You remember Elektra – last seen dying in Ben Affleck’s superhero flop “Daredevil.” Her pouty demeanor and trademark skewers provided the film’s best moments, so it was inevitable that Hollywood would resuscitate her, drop the deadbeat blind lawyer boyfriend, transfer the red suit to her capable shoulders (truer to the original Marvel character than the black she donned in the earlier film), and shove her off a building to see if she could make a sequel fly.
Too bad: that sound you just heard is Elektra falling eighty-two stories to her overacted, pouty death.
Certainly Terence Stamp (“Stick”) is not to blame; the actor is more skilled at coming back to life than most, popping up in great roles from time to time. In his character’s hands Elektra is mystically reanimated, but it appears he forgot to imbue her with spirit or emotion; she’s a dead shell of an assassin, lacking warmth from the first frame to the last.
In this picture, she takes aim against The Hand, an organization made up of ninja-esque warriors (read: Chinese men surrounded by multiracial croanies there to protect them from wayward bullets and Asian-friendly critics) bent on capturing “the treasure,” which probably should have been a worthy movie plot but instead is a small girl whose glorified belt-chain becomes a lethal weapon to like, slash people and stuff. Her Dad is a sexy love interest for Jennifer Garner’s Elektra, but the less said about that the better.
If I had to guess, I’d bet the entire film derailed from the moment that director Rob Bowman decided that “Elektra” should be a “character-driven piece.” In the parlay of action films, particularly comic book action films, those words can be roughly translated into “interminably paced, horribly over-dramatized critical disaster.” There is no joy in this movie, no “comic” in its comic-book story; too serious for its own health, the picture sinks the moment its opening sequence has ended and the serious plotline begins. From there to the credits, it’s an unending, torturous crawl.
Even the lighting and scenery of the film seem to have deliberately left behind their comic-book heritage – the Hand’s slick corporate compound and Stick’s forest hideout are overplayed statements vis-à-vis technology and organic life, and there’s not an ounce of invention in either. Even the fight sequences seem slow, almost weighty, as if the actors are wearing inflexible clothing or carrying weapons too heavy for them to bear. And the characters’ ability to hop about with lightning-quick precision is amusing rather than impressive – when the audience laughs aloud at the superhero’s foremost talents, it’s not a good sign.
For Garner, it’s difficult to tell whether her wooden performance is the result of enforced direction, inappropriate casting, or just lack of will. She smolders in her role on “Alias” and was utterly charming in “30 Going on 30”… alas, as Elektra, strutting around in a leather red suit, it rather looks like she joined Halle Berry in whoring out her career to a cheap superhero pimp.