behind the camera seem to be convinced that as long as Garner kicks butt and looks great doing it (which she does, by the way; she looks fantastic in that red outfit), no one will care if the story's too thin or the villains are too lame.
Visnjic and Prout are capable performers, but their roles seem too underwritten and thankless, as if any actor and actress could have taken the part and made the same impression. The supporting actors aren't utilized effectively either. Only Malthe really stands out as the silent but deadly Typhoid. Her character has real intrigue, and there's a true villainous quality about her, whereas the remaining members of the Hand come off as little more than rejected Superman antagonists. At least Stamp takes the time to have fun with his cheeky turn as Elektra's mentor, and although the action sequences are nothing that directors like John Woo and Zhang Yimou haven't done before (and, on that note, better), director Rob Bowman (Reign of Fire) does give the film a very polished and smooth look, not to mention starting the party off with five terrific, suspenseful minutes that the other hour and a half of the flick can't seem to stand up to.
In the pantheon of comic book films, Elektra may go down as one of the cheesiest (and this is comic from the same guy who will defend to the death his love for The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen), but if you view it as a stand-alone action flick, it's not completely awful. Although it disappoints more than it surprises, Elektra deserves credit for proving that even when a project's not so hot, Jennifer Garner is talented enough to emerge from the wreckage without a scratch on her.
MY RATING: ** (out of ****)
(Released by 20th Century Fox and rated "PG-13" for action violence.)
Review also posted at www.ajhakari.com.