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Elektra Review

By Shawn McKenzie 01/15/2005

Almost two years ago, I reviewed what I thought was a very cool flick, Daredevil.  The action was cool, the effects were cool, and it followed the comic books relatively close (which I found out through extensive research; I’ve never been a big comic book geek, but I am a comic book movie geek.)  Most other critics thought it was horrible though.  My guess is that Ben Affleck has gone through a string of flops, so he is now everyone’s whipping boy.  The funny thing is that Daredevil was his last hit, grossing $102 million, so the hatred for the film since is puzzling.  Either way, I’m guessing that fan support must have been the deciding factor for the Powers-That-Be to greenlight a spin-off movie.  That movie is Elektra, and unfortunately, I think that the liberties taken in this one might be too much for even the hardcore fans.

If you have seen Daredevil, then you know that Elektra Natchios (Jennifer Garner) is killed near the end by Bullseye (Colin Farrell, whom, by the way, doesn’t make a cameo in this movie; neither does that rumored cameo from Affleck.)  Garner comes back from the dead after being resurrected by her blind sensei, Stick (Terence Stamp.)  In the books, Matt Murdock/Daredevil tries to do the reviving himself, having learned that trick from Stick, but I digress (he thinks that he is successful, but all he does is revive her pure soul…Stone does the actual reviving…I think.)

Anyway…Stick then trains her to fight in his dojo (by the way…Stick’s organization is called The Chaste, a.k.a. “the good guys,” but I don’t remember hearing about it in the movie), but then kicks her out due to her inability to control her rage.  After leaving The Chaste, Elektra becomes a contract killer who takes hit jobs set up by her agent, McCabe (Colin Cunningham.)

After the opening narration explaining all this, we get a cool scene involving her current target, a baddie named DeMarco (an uncredited Jason Isaacs, Lucius Malfoy from the Harry Potter movies.)  He explains that he knows that Elektra is coming after him, and I think that he is resolved in that fact now.  She does end up killing him, along with his henchman Bauer (Mark Houghton.)

After the DeMarco job, she decides to take a break, but McCabe convinces her to do one more job because the money is just too good.  Her assignment is to go to Harbor Island, an island off the coast of Washington, and wait for the names of her targets.  The clients, the people who hired her for the hit, are The Order of the Hand, a.k.a. “the bad guys,” and Master Roshi (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa), with his son Kirigi (Will Yun Lee), heads the organization.

While waiting for the names, Elektra is plagued by memories of her own mother’s (Jana Mitsoula) death.  When she was a young girl, Elektra (Laura Ward) witnessed a weird horned thing kill her mother, and she found out later that The Hand had sent it.  She had to be raised by her stern father Nikolas (Kurt Max Runte), so her anger and rage about the tragedy built up in her (not to mention seeing her father being killed in Daredevil by who she thought was Daredevil, if you recall.)  Her mother’s death also made her develop a case of obsessive-compulsive disorder for some reason, making her do odd things like arranging her fruit and counting her footsteps.

Meanwhile, while still waiting for the names, a 13-year-old girl named Abby Miller (Kirsten Prout) breaks into Elektra’s house.  She stops Abby, who was intending to steal a necklace, but lets the girl go, though she does tell her father Mark (Goran Visnjic) about it.  Abby sees a spark between Mark and Elektra, and she invites Elektra over for Christmas dinner.  At dinner, he explains that Abby’s mother died in a car accident in Baltimore by a drunk driver, so he was raising Abby all alone.  The next day, Elektra gets her targets…Mark and Abby. 

Elektra attempts to kill the two, but conscious is still haunted by her mother’s death, so she decides to protect them.  When Roshi sends out a couple of Hand ninjas (Nathaniel Arcand and Aaron Au) to finish the job, Elektra kills them both (in a poof of green smoke) and demands that Mark tell her why they had been targeted.  He explains to her that The Hand wanted revenge for something that his grandfather, an ally of Stick, did (The Hand was also responsible for killing Abby’s mother), so now they were on the run.

