Directed by Rob Bowman. Starring Jennifer Garner, Goran Visnjic, Terence Stamp, Will Yun Lee, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Kirsten Prout. (2005, PG-13, 97 min.)
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Jan. 21, 2005
Daredevil’s sai-wielding assassin Elektra, I could have sworn, was somewhat dead the last time we saw her. No matter, because this time out she’s got the great Terence Stamp, as Stick, on her side, the Mr. Miyagi to her Karate Kid redux. Garner’s Elektra was, frankly, the best thing about the turgid Daredevil, unless you were a fan of Ben Affleck’s ridiculously form-fitting crime fightin’ duds (which left so little to the imagination it was as if Tom of Finland had been hired for costume design). That said, this resoundingly unaffecting solo show has precious little going for it other than Stamp, who, since his comeback turn in Steven Soderbergh’s The Limey, has been nothing less than a godsend to whatever film he happens to turn up in. Here, Elektra is offered $2 million to take out Mark Miller (Visnjic) and his 11-year-old daughter Abby (Prout), but, as so often happens in the Marvel Universe, the kid is the Chosen One, the savior of humanity, and Elektra ends up defending the pair against the Order of the Hand, a mysterious Asian league of evil headed by Yun Lee’s sword-wielding Kirigi (accompanied, natch, by a group of henchmen with names like Typhoid, Stone, and Tattoo). Elektra suffers mainly from a poorly constructed script, which tosses in everything but the kitchen sink and then fails to do much of anything with the myriad plot developments that occur. There are a few chaste nuzzles between Elektra and Mark, but the heat never blossoms to flame. Much is made, in flashbacks, of Elektra’s obsessive youthful training at the hands of her stern father, but the psychological ramifications of what it means to become a killer like Elektra are then barely explored. Garner’s turn in the consistently intriguing Alias is proof she knows her way around a comic-book world, but the lack of any real sense of who or what this character is, or even why she’s chosen to become an assassin in the first place, stymies the film on a cellular level. Much of this could be ignored, possibly, if the film’s action set-pieces were revelatory, but no, they’re not. Director Bowman shoots things with the sort of busy camerawork that makes you wonder if he’s trying to ape Tsui Hark’s wild actioneering or if he’s trying to avoid it entirely. I’m still not sure which it is, but watching Elektra turn somersaults over her foes in her drop-dead-sexy assassin’s gear isn’t remotely as invigorating as it by all rights ought to be. There have been worse Marvel Comics adaptations in recent memory – The Punisher was a nadir unfathomable to most human beings, and Pitof’s astonishingly goofy Catwoman rivals anything Ray Dennis Steckler ever did for sheer inanity – which leaves Elektra in the unfortunate position of simply being, perhaps, not stupid enough to qualify as good, dumb fun, a situation for which there can be no answer then but "So what?"