[Contains ghost ninjas and SPOILERS!!!]
When I first watched Elektra (2005), a couple of years after its release, I summed it up thusly: “Terrible Film/Good DVD”. Seeing it on sale in a charity shop for 10p last week, I couldn’t resist a second viewing, but can’t say the main feature has improved much with age.
There’s no doubt that Jennifer Garner looks fantastic in the lead role, and I don’t doubt that she trained herself to exhaustion learning all of the stunts and fight sequences, which are carelessly chopped up beyond all comprehension here… but she’s far too sweet to be playing a character with such a dark past and “tormented” present. Sure, she’s sexy… but it’s a cute-and-controlled kind of sexy, not a scary-siren kind of sexy. I just don’t buy her as a bad-ass blood-spiller recently returned from the brink of death… and a comic-book-inspired action flick about a super-powered assassin really should be a lot more fun than the turgid slog they serve up here! I half-suspect the writers were trying to appeal to a female audience (and off-set the eye-candy factor) by lumbering their heroine with a precocious surrogate daughter, and mournful love interest… but all it does is slow her down and suck the energy out of her story, so I can’t help wishing she’d completed her initial contract, and let her arrow fly through their unsuspecting skulls.
I didn’t find the unrelenting cockiness of ‘Abby Miller’ (Kirsten Prout) quite as annoying as I did the first time around… though I still think the whole “chosen one” angle is painfully blah, and vaguely nonsensical. I mean, did the baddies even try luring her family to the dark side by calmly and rationally explaining the potential benefits of joining their criminal organisation? Or did they just skip straight to the kidnapping/mother-murdering part of their plan? ‘Cuz that doesn’t seem like a very cost-effective or reliable recruitment strategy to me.
The only real positive I can come up with is that Natassia Malthe’s ‘Typhoid’ makes for a pretty great villainess… aside from how gorgeous she looks in the gothy make-up and clothing, she also gives Elektra a prolonged (and very literal) “Kiss of Death”, and impulsively decides she’s going to kill lil’ Abby just for the fun of it! She was pretty much the only character I cared about… though I did find her death scene unintentionally laugh-worthy. Seriously, how strong would Elektra have to be to throw a spinning sai through so many solid hedges, without it losing any speed or stopping dead? Why not just toss it over the maze instead? Gah!
Really though, the DVD’s main selling point is a fifty-minute documentary featuring interviews with the major writers and artists who have worked on the Elektra character since her inception. I wasn’t familiar with the comics myself, but it gives an interesting insight into how Frank Miller works with other artists, and how it feels to try to follow an industry legend like him, by reviving one of his creations. Mostly it’s a series of “talking heads”, but the interviewees are all good company, and it’s inspiring to hear them talk about their craft with such passion and commitment. None of them are in any doubt that comic books are a viable medium for ambitious artistic expression and experimentation, and frankly it’s a shame the film-makers didn’t follow their exuberant example!