Marvel Movie Madness! Part 29: Elektra

by | July 13, 2011 | Comments

Enter Marvel Movie Madness, wherein Rotten Tomatoes watches all of the significant Marvel movies ever made. Full Marvel Movie Madness list here. Tune in! We give you our thoughts, and you give us yours.

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Part 29: Elektra (2005, 10% @ 151 reviews)

Directed by Rob Bowman, starring Jennifer Garner, Terence Stamp, Goran Visnjic, Will Yun Lee

Ryan: I don’t believe Elektra deserves its current 10% Tomatometer score at all. Elektra was only marginally worse than Daredevil, and in fact, it held my attention for a much longer time than Daredevil did before it took a turn for the worse (relatively speaking).

The first thing to note about Elektra is that it doesn’t operate as a true spinoff of Daredevil, because the events of that film seem to have been wiped from Elektra’s memory. I expected to see a revenge story, with Elektra tracking down Bullseye, Kingpin, and maybe even Daredevil himself, but aside from a few vague flashbacks, we’re given precious little to connect the dots. Also, unlike Daredevil, Elektra takes itself rather seriously, with few winks at the audience and just the faintest touch of humor. The entire first act feels like a traditional action flick, and honestly, I think if they stuck to that, it could have made for a passable, if familiar, assassin’s story. But it wouldn’t be a superhero movie without a bit of “super,” and that’s where the villains come in.

The movie has a lot of problems, ranging from poor character development to lifeless action sequences, but I think my biggest gripe was with the rogue’s gallery Elektra faces. The film sets up The Hand to be a powerful force, but their abilities are more showy than effective (What was Kinkou’s power anyway? Immaculate taste in men’s undershirts?), and the final battle with Kirigi, probably the least menacing of all of them, left me wholly unsatisfied. Also, what a waste of Cary Tagawa. Despite all of its other flaws, if Elektra had had some quality enemies to battle, I really think this movie could have been better than Daredevil. As it stands, it’s just a humdrum chase movie with flaccid action and some puzzling directorial choices.

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Luke: Ryan, I had the same Cary Tagawa thought: when you see that guy at the beginning, after a passable enough animated prologue invoking some pseudo-samurai babble, you kind of hope that maybe he’ll provide an interesting adversary — or at least face off against Terence Stamp in a duel of old masters. Oh well. Not that I was exactly hoping for, well, anything here.

When you can’t get your central hero right, there’s trouble. We’re led to believe that Elektra is a stone-cold assassin sworn only to her professional code — despite the fact that Jennifer Garner looks like she should be shopping for lip balm in Sherman Oaks — and yet, there she goes all gooey on the first guy she’s assigned to kill because, what, he’s got a turtleneck, an accent, and a teenage daughter who broke in and tried to rob her house? And the villains, as you say, felt like a sideshow thrown in every time the movie needed some action — and even then it was heavily CGI’d and not at all involving. I love how Rob Bowman spent so much effort orchestrating the digital sheets billowing all over the fight sequence in the hotel dining room that he seemed to forget to give the audience a proper battle. It was like Elektra and The Hand assassin were having a scuffle outside someone’s wedding reception. Like you say, this would have been better (if just as forgettable) as a straight-up assassin action movie, or maybe a mentor-prodigy thing between Elektra and the girl.

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Jeff: Given my passionate loathing for Daredevil, I was expecting Elektra to be torturous, but in a lot of ways, I think it’s actually a better film. For one thing, it simply looks better; whatever the movie’s flaws — and it has plenty of them — Bill Roe’s cinematography deserves special mention. It’s all beautifully lit, with loads of artfully framed shots, and in these days of decidedly un-cinematic movies, it’s hard to take that for granted.

And for the first 45 minutes or so, Elektra almost sort of works. Garner is a credible action hero, even if I don’t think she’s capable of carrying the dramatic weight the character requires, and those opening sequences do a nice job of weaving between cleanly staged action and psychological drama. (Note: yes, I did watch the director’s cut.)

But then things start to get silly. After Elektra kills a ninja and he disappears in a puff of green smoke, she says “What comes after will be worse,” and she isn’t kidding. If you’ve ever wanted to watch a movie in which one of the villains is a guy with a magic bird tattoo that can come to life and fly, Elektra is for you; otherwise, it’s just a really weird mishmash of soapy comic thrills and further examples of Hollywood’s patronizing, confused view of Eastern mysticism and martial arts.


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