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"Elektra' needs a jolt of humor

Published Aug. 24, 2005

Is this supposed to be the same Elektra Natchios who provided the only moments worth remembering in last year's dopey Daredevil? She looks and dresses the same, carries the same exaggerated daggers, turns the same ninja back flips, but her alluring personality has been drained, replaced by an unconvincing steeliness.

A lot of moviegoers wish Daredevil never happened; Elektra seems to agree.

That would be fine, except that the elaborately pointless circumstances of the spinoff aren't much better. Is all this duty and deception supposed to be happening before or after her brush with Ben Affleck in Daredevil? Elektra will still draw a crowd for a weekend or two, just so Jennifer Garner's fan club can gush and drool, as if the beginning of a new TV season for Alias weren't enough.

No amount of rapid-fire editing and ludicrous set design can disguise the film's diluted blend of martial arts and generic mayhem. That much is evident by the time Elektra (Garner) stalks a bad guy through windblown sheets resembling an ad for a department store white sale. This isn't an action flick, it's a Cosmopolitan photo spread that moves.

The Elektra shown here is a hired assassin whose obligatory mentor is an Englishman named Stick (Terence Stamp) who understands Asian values better than Asians do. Elektra's last assignment almost killed her and certainly didn't do much for her social skills. She's aloof, which Garner can't convert into coolness. Her next assignment may lead to love and maternal satisfaction, the least likely result for such a chilly personality.

Goran Visnjic (TV's ER) is the target, Mark something or other, looking so hunky through the sight of a high-tech archery bow that she quivers. And there's something compelling about his daughter, Abby (Kirsten Prout); they share the same hairstylist! Of course she can't kill them. But she shouldn't get personally involved, either.

Why a secret society known as the Hand wants Mark and Abby killed is protected like a secret but turns out to be no big deal. Director Rob Bowman (Reign of Fire, episodes of TV's X Files) is more concerned with style, finding the proper shadows and zip to make it appear there's something of substance. Elektra doesn't even aspire to comic book campiness; humor is at a premium here. Only Stamp seems to understand the silliness of the circumstances. This is General Zod from Superman, after all. Stamp's gravitas is a welcome smirk in a movie taking itself much too seriously.



Grade: C-

Director: Rob Bowman

Cast: Jennifer Garner, Goran Visnjic, Kirsten Prout, Terence Stamp, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Will Yun Lee

Screenplay: Zak Penn, Stuart Zicherman, Raven Metzner, based on the Marvel Comics character created by Frank Miller

Rating: PG-13; action violence, brief profanity

Running time: 90 min.