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Should I Watch..? Elektra
What's the big deal?
Elektra is a fantasy superhero film released in 2005 and is based on the Marvel comic character of the same name. It is a spin-off from the 2003 film Daredevil (1) where Elektra appears as the love interest for Matt Murdock, played by Ben Affleck. This film holds the distinction of being the first and so far, only film based on a female Marvel character, something which has become more notable as well as more embarrassing for the company with the phenomenal success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). As it is, this is a stand-alone product released before the MCU took shape and it suffered at the box office as it was released in the same year as the critically acclaimed Batman Begins (2), teen superhero flick Sky High (3) and Marvel stablemate Fantastic Four (4). It was also poorly received by critics at the time of release, who compared unfavourably to Daredevil.
What's it about?
After suffering apparently fatal injuries in Daredevil, Elektra Natchios is revived by blind martial arts master Stick and brought to his compound for training. Elektra develops her skills as well as a degree of precognition before being forced to leave, her internal rage clashing with the tranquil nature of Stick's environment. Becoming an assassin, Elektra's unique abilities see her overcome a variety of foes and she is soon hired to perform another task. She is to stay in a rented house near to where the assassination is to be conducted whereby she'll be informed of the target in a few days.
Elektra moves to the island and befriends local girl Abby and her father Mark, even developing romantic feelings towards him. But Elektra soon learns that Abby and Mark are the targets but instead, she defends them from members of the Hand - a secret crime syndicate of ninja mercenaries. Will her feelings get in the way of protecting Abby and Mark and why are two such normal people being pursued by the forces of darkness?
Will Yun Lee
Raven Metzer, Zak Penn & Stuart Zicherman *
Release Date (UK)
21st January, 2005
Action, Fantasy, Superhero
What's to like?
Having trouble sleeping? Then this is the movie for you! Seriously, I'm struggling to think of anything about the film I liked because it's probably the most dreary superhero film in existence. Granted, Elektra isn't that much of a superhero - she's certainly no Black Widow or Storm, for instance - but Garner's performance is simply dreadful with her character's sole expression never leaving her face for a minute...
Hang on, stuff I liked.
Hmmm. I suppose that the film looks better than Daredevil, mainly because the movie isn't set in Hell's Kitchen in the dead of night. The fight scenes, which are somewhat scarce in number, look OK in a sort-of sub-Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (5) fashion. Believe it or not but the film opens in an interesting way with Elektra's past being spoken of in hushed tones by a potential target. There are some hints that this might have been quite an interesting picture if anyone had bothered to put any thought into it - Elektra is something of an enigma to casual comic fans like myself and maybe a bit more about her past might have helped give the movie the emotional edge it craved. It's also a shame on Marvel for not pushing more female characters like Elektra into leading their films instead of looking pretty on the sidelines like they tend to do at the moment. Given the frosty reception Elektra got though, I can understand their trepidation.
It would be remiss of me not to mention young Prout's performance as Abby who displays considerably more personality than nearly all of her peers. I also enjoyed the henchmen Tattoo and Typhoid which had some interesting powers and some almost-decent CG. But beyond that, this is a real dog's dinner.
- Both Garner and Visnjic were busy appearing on TV in the shows Alias and ER respectively. Therefore, they filmed the movie whilst on summer holiday.
- Due to the critical mauling Daredevil received, the film initially promoted ties with the much more successful X-Men (6) instead despite the film being an obvious spin-off of Ben Affleck's legendary turkey.
- In the US, the film only grossed $24.4 million - the lowest amount at the time for any film featuring a Marvel character since the horribly misguided Howard The Duck (7) in 1986.
What's not to like?
In a word, Garner. The very least I'd expect from a lead in a movie such as this is for the character to move me, either positively or negatively. Even Ben Affleck provoked a reaction from me in Daredevil (rage, if you must know) but Garner's portrayal as the exotic and mystical assassin left me cold, bored and unsympathetic to her cause, whatever it was. The film's poorly written story doesn't tell much of a tale although it's still predictable and doesn't elaborate on anything that happens on screen like Elektra's OCD (which might have provided better screenwriters with something interesting to write) or why the vast number of ninjas vanish into a weird green mist when they are beaten in a fight. What on earth is happening here?
Garner is by no means the only cast member to underperform. Visnjic tries to engage with Garner but fails while Stamp almost seems to be playing the part for laughs. Elektra has a strange pretence to it as though it is more than just a mere action film. But it couldn't be any more wrong - the slow pacing makes its 90-odd minute duration feel a lot longer, the action does not justify having to sit through endless scenes of Garner's thousand-yard-stare, even the supporting cast seem largely disinterested and by the time of the climax, you can't help but wonder what the film was about. Garner doesn't even look like Elektra until the end - imagine your frustration at a movie about the Hulk that only featured the big green guy for the last ten minutes.
Should I watch it?
Comic book fans desperate for a female lead might be thankful for its existence but Elektra is a prime example of a superhero film made quickly and cheaply with little thought into the character or story. The genre has grown into something more than mere 'good vs evil' clichés but this film doesn't even feel that bothered, treading water for its entire duration. You forget it as you watch it and while it doesn't provoke bile-bursting fits of fury like its predecessor did, it never remains in the memory long enough for you to hate it as much as you did with Daredevil.
Great For: insomniacs, hospitals looking for a cheap anaesthetic, feminist comic book readers
Not So Great For: action fans, comic book fans, film fans
What else should I watch?
It should go without saying that thanks largely to the MCU, superhero movies have come a long way since then. The film that kicked off the MCU was the brilliant Iron Man (8), which is a great example of decent story-telling, electric special effects, thrilling action scenes and a performance for the ages from Robert Downey Jr. Avengers Assemble (9) offers more of the same but on a much bigger scale, budget and cast including Scarlett Johansson's sublime Black Widow - who is crying out for a solo film.
Of course, Marvel haven't completely conquered the superhero market thanks to Christopher Nolan's classic Dark Knight trilogy. Christian Bale's brilliant performance as Bruce Wayne and Batman cemented the character's tortured duality as an inescapable part of the Dark Knight's legend while the three films combine to create a stunning story covering the character from birth to death.
© 2015 Benjamin Cox