Sigh. This lingerie-laden assassin slices and dices with mediocre results.

By Spence D
January 16, 2005

Marvel Entertainment continues to confound with their choices of comic characters-to-film. Thus far they’ve split their efforts 50/50 between universally known and loved characters (Spidey, X-Men, Hulk), and darker, more cult oriented anti-heroes like Daredevil, The Punisher, and Blade. Now Elektra, re-animated femme fatale martial arts assassin and one-time girlfriend of Matt Murdock.

Let’s face it; on paper Elektra doesn’t seem like an easy sell. She has always been a sinewy side character dwelling on the fringes of the Marvel Universe, her greatest glory to date being her untimely death at the hands of Bullseye back in the late ’80s during Frank Miller’s seminal run on Ol’ Hornhead’s book. But hey, cult status be damned, especially when the cinematic version of this lessor know (to the general public, that is, since comic fanboys the world over have no doubt been wet-dreaming about Elektra and her sais for decades) anti-heroine was brought to life by Jennifer Garner of ABC’s Alias fame. Hell the powers that be could have scrounged up a Black Canary or Spitfire script and as long as somebody as iconic as Garner were attached, they would have made it (Catwoman, anyone? Okay, to be fair I still haven’t seen CW, but you know damn well that that cheesy leather bondage outfit would have never been greenlit had not Halle Berry been attached to the project).

At any rate, I’ve digressed long enough. Suffice it to say, Elektra ranks up there with her other second tier brethren (with the notable exception of Blade, which has been the most consistent and entertaining of the Marvel franchises to date). That is to say it’s slick looking, but ultimately flawed, not to mention a mite bit cheesy. For the most part Elektra’s unique origin is more or less glossed over as she is painted as a divider between good and evil in the Terrance Stamp spoken word overlay that unfolds over the opening credits. No mention of Daredevil or her affair with the man in red. Only insinuations to her death at the hands of Bullseye and her subsequent resurrection at the hands of The Hand. In fact even her mentor Stick, who is so seminal to the Elektra mythos, is relegated to sideline status in this story. But then the public ain’t paying to see Terrance Stamp kick ass, are they?

For the most part the central storyline is straight jacked from The Golden Child albeit sans any sense of goofy comedic relief. Instead this one’s plaid out in a stern, serious manner, as if the fate of the world rested firmly on Elektra’s lithe shoulders. For those not familiar with the Eddie Murphy allusion, the story involves the protection of a youthful prodigy, one believed to hold the balance between good and evil in her small personage. Naturally her protection falls under Elektra’s jurisdiction. Okay, so there’s a little more to it than that, but I don’t want to spoil what little surprise there is for those who will be rushing out and spending their hard-earned cash to see this mediocre actioner. Those folks at least deserve the courtesy of not having the entire film spoiled for them, no matter how cheesy and routine it may be.

Avoiding revealing any of the tepid plot developments, I’ll redirect your attentions to the other characters in the film. Naturally there are several mysterious figures that serve as nemeses to Elektra. There is the luscious Typhoid, who unleashes her lesbian love kiss of death. I call it such as she only seems to employ it on women, choosing instead to kill her male prey with nothing more than a blown kiss from afar. Then there’s Stone, who ironically is felled by a tree. I guess it makes sense in a way given that paper, a byproduct of wood from trees, beats rock in rochambeaux. Finally there is Tattoo. And no, he’s not vertically challenged. Instead his inky body designs have a life of their own. There’s two other baddies, as well; one is named Kinko, whose specialty seems to be the ability to balance a penny on his middle finger. And there’s the ringleader of this merry troupe, but I forget his name. He’s just badass and as such gives Elektra a run for her martial arts money.

Speaking of which, don’t expect some Hong Kong hypnotism here. In short, the martial arts segments are typical Western butcher jobs taken to the 111th power. That is to say they are shot in extreme close-ups and more often than not feature blurry, hi-speed fast forward momentum so as to completely eliminate any of the grace and deadly finesse that befits such sequences.

Perhaps the most glaring goof in the entire film is the ludicrous outfit Elektra wears. While it’s obviously meant to titillate, instead it looks like lingerie lifted from the Victoria’s Secret’s bargain Basement circa 1977. While the costume designers for Daredevil may have fucked up Ol Hornhead’s outfit, at least they got Elektra’s right. Okay, she rarely, if ever wore black leather in the comics, but it looked a million times better on Garner than the costume she dons here, which makes Halle Barry’s ludicrous Catwoman outfit look damn chic, lemme tell you. To top it off, Garner persists in sauntering about the screen in a sleazy stripper sashay that would be better suited for the runway of some second rate fashion show. Granted it shows off her ample hips and booty, but it’s supremely out of place, especially considering the seriousness Elektra is supposed to convey.

On the acting front, Garner, for her part, is all emotive brooding, stern and concentrated. As much as I hate to say it, though, Elektra in the comics was of Spanish descent and well, Garner just looks too All-American. That was her only flaw in her portrayal of the character in Daredevil and again it’s her main flaw here (other than the stupid hip swaying saunter, that is). As much as it pains me to say so, a certain other Jennifer might have been better suited to the part. But hey, lemons and oranges right?

Like the other third string Marvel movie moments of recent memory–DD, The PunisherElektra will more than likely fail to ignite the drive and desire in the movie going public for that elusive golden cash cow that you just know the Marvel execs are salivating for: the ongoing franchise. Perhaps it’s high time they dusted off those old tomes of Dazzler. People still like disco, right?