a critiQal film review Elektra (2005)

  • DVD
  • Blu-Ray

Plot: Assassin-for-hire Elektra (Garner) works for a mysterious international organization known as the Hand, for which she kills her targets without question, and in a conspicuous red bustier, no less. When the Hand asks her to kill Mark Miller (Visnjic) and his daughter while they're on holiday, Elektra's conscience kicks in and she decides to protect her targets rather than eliminate them. Of course, the Hand isn't so willing to let them off the hook.

658 words (Est. Reading Time 3m 17s)
  • ...Garner's as good as ever, but the film she finds herself in seems to be doing its best to bring her down.

After it seemed like a lot of critics bashed DareDevil (2003), it didn’t seem like a sequel was going to be made. But, just two years later, a spin-off hit theaters: Elektra. Would this garner better praise? Apparently not.

But, when both DareDevil (2003) and the horribly bashed Catwoman (2004) turned out to be not quite as bad as advertised, it seemed only natural we should eventually check out Elektra as well. Was this film as bad as all that, or were the critics just in the mood to bash another female superhero?

Jennifer Garner, still in the midst of her run as an assassin on the small screen in “Alias” (TV), continues her role from DareDevil (2003) in Elektra. She’s even better in her action sequences than in DareDevil (2003), but the film doesn’t give her as many of those as the viewer might expect (see more on that later). Instead, she spends most of her time battling inner demons and breaking down her barriers – something she’s done much better on the small screen.

The rest of the cast is decent enough, but doesn’t really do anything to distinguish themselves in Elektra. Despite names like Terence Stamp, Goran Visnjic and Will Yun Lee in the cast, they never really get that much of a chance to shine, instead being reduced to snippets. Even Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, who hammed it up big time in Mortal Kombat (1995), is reduced to merely staring and not saying much of anything at all.

The biggest problem with Elektra, however, comes from the plot itself. Instead of playing to her strengths as an assassin, she’s reduced to bodyguard for most of the pic. Does it matter that the people she’s protecting keep lying to her? Nope. Suddenly she’s just another girl falling for a guy and his likeable daughter. What’s even worse? Viewers appetite for the assassin pic they were hoping for is whetted thoroughly by the opening sequence, then basically shoved aside in favor of this more melodramatic storyline.

And that’s a big problem. Garner’s already shown how she can make her character likeable in an action role, so it seems obvious that Elektra should highlight that. But, aside from the action sequence intro and the final battle, she isn’t really the same character at all. Who decided on that? Just because she’s a girl means she can’t be a cold-blooded assassin? Look how well Wanted (2008) turned out with Angelina Jolie playing up that part.

Even by going this route, they could have made Elektra more interesting. Or at the very least, not shown her to be the weakest among most of the foes she faces. Whether it’s her old master or the villains that are attacking, she’s shown getting bested almost every time out – aside from that opening action sequence and, of course, a miraculous recovery in the finale.

Honestly, for most of Elektra, the villains take over as highlights of the picture. Whether it’s the guy whose tattoos come to life, the nearly indestructible big guy, the lightning fast villain or the lady whose touch is death – they give the most lasting impressions to viewers of this film. And it’s almost sad to see them go. Which is pretty messed up, considering the movie’s called Elektra.

Overall, Garner takes her small screen performance in “Alias” (TV) to the big screen once again for Elektra, and fans should enjoy her. But, she happens to do so in a film that is constantly trying to downplay her effectiveness and turn her into just another weepy girl – then thrusts some memorable villains at her in order to cut down her role in her own film. And before all this, teases viewers with the movie they wanted in the opening action sequence. It sometimes feels like the film is trying to hurt it’s heroine’s reputation on purpose. And that just doesn’t make any sense, right?

Yeah, I didn’t think so.

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