WFTB Score: 5/20
The plot: Brought back to life by mystical Kimagure sensei Stick, Elektra carves out a life as a top-drawer assassin; but the job of killing Mark Miller and his daughter Abby proves a hit too far. Elektra’s failure to complete the job brings out a horde of demons sent by evil organisation The Hand, who are strangely keen to get hold of the bright but troubled teenager. Elektra reluctantly decides to protect the youngster, but it’s too much of a task for her skills alone.
Last seen dead at the hands of the vicious Bullseye, Elektra Natchios (Jennifer Garner) seems an unlikely candidate to be carrying out hits against well-protected scum such as Jason Isaacs. Elektra is indeed alive, saved then spurned by blind Kimagure master Stick (Terence Stamp); but as she waits at a plush lakeside house for her next assignment, she’s something of a lost soul, recalling her father’s pushiness and her mother’s tragic murder at the hands of The Hand: agents of evil controlled by Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa’s Roshi, though his wild son Kirigi (Will Yun Lee) is itching to take charge.
Elektra meets the neighbours, would-be kleptomaniac Abby (Kirsten Prout) and her dishy father Mark (Goran Visnjic), and reluctantly pops round for Christmas dinner; their kindness means that when Elektra’s fixer McCabe (Colin Cunningham) identifies them as her next target, she cannot go through with it. Still, whoever wanted them dead is determined to get their way and Abby – not quite what she seems – is targeted by Kirigi’s cronies: man-mountain Stone (Bob Sapp), deadly beauty Typhoid (Natassia Malthe) and Tattoo (Chris Ackerman), who can summon animals from his skin to do his will.
Elektra initially leaves Mark and the girl with McCabe, but realises that Abby’s predicament mirrors her own life and becomes her protector. Even though Stick’s private army lends a hand against The Hand, it’s ultimately Elektra’s responsibility to defend her friend by squaring up to the lightning-fast Kirigi.
Viewers of 2003’s Daredevil may well be surprised by the existence of Elektra, since our heroine was pretty conclusively killed in that movie. However, death is frequently only a temporary inconvenience in Comic Book World*, and all is explained by Stick’s use of Kimagure to bring her back to life. There’s no criticising the film for that, but just about everything else in the film makes you wish that she had stayed dead.
For a start, it begins so slowly, presumably to let us appreciate Elektra’s state of mind; unfortunately, whilst Garner is very shapely in a range of outfits, her pouting lips and languid style don’t exactly lend themselves to existential crises or inner turmoil. Then how does the plot proper get underway? With an objectionable teenage girl, rarely something to gladden the heart of seasoned movie-lovers. The story contrasts Abby’s upbringing with Elektra’s, whose mothering instincts are provoked despite herself; and while the set-up brings Léon to mind, Prout is no Portman and her Abby is far too much the self-assured brat, on first impressions at least, to engage our sympathy or demand our interest. Goran Visnjic’s rugged but half-hearted love interest doesn’t add much either.
Things don’t improve when we get to the more obviously comic-book elements of the film. In Daredevil, Elektra was a woman who, whilst phenomenally athletic, was still more or less a normal woman. In her own film, she becomes a practitioner of Kimagure, an all-purpose mystical discipline which, in addition to knife-throwing, stick-wielding and general martial artistry, offers (besides resurrection) the ability to control time (allowing for some Matrix-like scenes), clairvoyance (albeit in black and white) and – laughably – a way of telepathically contacting your enemy; however, it can apparently be nullified by hedge mazes. The enemy are barely less silly, Tattoo in particular being a purveyor of daft flying wolf heads that chase the Millers through the woods.
None of this would matter much if the end result was spectacular and effective set-pieces, but there’s nothing memorable to report; one of the longest fights takes place between Abby and Elektra, and much of the action of the climax is lost amongst the obligatory, tiresome effects used to create dozens of errant sheets or a million CGI snakes.
I could go on. While there may be a good comic-based reason for it, I had no idea why the executive board of The Hand existed or why they looked like they had been bussed in from Rising Sun; I could mention that Terence Stamp is so uninvolved that he can’t even be bothered to use his eyes; I could have a go at Rob Bowman for his plodding direction, which exhibits neither a feel for action nor a sense of humour. However, I’ll leave it at this: for massive fans of Jennifer Garner, there’s enough happening in Elektra to make it worth a watch (to its credit, the film doesn’t drag on), and there’s nothing offensive should you want to show your own teenage daughter or son a strong female action hero – demons don’t bleed, they go up in puffs of smoke. Just be warned that it’s unlikely to be the most rewarding 90 minutes of your lives.
NOTES: The Simpsons make fun of this phenomenon when, in an edition of Radioactive Man, the hero and his sidekick Fallout Boy are killed on every page.