erik lundegaard

Elektra
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Elektra (2005)

For comic-book nerds salivating at the thought of seeing an ass-kicking superheroine in a bustier, a warning: The nerds at the preview screening for “Elektra” (and there are no nerds like the nerds at preview screenings) couldn’t wait to leave the theater.

At one point, during one of the interminable interludes between the mediocre fight scenes, the guy in front of me leaned his head back, stared at the ceiling and groaned. And not with pleasure.

“Elektra” is bad. It’s opaque where it should be clear (motivations; fight scenes). It’s clear where it should be opaque (what happens next). It substitutes atmosphere for story and wants us to care about unlikable characters.

The last time we saw Elektra (Jennifer Garner) — in Ben Affleck’s 2003 movie “Daredevil” — she was dead. At the beginning of this movie, though, the voice of Elektra’s sensei (Terrence Stamp) informs us, “Since time began,” a war has been waged against an evil empire, The Hand, and masters in this war have the power, among other things, to bring back the dead. Which he has apparently done with his star pupil.

So what’s Elektra doing now that she’s alive again? Oh, killing people. She’s such a deadly assassin she has her own agent (Colin Cunningham). Her most recent gig involves traveling to a remote, Pacific Northwest-looking island, where she awaits orders.

Waiting, though, isn’t her strong suit. She’s fidgety and haunted — not by her own death, or the deaths of others she’s caused, but by her father, who once made her tread water for a really long time.

On the island, she runs into a smirky teenage girl (Kirsten Prout), who tries to steal from her, and who just happens to have a handsome single father with three-day stubble (Goran Visnjic). Not surprisingly, they turn out to be her targets. Not surprisingly, she can’t go through with it. When Japanese assassins show up to do the deed, she switches sides and the three go on the lam.

Most of the martial-arts heroes in the movie are white; most of the martial-arts villains are Asian. Which is apparently Hollywood’s way of thanking Asia for the whole martial-arts phenomenon.

Is there anything of value here? Not much. “You talk in riddles, old man,” she tells her sensei. “It ends now!” the main villain barks at her. If only, I thought.

—This review originally appeared in The Seattle Times on January 14, 2005.

© 2005 Erik Lundegaard