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Elektra (2005)
Tonight's Feature Presentation

ELEKTRA (2005)

Starring: Jennifer Garner, Goran Visnjic, Kirsten Prout, Will Yun Lee, Terence Stamp, Natassia Malthe

Written By: Zak Penn, Stuart Zicherman, Raven Metzner Directed By: Rob Bowman

The Short Version

A skewed spinoff from an awful comic book flick tries its best to be worse.

It starts off by having no coherent idea of what to do with itself.

You’ve seen all of these clichés many times before and many times better.

Elektra is a shamefully wasted opportunity on so many levels.

Though it’s not the very worst comic book flick ever, Elektra is still very easy to skip.

The Long Version

What Kind Of Cheese Is It?


The people who cooked with it have no idea what it really is either.

Pairs Well With...

MAD DOG 20/20.

At least you won’t care how silly the script is after a few hits of the stuff.  Maybe.

“I’m sorry.”

“Yeah.  I hated that.”

When Daredevil came out in 2003, most audiences agreed about two things.  First, the movie was bad.  Second, Jennifer Garner’s portrayal of Elektra Natchios was far and away the best (and often only good) thing about the movie.

Apparently, the studio decided that the failure of Daredevil wasn’t complete enough, possibly wooed by accountants who whispered sweet nothings in their ears about the fact that while it was a critical disaster, Daredevil did none the less manage to turn a profit.  And so, over the reported objections of the star herself, Marvel and pals decided to go ahead and make a spin-off out of Elektra.

The end result isn’t the worst comic book flick ever made, but it is a failure, and a collection of horribly wasted opportunities that do a great disservice to nearly everyone involved.  How does Elektra disappoint?  Let me count just a few of the ways.

The Character.  For those who haven’t seen Daredevil, the character of Elektra makes next to no sense, and for those who have seen Daredevil, she makes even less.  (And if you’ve read the comics… you should know what movie scripts do to those by now, right?)  Forget continuity between films; the title character can’t even stay consistent through this one.  So Elektra was killed somehow (more in a sec) before the movie started and brought back from the dead.  Okay.  Then the guy who brought her back started training her to be a ninja until he suddenly quit and kicked her out.  Then she became an assassin.  With Jedi powers.  Who can raise the dead herself if she thinks about it hard enough.  Oh, and she’s OCD whenever she remembers to be.  And Elektra’s mother was killed by a random demon for no apparent reason when Elektra was a kid, and her father was psychologically abusive and tortured her by making her tread water… wait, what the hell?  None of this gels with what came before, and there’s precious little consistent context here.  Sure, one can make sense of it if one really tries (liquor helps), but I don’t think even the writers were in full agreement of who Elektra was supposed to be when they finally gave up and called it a screenplay.

The Story.  This aimless, directionless character is then dropped into a story that is very nearly the polar opposite of anything that the audience could have wanted or been expecting.  Screen audiences first met Elektra as an ass kicking action machine grounded in good old fashioned real world vengeance, and they loved it… so why, then, all of this ridiculous “puff the magic demon” nonsense?  (When demons die, they apparently go out in puffs of black and yellow visual effects and disappear into nothingness.)  Part of it derives from a paradox: the studio wanted to capitalize on the one good thing to come out of Daredevil (the character of Elektra), but they were savvy enough about the general reaction to that film that they wanted to give their spin-off some distance.  (That’s why the previous film is never mentioned in this one at all, thus giving no context to Elektra’s initial resurrection.)  The problem is that they give it too much distance, and the results are a mess.  The plot is a hodgepodge of mismatched clichés (assassin decides to protect the target instead of killing her, check; “the chosen one” thing, check; the blind sensei who doesn’t give straight answers, check; the kid who’s a mirror image of the hero in younger days, check) that the writers never do manage to finish sewing together and which do not at all jive with the ass kicking comic book adventure any reasonable audience was waiting for.  And what’s with the useless two kiss “romance” angle?  Or the “booking agent” whose personality changes based on convenience?  Is that supposed to be an ending?  How could anyone have ever considered this script “finished”?  The world may never know.

The Cast.  Stuck in this mess is a cast that deserves better.  Jennifer Garner later admitted that she didn’t even want to make Elektra, but that contractual obligations left her little choice.  (She also thought the finished film was awful.)  Even without that bit of knowledge, it’s easy to see that her heart’s not in it for this flick like it was for the last one, but with this script, it’s impossible to blame her.  She does what she can, but when the story can’t settle on who or what her character’s even supposed to be and when the camera is treating her as a little more than a fashion model with screen combat skills, there’s just no escaping the agony of defeat.  Indeed, none of the actors in Elektra really do a bad job (I particularly like Natassia Malthe as Typhoid); the fact that the movie is so bad despite the efforts of the players is a testament to just how half-baked the story and its visual execution are, and how directionless it is.

Women Everywhere.  Women have little enough representation as headliners in real comic books; when those characters get translated to the screen, it’s even more abysmal.  What’s out there?  On the small screen, there was “Wonder Woman,” and Lynda Carter was good.  Beyond that?  Nothing good.  Halle Berry’s Catwoman flick from 2004 often finds itself discussed during conversations about not just the worst comic book flicks ever, but worst movies ever, period.  Elektra was the genre’s chance to not only bounce back from that failure, but to finally start to do right by the ladies.  Instead… well, you’ve read what’s above.  A golden opportunity to help level the playing field instead becomes a disaster that’s probably a large part of the reason there’s still no Black Widow movie and why Wonder Woman is more likely to show up as a side character on the big screen before she gets a headline shot.  Women in film and women in the audience (not to mention all moviegoers regardless of gender) deserve a hell of a lot better.

And the beat goes on, but I think you get the idea.  The action that the audience was looking for to begin with varies wildly in quality (the sheets just don’t work), the pacing is almost nonexistent, and the only three gears that the direction drives in are “dull,” “awkward,” and “hope the choreographer got it right.”  It’s even a stretch to look at Elektra as lampoon material for an evening with liquor and friends, though I do think that if you are going to watch this movie, that’s probably the best way to, because nothing good can come of trying to take it seriously.

Bottom line, Elektra isn’t just a bad movie; it’s a glaring disappointment, the effects of which are still being felt by the genre the better part of a decade later.  It’s not the worst comic book flick ever made, but in most respects, it might as well be.

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- Reviewed by Ziggy Berkeley, November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving Turkey

You can email Ziggy at ziggy@cinemaontherocks.com. You can also find us on Facebook.


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