I love Jennifer Garner, I love comic books, and I loved Jennifer in her first comic book movie, the unfairly maligned Daredevil. You’d think a spin-off movie revolving around her Elektra character would be can’t-miss fun, at least for me, but it wasn’t meant to be. Marvel’s made some of the best super-hero flicks ever with the Spider-Man and X-Men series, but they’ve also committed such atrocities as Hulk, The Punisher and the upcoming “Fantastic Four” (have you seen that awful, awful trailer?). Unfortunately, “Elektra” ranks with the latter.
The film opens with a bunch of exposition about an ancient war between good and evil, involving a mysterious organization known as “the Hand”, powerful old men and a legendary female warrior who dies but is somehow brought back from the dead. We then go into a mansion where a man waits with surprising calm for the assassin he know is coming for him. As expected, Elektra breaks into the house, gets past all the security and swiftly kills the guy. Cool stuff? It might be, if the cinematography, special effects and choreography weren’t on the level of straight-to-video trash.
Still, I figured “Elektra” might be enjoyable in a so-bad-it’s-good kind of way. It’s almost like one of those ridiculous ninja movies from the ‘80s I liked to rent as a kid: “Not at all, sensei.”, “Master, allow me…”, etc. One particularly laughable moment has Elektra stopping an attack by black ninjas then grabbing one to interrogate him but, before she can learn who sent him, the dude breaks his own neck and spontaneously combusts into a cloud of green smoke and flame!
Of course, even when Hollywood is producing stupid B-movies, they still have to try and make them appealing to other demographics. So instead of focusing fully on stupid ninja shit, the filmmaker waste time on character development they clearly don’t have the skill to do properly. Contrived flashbacks show us how Elektra’s father pressured her into becoming super-strong, how she witnessed her mom being killed by a demon, how an old master (Terrence Stamp) started training her than kicked her out of his school because, um… Aw, who cares?
Then there’s this super lame set-up where Elektra is sent to an island for a job, but she doesn’t know who she has to kill yet so while she waits for the information, she befriends a teenage girl who lives next door with her dad. Can you guess who the target will turn out to be? This is spectacularly inept screenwriting, full of forced sentimentality and predictable plot twists, but what makes it even worse is how awful the acting is. The daddy dude is as boring as a dog’s ass, the brat is endlessly obnoxious and even Jennifer Garner is unable to breathe life into her scenes with them. There’s none of the charming playfulness she shared with Affleck in “Daredevil” here. Say what you will about Ben, but he’s Brando compared to the douche Garner has to flirt with this time.
As for the action scenes, they’re few and far between and they’re derivative at best. Director Rob Bowman tries to be Zhang Yimou, making blackened leaves or white drapes swirl around the fighters, but it’s all very half-assed. “Elektra” is a little “The Replacement Killers”, a little “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze” and a little “Mortal Kombat”. Make of that what you will.