It is perhaps inevitable that some will compare Elektra with last year’s Daredevil since the former is a spin-off from the latter comic book adaptation. It would be a fair comparison too, as both films suffer from similar flaws.
Believed by some to be an urban legend, Elektra (Jennifer Garner) is the world’s top assassin. However, when she is assigned to kill Mark Miller (Goran Visnjic) and his daughter Abby (Kirsten Prout), she balks and soon the trio is on the run from the shadowy forces of an evil organization known only as The Hand.
Much like Daredevil, Elektra comes off as a condensed version of a much richer story. The back-story of the struggle between the forces of good and the evil The Hand are narrated in the first few moments of the film, rather than the information being presented within the context of the story itself. A bad movie, considering it tips off why The Hand are interested in Abby. There are hints of the history between Elektra and her martial arts trainer Stick (Terence Stamp), but they are never fleshed out to a point where they generate any emotional resonance for the audience. The villainous squad of assassins on Elektra’s trail are cardboard cutouts, none fleshed out any further than having a signature superpower. While ultimately, Elektra disposes of them, as well as numerous faceless ninjas, she never faces down the enigmatic head of the Hand. One suspects that this is in the hope of having a continuing threat for any potential sequels.
The script is rather pedestrian fare, containing virtually no surprises. When Elektra first meets Mark and Abby, it’s obvious that they’re the ones Elektra has been hired to kill. Story ideas are presented than promptly ignored, such as the mention that Elektra may be suffering from a mild case of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Character motivations also don’t make much sense. We’re told that Elektra is protecting Abby from the Hand, as she doesn’t want to see the young girl wind up like herself. Which would make sense, except for the fact that Elektra was never trained by, or a member of, the Hand.
Garner tries her best with the material given to her, but she’s severely under-serviced by the screenplay. Elektra is emotionally distant for most of the film, but unless one was familiar with Daredevil, no explanation is forthcoming for her withdrawal. It seems that the filmmakers here are trying to distance themselves from Elektra’s progenitor film as much as possible, making on the only vaguest of references to her previous “death” in Daredevil. This hurts the film, as it potentially leaves anyone who hadn’t seen the previous film to wonder what she’s talking about when she mentions being brought back to life by Stick.
At the end of the film, Elektra says to Stick “Your second life is never like your first,” to which the blind martial arts master responds, “Sometimes it’s even better.” This was certainly true of Daredevil, which became a much improved movie through the release of a Director’s Cut version on DVD this past fall. Perhaps there’s a better movie to be made from the cutting room floor scraps of Elektra as well.