Today, I left the house at the uncharacteristically early time of 1:30 PM in order to go to the launch of Mango JAM, the all-girl mangazine release of Mango Comics. Editrix Extraordiaire Nikki was there, but I had missed Dean, who had gone off to watch a movie.
With screaming girls all around me, I decided to slip away immediately and use my time productively. And so, I watched Elektra the movie.
By some coincidence, I was wearing my new Elektra T-shirt, so whoop-de-do there I was looking all the world like an Elektra comic book geek off to see the already-doomed-to-never-please-me film translation.
To it's credit, the film isn't horrible. Well, I've seen (or will see) worse, such as Catwoman. But even with me totally in love with the gorgeous Jennifer Garner, I have to say that I was right in all my expectations. And these expectations were that I would be disappointed.
Yes, I wanted Elektra to have her red cloth bikini outfit with the red wraps and the bandanna. I knew going into the film that this just wasn't to be- Hollywood had once again limited and rationalized comic book fantasy into their conventions. I know quite a few writers out there are saying that the film 'finally got Elektra's costume right' but I disagree. Her costume's just a red version of her horrid outfit in Daredevil, complete with totally ridiculous high-heeled boots.
Elektra isn't about hi-tech weapons- this is the premier human warrior of the Marvel Universe; a martial artist of the highest caliber. All she needs is an antique katana or sai, and that's it. She eats special forces teams and ninja armies for breakfast. Her body is her main armament, and this just doesn't come through in the movie. Heck, they have to SPELL IT OUT to the audience that Elektra is one bad mother with the boring opening sequence (with a wasted Jason Isaacs as one of the assassin's targets).
Long story short- This really isn't Elektra. It's just a more angsty Sydney Bristow in Alias sans good writing and intriguing plots.
Anway, onto the film. Elektra picks up immediately after Elektra's death in Daredevil, though little to no reference to the Ben Affleck starrer is actually mentioned. The dead Elektra Natchios is found by Stick, a blind ninja master played by Terence Stamp (who actually is pretty good here, though he reminded me of his mentor character from Young Guns). Stick uses oriental mystical power to bring Elektra back from the dead, and then takes the girl under his wing to become a ninja warrior.
Shades of Jedi training, Elektra proves to be Stick's strongest warrior, but her inner rage and anger eventually drives her from her master's school. She eventually becomes a much-feared contract killer, receiving messages and orders from a dispatcher/agent named McCabe.
One day, Elektra is sent on a job to kill an unknown target. She stays for a while in a house on an island, and while waiting for her orders meets Abby (Kirsten Prout), a feisty 13-year old girl and her father, Mark Miller (Goran Visnjic). In short order, she warms up to the father and daughter, only to later find out that THEY are her targets. Despite being a supposedly cold, emotionless killer, Elektra can't bring herself to kill the two, and later, when assassins from the sinister Hand organization come to clean up her leftovers, she finds herself fighting to save the Millers lives.
The story is pretty much that simple. Elektra fighting to save her former targets, and in doing so redeems herself and settles the ghosts of her past. It's not a horrid story, but it also doesn't help matters any that the action scenes and execution of the movie is pretty lame.
You have The Hand, which in the comics are supposed to be THE deadliest and most fearsome ninja on the planet... but in the movie are pretty much the wussiest ninja on the planet. Sure, they have cool weapons and explode into green flame when they die, but they NEVER seem to be a viable threat. And there's a shortage of ninja in this ninja film. Elektra like, fights real ninja only once or twice, then later takes out an entire ninja squad by LEAVING THE GAS RUNNING. Lame. Why couldn't these ninja be at least as mean as John Lone's cohorts in the old Christopher Lambert ninja film, The Hunted? Why, even the enemies in Amerian Ninja were better! Instead of having Elektra fight really cool and deadly ninja, we are given a bunch of goth and rave rejects with CG enhanced effects to cover up a lack of any good fight choreography.
As for the much-hyped Hand Elite, they are- Kirigi (Will Yun Lee), the heir-apparent to the Hand Council and a matchless swordsman with magical speed; Tattoo, who can create deadly animals from, well, his tattoos; Stone, a big black dude who is hard as stone but weak against WOOD; Typhoid, a woman who spreads diseases with her breath (eew), and last, there's one other guy who appears in the poster but whom I just can't remember.
Kirigi is the coolest-looking, with his katakana-marked robes and swords; the others just look like his groupies. Heh.
Anyway, for all their colorful appearances, without exception ALL the fights and resolutions with Kirigi's group are disappointingly abrupt and unsatisfyingly weak. For a movie that should be all about action and cool-as-hell martial arts/ninja fighting, I found myself gaping at the fights, saying 'WHAT?! That was IT???' The fight choreography, the direction of the action, it's all just lacking. MORTAL KOMBAT (the movie) had better action than this. Elektra herself doesn't impress me at all, though Miss Garner does do a good job of twirling a mean sai- it's just that the fights themselves aren't exciting or exceptional.
As a whole though, Elektra is inconsistent- it's slow for the most part, with sporadic attempts to gain a pulse, but dying everytime with every attempt. There are just so many ways, so many details that this could have been so much better, so much cooler, so much sexier and so much more... ELEKTRA.
There could have been more acrobatics. More of Elektra actually kicking butt. More fights with ninja to show off her real skill and believability that this woman is damn good. More establishment of The Hand being a mystical and terrifyingly powerful force of evil. More depth and thinking into the details of characters such as McCabe the dispatcher, or the members of Kirigi's squad. Or even just more into making the script and the plot more believable and the action truer to it's roots as a kick-ass comic. So much was just not done well enough to make a difference, and elevate Elektra from being just a run of the mill comic translation along the lines of The Phantom or Barbwire. Too bad.
If you go into this without knowing the character of Elektra, maybe you can pass it off as a slightly watchable Jennifer Garner/Alias movie with a ninja spin. But then, it's still pretty boring at parts, with not enough spice to make it special. Though she smiles a bit too widely and really doesn't convince me of her being Elektra, Miss Garner IS the best thing in this film. Which is really not a good thing to say about a movie.
Want to watch cool martial arts adventure? Watch Kung Fu Hustle instead. Or again.
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