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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) couldnt 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. Its opaque where it should be clear (motivations; fight scenes). Its 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 Afflecks 2003 movie Daredevil — she was dead. At the beginning of this movie, though, the voice of Elektras 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 whats Elektra doing now that shes alive again? Oh, killing people. Shes 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, isnt her strong suit. Shes fidgety and haunted — not by her own death, or the deaths of others shes 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 cant 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 Hollywoods 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