STARRING: Jennifer Garner, Goran Visnjic, Terrence Stamp, Will Yun Lee

2005, 97 Minutes, Directed by:
Rob Bowman

So much hair and sheets and clothes billow in Elektra that you might forgive director, Rob Bowman, for trying to ape the look and feel of high-style action director, Tony Scott (brother of Ridley), with an array of wind machines and a carefully aimed hair dryer. Lest we forget, Bowman was responsible for the expensive flying dragons dud, Reign of Fire. Elektra isn't going to help his box office track record since it too is looking like a costly turkey, cementing Bowman the reputation of making extremely pricey B-movies.

Nevertheless, Elektra is a mildly entertaining movie, no doubt destined to be a bigger hit on video than, say, Daredevil. Jennifer Garner struggles to balance the killer-lady-in-red with heavy broody introspection. She stars as Elektra, an assassin, highly trained in the martial arts and with an ability to see 45-60 seconds in the future like a psychic Tivo. When she is hired to kill a father and daughter, she instead mopes about her own childhood and decides to save them instead. Oh, and she smiles three times; I counted. Bowman has tried to balance this movie as a pensive chick-kick-flick - the cartoon version of Kill Bill - but an illogical script, flat performance by its star and some unintentional laughs shouldn't make the Marvel Comics accountants planning on a franchise.

Frank Miller, one of the writers credited for reviving the Batman comics into a serious gothic tale, created the comic book character, Elektra. Miller's Batman success was largely based on providing lots and lots of back-story so that we'd understand what would drive an ordinary person to become a murderer/vigilante operating outside the law.

The same formula applies here - Elektra is consumed by guilt and flashbacks. An assassin from The Hand - sort of a supernatural Japanese yakuza - killed her mother, and she apparently had a pushy father who made her take swimming lessons. In such a traumatic crucible our dark heroine was formed!

"Pensive chick-kick-flick . . ."

This is a movie that needed a star who seethed with inner fire - Angelina Jolie comes to mind - because Garner simply doesn't have the depth or intensity to make the audience care about Elektra or believe that she's tormented by her past demons. In spite of her training and her limited psychic abilities, she stumbles into stupid situations that brought laughs and jeers in the audience. Terrence Stamp, who co-stars as Elektra's blind mentor, The Stick, has to make do with 3rd-class dialogue that sounds like rejected Yoda-speak. Yes, we have the wise old sage character.

However, Elektra suffers from an unforgivable flaw - it's a dull action movie. Even state of the art martial arts choreography can't sizzle when it's shot from obtuse angles and obstructed by billowing sheets that made some scenes look more like dangerous pillow fights. At least when we watched Uma Thurman kick ass, she looked like she did her own fights. With Elektra's flurry and blurry, Garner's stunt-double is happily obscured. Also, in a case of misleading advertising, Elektra's trademark red costume isn't in the movie that often. But when she does put on her red gear, with her heavy lidded eye make-up, Garner looks like a young Karen Black.

What's important to a comic book movie is its villains. Here again Elektra fails with rejects from the X-Men - mutant ninja's hired by The Hand with the power to suck life or the power to cast forth animal tattoos. At one point, when a swarm of flying snakes go on the hunt, someone in the audience yelled, "Killer sperm!" You just can't take a movie seriously after such a brilliant observation. Okay, Marvel, what's next?

- Harrison Cheung

As if Ninja Scrolls got remade as a shampoo ad.  James O'Ehley



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