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Recently there has been a growing trend to a relatively new film genre, the comic book flick. As with other genres this is resulting in some excellent films like Spider-Man 2 but there is another side to the coin, case in point Elektra. One thing I have always enjoyed about the Marvel Groupís comics was the way they humanized their heroes. Even as a kid I could realize how this helped me as a person identify with these ordinary people with extraordinary abilities. With Elektra (Jennifer Garner) her characteristic is she may be a beautiful young woman with a deadly mastery of martial arts but she also has obsessive-compulsive disorder. While this could be interesting it came across as something just tacked on for affect, something that came across my mind fart too often while watching this flick.

The marginal string of events that assumes the place of an actual plot goes something like this. We all knew that her death in Daredevil would not take. Elektra is revived by a martial arts grand master Stick (Terrance Stamp) and begins a new regime of training. Soon Elektra finds work as an assassin for hire and receives a job from her agent. I wonder, does he get the usual 10% and do the assassins thank there agents during some Murder-For-Hire award show? The latest assignment to be given to Elektra is $2 million for the deaths of a man, Mark (Goran Visnjic) and his 13-year-old daughter Abby (Kirsten Prout). Prior to receiving the gig she meets the pair and when the moment comes to kill them she canít go through with it. Instead of being their killer she becomes the protector of the pair, defending them from the evil doers that tried to hire Elektra. Naturally, the bad guys need a spooky name, in this case they are called The Order of the Hand, housed in a pagoda set amidst modern Tokyo buildings is a group of villains such as Tattoo (Chris Ackerman) whose animal body art came come alive.

In a series of flashbacks there is an attempt to give some degree of understanding for what drives this lethal young woman. Her father was abusive in his training of his daughter. Her mother seems distant and unable to mediate successfully between her husband and daughter. While not overtly shown this may be the basis of her refusal to kill Mark and Abby. She sees in them the father-daughter relationship long denied to her. In any case the flashback so the origins of a rather disturbed person. Add to these pre-existing dysfunctions is the fact that Mark represents both father and lover to Elektra giving a little homage to the original Greek classical tragedy, something that may be lost on the primary target audience.

The film just doesnít hold together in such a fashion as to be interesting. Sure, Jennifer Garner looks incredible in the skin tight red leather outfit but more is needed to make this an action film instead of a photo layout for a menís magazine. Not to mention the impractical nature of the outfit, while they look good on Garner high heel boots would not be a first choice for going into a life or death struggle against evil.

In casting this film the producers did well with Jennifer Garner. She would not only bring in fans of comics but also the legion of Alias fans out there. She certainly has the physical attributes necessary for the role but her natural style is not permitted a showcase here. So far my favorite Garner flick was 13 Going on 30, where her innate sense of comedy was seen. Although action roles are natural for her she might be well advised to explore more in the way of romantic comedies. Goran Visnjic does here what he does best, play the brooding but sensitive hunk. There is little else in this script for this actor to actually explore. For her young years Kirsten Prout does well as the mini-me for Elektra. Like most actors of her gender and young years she is in this opus mostly for the cute factor. Terrance Stamp is an actor of extraordinary range. He can tackle any role from a super powered villain to an Australian drag queen. Here, there is not enough of a role for his talents be fully explored.

Director Rob Bowman has a long and stellar resume, mostly with television series. His previous times in the directorís chair included such series as X-Files (include here the film), MANTIS, VR5, Alien Nation and Quantum Leap. With this track record he certain has the experience to take on a film based on a comic book. Unfortunately, the almos complete lack of script was more than even a director like this could over come. While there was potential here the film ultimately fails because of the execution. In an action movie there is a realistic expectation of, I donít know, action. The battle sequences are extremely brief, as if these super powerful individuals can only expend a few seconds of activity. These are the action equivalent of the sound bit, brief moments provided in lieu of actual substance. The flashbacks, while necessary for exposition break the pacing of the film. An action flick should be driven not coast along. There is more style than substance here, the audience is provided with brief glimpses of what they came for, high kicking martial arts. The film takes itself too seriously and tends to be indecisive as to just what genre it is. The film would have been better off as a psychological thriller with a deeper exploration of the dark past of Elektra. Instead this aspect is tacked on. The film finally degrades into a romantic vehicle that also just seems forced, instead of flowing naturally out of growth arc between the lead characters. Perhaps the studios will get the idea after this and Catwoman that a female action film needs more than skimpy costumes, it needs a real plot.

To their credit Fox did a great job of presenting this film on DVD. The audio is provided in both Dolby 5.1 and DTS. Both do a great job of surrounding your room with a full sound stage. The DTS track did exhibit a somewhat fuller back fill that was more realistic. At times the sub woofer overpowered the audio field but usually the sound was nicely distributed between all six speakers. The anamorphic video was excellent. The color palette was true with natural flesh tones and no perceivable artifacts. The extras included the standard making of featurette showing Garner in off moments causally playing with her forked weapons. There where a few deleted scenes and a little piece on the editing challenges of piecing the film together. Finally there is a look at a comic book convention a trailer and a teaser to round things off. Itís a shame that this film did not live up to the advanced hype, it could have been a contender.

Posted 3/5/05

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