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Elektra
Reviewed by Joe Crowe, © 2005

Format: Movie
By:   Rob Bowman (director)
Genre:   Superhero
Released:   Released January 14, 2005
Review Date:   February 13, 2005
Audience Rating:   Rated PG-13
RevSF Rating:   3/10 (What Is This?)

I remember when I thought a movie with Elektra in it would be cool.

I thought that for years, since the mid-1980s Marvel Comics prime of the character. She's a female ninja in very little clothing, a star of classic Daredevil comics by Frank Miller. Then I remember the stark realization that a movie with Elektra in it might not be cool — and it wasn't her appearance in the Daredevil movie.

It was this movie, when Elektra met a teen girl juvenile delinquent, who made Elektra's tough as nails demeanor begin to crack. And then the Elektra movie became The Golden Child, but with 100 percent less Eddie Murphy. It's also the exact same plot as several John Wayne movies, but there's no Duke here either.

The child charming a tough bastard into showing his or her heart of gold has been done about 50 zillion times. None of them were comic book movies, though, so I guess there had to be one eventually. Why couldn't they have gotten it over with on Howard the Duck? Even X-Men had a touch of it, but at least there was other stuff going on.

In Elektra, this is all we get. So our choices are: Like it, which teen girls might; or lump it, which I shall proceed to do now.

Comics Elektra is a bitter, remorseless assassin. Her heart is thawed by Daredevil (not in the same way as the little girl in the movie). Then, like nearly every comic heroine, she is killed brutally. Then ninja magic revives her, and about 50 miniseries later she's a guest star in Wolverine.

In the Daredevil movie, she's not very Comic Book Elektra at all. Elektra in the comics was on a journey toward redemption. Movie Elektra was already good, except she just didn't see Bullseye kill her daddy, which began her descent into Evanescence playing on the soundtrack. Then she went on one mission and was killed.

In this movie, she's already angry, but not about her daddy. This time she's got mommy issues. In the sequel, will she be mad about her Uncle Larry?

Elektra is full of silly, misplaced, or just unsuccessful plot points, characters, and scenes. There's a full story here, which is more than I can say for Daredevil. But must my innocence be scorned for seeking it?

The movie begins with a voiceover about "The Treasure," a wonderful thing that will bring everyone peace and love and stuff. Elektra was The Treasure, but now she's not. Now the teen girl is The Treasure. But later in the movie, villainess Typhoid says that she used to be The Treasure, too. Did they take turns? ("I thought it was you this week." "No, I start next Tuesday.")

A chunk of time is spent in a Japanese executive board room, where the villains speak in subtitles and the super-villains demonstrate their powers. Then the boardroom is never seen again. I think the magic healing guy who disappeared in The Punisher works there.

After one assassination, Elektra is in a big empty mansion. Then she accepts her next mission and suddenly she's in a completely different empty mansion. Did I fall asleep? Not that I expect a movie to show a character waiting in line at baggage claim, but give me something.

One of the villains has tattoos that come to life. His name is Tattoo. I thought of the little guy on Fantasy Island going "Hey Boss, what's Klinger's fantasy this week?" Memo: That name should be stricken from the list of character names. (Tattoo, not Klinger.)

Girl Power

The annoying kid is an easy out in any action movie, and Elektra's not that hard a character to wrap one's head around. There are brief dialogue bits that made me think they were going to nail it, but then the girl would get kidnapped.

She notes that maybe Elektra has obsessive-compulsive disorder. As a plot point, not as a punchline. Then it's never mentioned again. And she has a weapon of her own — a magic bracelet that turns into an electric whip. But it doesn't stretch, so all the villains need to do is stay six inches away. Deep, cleansing sigh. . . . There, there. It'll all be over soon.

I got the sense watching this movie that something was just wrong; like the creators just gave up and made the first thing that came to their minds. Oddly enough, that first thing was a 14-year-old girl with a magic bracelet.

Kneel Before Stick

Terence Stamp was awesome as General Zod in Superman 2. Here he plays Stick, Daredevil's tough mentor from the comics. He gets a different outfit in every one of his scenes. It's like he's demonstrating each of the Stick action figures, but there are no Stick action figures. There's Ninja Robe Stick. Then Pool Hustler Stick! Then Forest Adventure Stick in Powder-Blue Camouflage!

If there is any reason to see this movie, go for the powder-blue camouflage.

Ninjas!

Did I mention the ninjas?

Ninjas used to be shorthand for "bad mothers" in adventure fiction. If only one showed up, you were in trouble. They had the quickness. They would kill you so fast, you wouldn't even know it.

The end for them was the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comics in the mid-1980s. That contained a Daredevil reference in its first issue. That was the end of lone ninja action. It took four of them just to be fair.

Thereafter, the Turtles stacked ninja corpses like pancakes in the mid-1980s. At that same time over in Marvel, Wolverine and Elektra were stabbing whole armies of them like they were corn on the cob.

The Tick comic book crystallized the notion that ninjas are funny, and it added an "Elektra" parody as a bonus. Now we have come full circle, and ninjas are in the Elektra movie. And let me tell you, they're hilarious.

They present way too much of a threat to the star of the movie. It's a 10-minute scene for what would have been half a panel's work for Comic Book Elektra. But the best part is, they disappear in a puff of green smoke when Elektra kills them, like ghosts eaten by Pac-Man. Either the point is that these are more of a threat because they are MAGIC ninjas, or somebody thought dead bodies were icky.

Then good ninjas show up. You know they're good because they wear white. Which sort of screws up that whole stealth business, unless they're in Iceland. Or is it Greenland? I always get that mixed up. Either way: shiny white ninjas.

Alias Elektra

Jennifer Garner is a good actress. She's very good in Alias. But I'm not sold on her Elektra. And I'm not saying that out of comic-book fan spite. She twirled the sai convincingly, and her costume is sexier this time than in Daredevil, although it still keeps safely on the side of reality, eschewing the comics' hip boots and skull cap.

I am not saying that I wanted a top-heavy Playmate with a black wig and a vacant stare. Garner doesn't work for me as Elektra because she's too cute. When she tries to be steely, brutal, and cold, she looks like she's about to cry.

Here's the thing. If you have never read Comics Elektra, you will say "Haven't I seen this movie before?" If you have read Comics Elektra, you will say "Gak! This isn't Comics Elektra!" It misses an easy target.

Humor editor Joe Crowe is silent but deadly.

 
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