Elektra takes Mark and Abby to stay with Stick, while Roshi sends Kirigi who, with his minions Typhoid (Natassia Malthe), Stone (Bob Sapp), Tattoo (Chris Ackerman), Kinkou (Edson T. Ribeiro), and Meizumi (Hiro Kanagawa), to follow up on the ninjas’ job.  Typhoid (a.k.a. Typhoid Mary in the books) has poisonous breath and touch, which kills everyone she inflicts with it (she’s kind of like Uma Thurman’s Poison Ivy from Batman & Robin.)  Stone is a hulking black man who is apparently bulletproof and swordproof (he is the guy who had revived Elektra in the books, but I guess he went to the darkside.)  Tattoo (a.k.a. Tengu in the books) is a guy who has animal tattoos all over his body that come to life and do his bidding.  Kinkou is a guy whose superpower is that he has an incredible sense of balance (he’s kind of a lame character compared to the baddies above.)  I’m not sure what Meizumi does, but he is an important character in the books (just not in the movie.)

Stick refuses to take in the Millers, until he notices that one of Tattoo’s eagle spies are following them, so he takes them to McCabe’s house for protection.  There in McCabe’s house, Elektra gets to know Abby a little better.  She shows Abby her sais (the three pronged daggers she is fond of) and teaches her the art of Kimagure, which is the ability to see into the near future, which she has worked on through numerous hours of deep meditation.

Soon after though, the assassins arrive and they try to escape.  After one of the assassins overpowers Elektra, Abby steps in to save her with a magic bracelet that she had on her arm.  It’s at this point that Elektra realizes that Abby is “the treasure,” the thing that the Hand has been searching for.  Unfortunately, the Hand realizes this now as well, and they want to capture Abby to bring her into the fold of the organization.  Elektra must fight the assassins to protect the treasure, and maybe even save the soul of Abby and herself in the process.

Despite all of my sarcastic comments throughout the plot synopsis, this was actually a cool movie.  Garner was great as usual, and her ability to portray the pain and rage that her character possessed was spot on.  Stamp played a variation of his General Zod character from the first two Superman movies, only as a good guy instead of a bad one, which was cool, though brief.  Prout, in her first significant movie role, was enjoyable and believable in her fight scenes.  The fight choreography overall was excellent, and the special effects, especially the ones involving Tattoo, were sweet.

The rest of the cast though was either barely nonexistent or confusing.  Visnjic, who is best known as Dr. Luka Kovac on NBC’s “E.R.,” is not exactly the leading man type here.  There is only two moments in the movie that his character even acknowledges that he has an interest in Elektra, but the sparks of romance weren’t exactly flowing.  Plus…why did Mark have such a thick Croatian accent, and Abby didn’t?  Cunningham was the comic relief at the beginning of the movie (kind of like Jon Favreau was in Daredevil), but his character is only around for the first half.

All of the bad guys in this movie also didn’t have much to do, so their performances didn’t showcase anything in terms of character development.  That is the biggest problem with this movie:  we don’t learn much about anything of the other characters aside from Elektra.  Director Rob Bowman decided to concentrate on Elektra and forget about the back-stories of the other characters, which made their motivations for doing their good and/or bad actions perplexing.  Forget about trying to adapt the sequence of events in this movie to the books; I just wanted to know why these characters wanted to do what they were doing.  Even some of the worst comic book movies, from Batman & Robin to last year’s The Punisher, at least explain how the characters came to be and why they were fighting with the hero.

Something that I noticed about this movie compared to Daredevil bothered me at first, but I realized that it was a just a difference of style.  The characters of Daredevil were essentially human, not super-powered, but the characters here had mythical powers.  The fact that they switched styles from movie to movie was okay, because the characters from both movies were all in the books.

I think that comic book geeks, even the ones who loved Daredevil, will not like Elektra.  I wish that Daredevil’s director/screenwriter, Mark Steven Johnson, had helmed this one, because Bowman and writers Raven Metzner, Zak Penn, and Stuart Zicherman messed this one up.  The only reason I’m giving this movie a good rating is because the visual elements were awesome and the performances of Garner, Stamp, and Prout were great.  Only the box office results will determine if this one will see a sequel (or at least top the box office results of Daredevil), but if it does happen, I hope that Johnson will come back into the fold.  At the very least, please, Bowman…explain more back-stories of The Hand!

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