Comic-book sensei Frank Miller introduced Elektra, a Marvel Comics character with a dark mythology developed in the pages of Daredevil and, later, her own title. The 2003 movie Daredevil gave Elektra big-screen life in the form of Jennifer Garner. Rob Bowman's spinoff movie Elektra brings Garner's Elektra back from the dead, and though the attempt is moody and earnest, I can't say that it's smart or memorable.
Bowman's story-telling—from a thin script by Zak Penn, Stuart Zicherman & Raven Metzner—is roughly as coherent as Mark Steven Johnson's Daredevil narrative, which is to say: not very. Elektra, who's been vaguely messed up by her hard-ass parents and rejected by blind good-guy guru Stick (Terence Stamp), takes assassin jobs from her agent and practices her trick of suddenly appearing behind people. Come to think of it, with all of the slo-mo billowing sheets on display here, Elektra's sort of like David Copperfield, if he killed people on purpose.
Anyway, after offing Jason Isaacs in the opening minutes, Elektra is due for a vacation, but she accepts another gig, to slaughter the rather pleasant-seeming Mark Miller and his kleptomaniac daughter Abby (Goran Visnjic and Kirsten Prout). She just can't quite bring herself to shank 'em with her fancy sai, though, so she winds up protecting the hunky love interest and the pint-sized Elektra-in-training from the sinister syndicate known as "The Hand." Or as Stamp intones over the opening seconds of the movie, "Since time began, a war has been fought in the shadows between good and evil..." Yada, yada, yada.
The problem is that Elektra, as played by Garner, just isn't a terribly expressive character, which leaves us to make our own way through the dreamy flashbacks and dopey dialogue (Stick: "I'm blind, and I see more than any of you because I don't look"). The sluggish plot feels like a line drawing of Terminator 2: Judgment Day, with its taciturn hero—programmed to kill—protecting a kid representing the future. Along the way, it's a journey of self-discovery...or something.
If Elektra was to work, it needed some killer trappings, but Garner must fall back on the moves she works to greater effect on TV's Alias every week: kick ass, brood, cry, repeat. Don't get me wrong: she cuts a striking figure in her bright-red bustier and hot pants, but the gloom-and-doom demeanor overwhelms even the action that should allow the movie to take off.
The other half of the film's "draw" is "The Hand," but the inarticulate bad guys—Roshi (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa), Kirigi (Will Yun Lee), Tattoo (Chris Ackerman), Stone (Bob Sapp), and Kinkou (Edson T. Ribeiro)—offer quantity, not quality, and fold like houses of cards as soon as Elektra gets down to business. Typhoid Mary (Natassia Malthe) offers one of the movie's only truly memorable moments when she tries to give Elektra the literal kiss of death, an old chestnut we haven't seen in a while.
If, like me, you kept rooting for Elektra to gain steam, you'll be disappointed. The stylish design, eerily stately and shadowy, does linger in the mind a bit, but the humans are too remote. Prout's Abby feels more like concept than character, and Visjnic is window dressing. There's something to one of his exchanges with Garner, though. He: "Elektra. Like the tragedy. Your parents must have had a sense of humor." She: "Not really." Unfortunately, Elektra resembles that remark.