Friday, April 15, 2005

MOVIES: I saw 'Elektra' so you don't have to

Frankly, I'm not a big fan of Elektra. I think she was done right in a dozen or so stories by her creator, Frank Miller, and frankly it would've been better for all concerned if she'd never appeared in comics again after that. But hey, femme fatales sell, so Elektra sputters along in comics to this day. And this year's recent movie adaptation does little to convince me this is a character worth reading about --

It’s hard to see how you could make a movie about a sexy, deadly knife-throwing assassin boring, but somehow “Elektra” manages to do just that.

A spinoff of 2003’s comic-book adaptation “Daredevil” starring Ben Affleck, the plot revolves around Elektra (Jennifer Garner), a conflicted young woman who’s a hired assassin, but doesn’t seem to like her work very much.

When she’s hired for a mission that she finds she can’t go through with, Elektra comes into conflict with the evil Japanese death cult The Hand. Will Elektra stay on the side of the angels or the devils?

Judging from online chatter, I’m one of the few who rather liked the Gothic bombast of “Daredevil.” In that movie, Elektra apparently died at the end. This movie glosses over her apparent resurrection in hazy flashback sequences, and doesn’t mention the events of “Daredevil” at all (a deleted scene on the DVD does feature a 30-second cameo by Affleck).

“Elektra” the movie is toothless action, lacking the hard edge of the original Frank Miller comics or the colorful fun of the movie “Daredevil.” Directed by Rob Bowman (“The X-Files”), it’s a film convinced of its own deep solemn meaning. We have many dreary shots of Elektra looking depressed, and poorly visualized slow-motion fights that all look like they escaped from a 1988 Guns ‘N’ Roses video.

There are a few cool moments, even if they don’t make much sense — ninjas that explode in a puff of smoke when they die; a man whose tattoos come to life. And Terence Stamp makes a nice impact in his few scenes as Elektra’s mentor Stick.

Garner has proven herself to be a pretty appealing actress, on TV’s “Alias” and movies like “13 Going on 30.” But here she’s given a moody assassin to play, and little of her charm emerges.

The makers of “Elektra” realize a cold-blooded murderer isn’t very sympathetic to audiences, so they try to make her a cuddly assassin who only kills really bad people. The movie sinks in manipulative clich├ęs. She’s the killer who cries. Yeesh.

I’ll say this for “Elektra.” It’s not quite the bottom of the barrel for recent Marvel Comics adaptations (that would be last year’s “The Punisher” in my book). But that’s about all that you can say that’s positive about this lazy hackwork.
*1/2 of four

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