I remember when I thought a movie with Elektra in it would
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
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
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
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.)
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
If there is any reason to see this movie, go for the powder-blue
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
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.
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.