There’s a story — possibly apocryphal, but I choose to believe it — that director Josef von Sternberg, while on loan to MGM from Paramount and forced to make a movie he detested, ended up pointing his camera at the studio rafters and filming them because he found this more interesting than his assignment. Not surprisingly, he was soon sent back to Paramount.
I expect that Rob Bowman must have had similar feelings about making this silly spin-off of Daredevil, the tepid Ben Affleck comic-book flick. He certainly spends large chunks of the movie indulging in pointlessly arty distractions.
Unfortunately, the cure for endlessly boring dialogue is not shooting characters as backlit silhouettes against sun-dappled water or out-of-focus Christmas tree lights. The only cure for Elektra — short of cutting it up into ukulele picks — would involve totally rethinking the concept and rewriting the script.
On the plus side, Jennifer Garner as Elektra looks less ridiculous in her Victoria’s Secret superhero outfit than Affleck looked in his red leather, “Who’s your daddy?” togs. And I’ll similarly concede that the movie handed me more solid laughs than did this week’s supposed comedy, Racing Stripes.
Indeed, I’ve seen few funnier sights than Elektra and her charges, Mark Miller (Goran Visnjic, The Deep End) and daughter Abby (Kirsten Prout, Mindstorm), backed into a corner and facing certain death when, lo and behold, screenwriter Zak Penn (X2) comes up with ninjas ex machina who descend from the skies to save the day. Incredible as this is, he tops it by having Elektra’s mentor, Stick (Terence Stamp), just pop up out of nowhere, garbed in white fatigues. The flying snakes with headlights are pretty darned amusing, too.
Unfortunately, Elektra herself is not funny. This returned-from-the-dead (don’t even ask) hit-woman superhero is so gloomy and dull that she makes the Punisher look like the life of the party. When she isn’t offing someone or fighting the forces of evil, she pouts and looks grim, wandering around settings that make it look like she’s starring in an International Coffees Collection commercial. Possibly she’s just contemplating a career change, which might not be a bad idea; judging by her knife-work, I’d say she’d be a shoo-in at a Japanese steakhouse.
Of course, even a movie that focuses on a dour heroine needs a plot, and Elektra (sort of) has one. The story centers on a Japanese crime lord who does little but sit in a glossy boardroom and finger his beads with such fervor that it seems less like a religious exercise than a guy obsessing about a hot night he once had in Tijuana.
He keeps sending his assassins out to kill or capture little Abby (the objective seems to fluctuate from scene to scene), and they keep running afoul of Elektra. The whole movie feels like a lame, humorless and styleless rip-off of Kill Bill, with some extra fantasy elements thrown in. The more I think about it, the more I’m inclined to think that this movie would better serve as ukulele picks. Rated PG-13 for action violence.
– reviewed by Ken Hanke