ELEKTRA (Director’s Cut): I Don’t Want You to Be Like Me

Elektra: Director’s Cut (2005) – Directed by Rob Bowman – Starring Jennifer Garner, Goran Visnjic, Kirsten Prout, Will Yun Lee, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Terence Stamp, and Ben Affleck.

Why?

Seriously, why?

Why make a superhero movie where the lead character spends the bulk of the film playing all Little Miss Mopey Pants? Who wants to watch this? Who says, “You know what I want to spend my money on this weekend? A film about a hot assassin who spends the bulk of the front-half of the film being all mopey and bored instead of hot and deadly, and the second-half playing Mommy to a kid who’s a prodigy at kicking ass better than she is. Yeah, sign me up for that slow burn to Snooze Town.”

(Snooze Town? Yeah, I don’t know. I’m acting.)

The good news is that ELEKTRA is not nearly as bad as I’d been led to believe. It’s certainly worlds better than Catwoman, so maybe the film seems better than it actually is because it was made with something resembling skill, but I just can’t get over how dreary it is; it’s like the film is so desperate to be taken seriously and so desperately in love with its own style that it forgets to build momentum. If this is the story they really wanted to make, I don’t understand why they didn’t just rip off The Bourne Identity – now there’s a film about an assassin who protects someone and the film still goes somewhere. ELEKTRA looks cool but it’s in love with itself; where the film should be going hard and fast to make you feel the violence, it too often goes soft and slo-mo so you can appreciate Jennifer Garner jumping and twirling.

I’m a bit confused by this conception of Elektra (Garner). At first, she’s this god-like, mythical nightmare, killing endless security guards to get to some cheeseball in a suit. We’re talking Grade A Bad Ass. But the next time we see her, she’s this OCD-suffering cleaning lady who doesn’t want to take her next job, but does take her next job. So she takes it because it pays $2 million and then she gets all mopey at a lakehouse waiting for her assignment to come in. She spends a good amount of time through the rest of the film playing all surprised and shocked and, frankly, rather amateurish. What is she? The world’s best assassin (“They wouldn’t pay anyone else that much,” she humblebrags somberly), or this frightened girl in a young woman’s body? If the idea is that Elektra regaining her humanity brings with it the desire to act like an amateur and play mommy, well, it might make narrative sense, but it’s not a narrative I want to watch.

This conception of the character doesn’t play to Garner’s strengths as an actress, which are … well, whatever they are, they’re not present here. This is not a good performance, but it’s not a good character so I don’t know what a good actress could have done with this role that Garner doesn’t gamely try.

ELEKTRA does have a nice look to it, and the villains are decent, so once Kirigi (Will Yun Lee) and his Assassination Squad enter the film, there’s some good action scenes; unfortunately, the main plot of Elektra needing to protect a man (Goran Visnjic) and his daughter, the assassin prodigy (Kirsten Prout) never really works. It makes Elektra far too reactive a character rather than an active one, and the whole Elektra-as-Surrogate-Sister/Mom is pretty cringe-worthy.

But at least ELEKTRA goes somewhere. This is not a good movie, but if you watch it after Catwoman, it won’t seem like a complete waste of your time, and you might even find yourself enjoying the scenes with Kirigi’s hit squad.

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