Prior the release of Daredevil season one last year, I revisited the 2003 Daredevil film to see if it still deserved to be regarded as one of the most disappointing film adaptations of a comic book character. And it still does. Now, prior to the release of Daredevil season two and the introduction of Elektra and the Hand to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I’ve watched the spin-off film Elektra to see if it too deserved to be viewed as one of the worst comic book movies ever made.
Elektra starts off with the makings of a decent movie and a really fun martial arts movie. The film’s opening offers a brief history of a discreet war between two rivaling ninja factions and a straightforward assertion that a woman named Elektra can be the advantage to any one side. What follows is a sequence of Elektra infiltrating an occupied building to take out her target. This sets her up as an infamous assassin who was recently brought back from the dead to be an assassin-for-hire. It’s a good establishment of tone, character, and a foundation for a good plot, but it wastes all those things when it dedicates the next 30 minutes to Elektra just walking, sitting, looking far away, or contemplating. This is the perfect metaphorical representation for the entire film. Elektra is not so much horrendously awful as its legacy would have everyone believe, it just doesn’t show any drive to be anything more than a bunch of shots edited together.
Elektra has the typical dragging first act of a standalone superhero story, and never actually does anything to delve into the character. All the audience gets is Jennifer Garner looking off into the distance while trying her best to emote instead of getting some actual character insight. We get roughly a minute and a half of flashback scenes spread across the entire movie, and that simply isn’t enough for the thematic and character elements to connect. What the film intends to show (or at least, what I think the film had in mind; the substance is too spread thin for me to give an accurate answer of what the film was about) is that Elektra is struggling with her past and protecting Abby, a girl who parallels her own experiences as a child. This seems, at first, to provide an opportunity in which Elektra can find redemption. It sounds interesting, both for the plot and the character, but the film totally mishandles it. We’re supposed to make the connection between Elektra and Abby’s parallels, but then the film doesn’t bother to reveal anything about Elektra’s childhood more than one brief scene.
It also doesn’t help that the actors involved don’t know how to play off of each other. None of the character dynamics make sense. Everyone reads their lines in the most monotonous way possible, and so trying to infer anything from the scene, other than what they’re saying in expository, is a pointless exercise. All the relationships are so muddled, as well. The villain dramatically reveals to the audience that a minor villain is his father, but the film doesn’t expound on that relationship at all in any of the following scenes. A supporting character goes from trusting Elektra with his life to not trusting her with his secrets to making out with her all within the span of a few scenes together. Watching characters go through the motions without establishing dynamics or motivations easily lends itself to making the film more tedious to watch.
Is Elektra still one of the worst comic book movies made? The short answer is no. Even with cinematography that looks like mid-2000s CW, villains that are about as memorable as Mortal Kombat characters, and a lot of Jennifer Garner staring, Elektra never warrants any reaction that would deem it as “one of the worst.” It doesn’t revel in extreme absurdities nor does it do things to damage the character (it really shows no character at all). What Elektra is is a boring film lacking any inspiration whatsoever. She faded away from mainstream media after the film, but now Netflix and Marvel Television have the means to give her the redemption the character deserves.
Featured Image: Elektra, 20th Century Fox