Genre: Action, Adventure, Crime
Director: Rob Bowman
Screenwriters: Mark Steven Johnson, Frank Miller
Starring: Jennifer Garner, Goran Visnjic, Will Yun Lee
I guess I could begin by noting that though Elektra is ostensibly a spin-off from the Ben Affleck flop Daredevil, not only do that film’s events not figure into the plot, but it is not even mentioned in the advertising. I could say, too, that this fairly expensive production got unceremoniously shoved into early January, which is a bad sign for any movie, never mind a presumed franchise blockbuster. I could add that it was directed by Rob Bowman, who, despite being an X-Files alum, has since made his mark only with the execrable Reign of Fire.
Daredevil, at least, had the distinction of being an interestingly acted movie, despite ultimately being done in by an utter lack of story. Elektra is entirely without character, full of dead space, shot like a television pilot. Bowman seems to be going for “somber,” and I suppose he succeeds, but “somber” on its own is not a virtue; along with it must go an elegance, or a mood lest it quickly turn to “boring.” Bowman knows how to make a movie oppressive and lugubrious; he does not know how to make it interesting.
And the plot: my God, the plot. The first thing I thought of was Pokemon, or at least the snippets of it I had seen on tv: vague, arbitrary notions of evil, a little girl who is for some reason a superweapon (The Medallion, anyone?), villainous henchmen helpfully named Stone, Tatoo and Typhoid (I guess Syphilis and Hernia were reserves)… It goes on. The bad guys are, to no end in particular, called “The Hand,” and vanish in an explosion of green light and smoke when vanquished; some are given completely random powers, like the ability to control time, which manifests itself, I think, in being able to move very, very quickly. It’s not so much that I had no idea what was going on, it’s that I knew that there was nothing to know.
This is another attempt at major league stardom by Jennifer Garner, who remains best known for her role on the television show Alias, with its legions of ogling fans. She is made to look great here, for sure, but what she lacks is the menace demanded by her dangerous, volatile character. Though I bought into the more motherly superhero who comes to the fore in the latter half of Elektra, I did not for a second believe the cold, ruthless assassin of the first act. Sadly, I think she may be doomed to eternal blandness.
And then the movie refuses to end. I usually scoff when people report that audiences at such-and-such a movie were “in hysterics” — usually it’s a lie or an exaggeration to support the writer’s point — but that’s pretty much what happened (and I’m not lying or exaggerating to support my point). After the weak and incoherent climax, we are treated to an extended denoument, replete with speeches and teary goodbyes. If ever there was a movie that didn’t earn that kind of conclusion, it is this one.
Those in it for the action will be as disappointed as the rest of us, as most of the fight scenes simply go into editing overload, and the special effects are either misused or underused. Consider Tattoo, whose body art comes to life and proceeds to attack — it’s a neat idea, but it inevitably results in some sort of flying blur. One scene, wherein Elektra faces an adversary in the midst of hovering white bedsheets, at least has some visual appeal, but it’s over before it begins.
I guess a January release date does mean something. Elektra is laughable without being entertaining, as low-brow as Van Helsing, but oh so much stupider. Here’s to finding good comic books to adapt for the screen.