This review has been ‘repurposed’ from my other site, theOneliner.com
It’s now approaching the point where it would be a beneficial time saver to create a macro that inserts a block of text telling you that A) This is a comic book adaptation and B) We’re getting somewhat sick of them of late, such is the frequency they spew forth. Elektra wins bonus points for being a spin-off from another comic book adaptation, making a return appearance from the lacklustre Daredevil. Handily glossing over the fact she was killed off in what seemed to be a fairly final fashion (thus making it the truest to comic book form adaptation yet), Jennifer Garner returns to wield sai’s and a cleavage you could ski down. She must have got better. Yes, that’s probably what happened.
We are told a tale of Good vs. Evil, a battle waged since the dawn of time for the lack of anything better to do. In this age the evildoers are represented by ‘The Hand’, part time ninja clan and part time corporation. Or at least I assume a corporation, I can’t otherwise tally up the need for a board room and a plethora of be-suited board members. The business cards must be interesting at least, “Dave Collins – Vice-President of Evil Communications”. Anyhow, the sharp end of evil operations, the wet work if you will, is carried out by the son of the current Evil Head Dude, Kirigi (Will Yun Lee). Kirigi can move with supernatural speed and control sheets, bed linen and throws. No, seriously. Studied at the Dojo of Evil Interior Decoration under Sensii Lawrence Lewellyn Bowen. His elite gang of nasties also includes Typhoid (Natassia Malthe), a comely wench whose kisses can kill (coughPoison Ivycough), Tattoo (Chris Ackerman), whose animal tattoos (see, it’s not just a clever name) festooning his body can emerge forth and do his evil bidding and Stone (Bob Sapp), who is invincible to point blank shotgun blasts and can only be destroyed in painfully contrived scenarios. There’s another chap, but he’s so unmemorable I, er, can’t remember him. Let’s pretend it was Frank Sidebottom, and he vanquishes foes using his giant papier mache head. Yes, that’s probably what happened.
Elektra’s been making ends meet by becoming a legendary assassin, although as events transpire this ‘killer for hire’ line of work is considered morally pure to avoid unnecessary final reel angst. Sent to a remote island to await details of her next target, she stumbles across teenager Abby Miller (Kirsten Prout) in an ill-advised thievery attempt, but soon ends up becoming acquainted with Abby and her father Mark (Goran Visnjic). Shock horror, these end up becoming her next targets but she can’t bring herself to kill them with her ludicrously over engineered bow and arrow affair, a weapon that seems to have become the dual handguns for the next millennium. It’s not long before others show up to do this same job, and damned if they aren’t demons in the service of The Hand.
Deciding for narrative reasons to protect this family unit with the obligatory Mysterious Past, she takes them to her old Sensii, Stick (Terence Stamp) a blind chop sockey expert and master of some ancient power that grants supernatural speed and the occasional ability to bring folks back from the dead. I think the mystical system was Kata Hajime, or Kata Maran, or Kata Kuris, or something. It’s not important. Look it up, if you care that much. Jesus, get off my case about it already. You obsessed or something? Leave it alone, it’s not worth it.
Blah blah defend friends blah blah fight evil blah blah overcome own troubled past blah blah save earth blah blah home in time for cornflakes. Pardon the glibness, but writing about Elektra is proving to be as uninspiring and bland an experience as actually watching it was. While it doesn’t share the same pacing glitches that dragged Daredevil into a quagmire, it also doesn’t have the same high points to bring the average up. In a movie released while House of Flying Daggers is showing alongside it in many cinemas you’d really better make damn sure your action sequences are up to snuff, and Elektra can compare to Yimou Zhang’s film but only unfavourably. They’re not astonishingly awful or owt, but they’re exceedingly bland and don’t bring anything new to an already overloaded table. Again the camera jumps around and cuts more or less at random as happens in so many other Western kung-fu outings when it may have been more effective if we could see a wider shot of the fluidity of the fight scenes, rather than jarring crash cuts. While in other departments Elektra makes a few laudable attempts at bringing a shade of variety to a comic book sphere it’s the action you’re ponying up the moolah to see, and it just doesn’t deliver enough to be worthy of recommendation.
Garner is certainly up to what’s asked of her actionwise, and certainly posesses a figure that fills out the signature red outfit impressively enough to launch a good few adolescent spermatozoa through the air but there’s something a little off about the ‘dramatic’ parts of the role. Plagued by flashbacks to her difficult childhood, as these memories surface she is so upset by this she will blink, sometimes up to three times before getting on with things. Bizarre choice on director Rob Bowman’s part, and surely it was his choice as for the rest of the flick Garner emotes well. The relationships with Abby, Mark and Stick might not push back cinematic boundaries or even approach them, but they provide a semblance of the emotional backbone that would have made the film pretty decent were it not for the aforementioned lack of adrenaline in the action scenes.
It’s only the usually captivating Terence Stamp who really disappoints, seemingly as bored with proceedings as the audience are. His reading of a role that seems at times based on Karate Kid‘s Mr. Myagi seems strictly by rote, although a certain restraint on his characters part is necessary so perhaps it’s just disappointment that he’s not being Evil Terence Stamp, which would have been a lot more fun. Although ‘Kneel before Stick’ doesn’t have quite the same ring. Still, a big part of Elektra‘s failure to satisfy comes from the oddball selection of evildoers the Crimson Cleavage rails against. With abilities that are left-field even by comic’s zany standards, it’s a shame that the distinctiveness doesn’t translate into effective foils for Elektra and given the multiplicity of them there’s not enough screen time to give them any more character than an action figure.
Which is pretty much the problem with Elektra, it lacks character apart from the main one and at a push Abby. When these two are interacting it shows glimpses of what might have been if we’d been given the same reasons to care about the bad guy’s eventual, inevitable comeuppance. It’s not false advertising I suppose, given the promotional images and materials the studio have released you’d be forgiven for thinking that Elektra was the only character present. While she’s not that bad a character, it’s not enough to base a film on without building around it and Elektra is a film badly in need of additional construction.