The blockbuster sequel is a privilege, not a right. It is also an often-marred attempt at satiating audiences with an extra serving of cinematic phantasmagoria, and rarely do sequels achieve the audacity of CGI epics like “Jurassic Park” or “Spiderman.” One would also think that it would be common logic to resurrect a plot vehicle with resonating popularity. Somehow 2003’s “Daredevil,” a thoroughly miserable bomb of a film starring Ben Affleck as a blind and paradoxical lawyer/superhero, doesn’t seem like ideal material for a follow-up. Nevertheless, enter Rob Bowman’s “Elektra.”
In “Daredevil,” Jennifer Garner’s uninspired sai-wielding character Elektra Natchios bites the dust. (The sense of tragedy is dubious at best.) Failing to take a hint from the plot, some anonymous group of evil Hollywood producers conjured the idea of a sequel, starring the film’s pretty cadaver. Fortunately for all, Ben Affleck fails to return for another round of good-versus-evil warfare waged in glorified spandex. The producers of “Elektra” apparently thought Garner could carry the weight of this monstrosity on her shapely chest. But without her trademark bevy of “Alias” wigs and perky smiles, Garner never manages to reanimate the pouty protagonist.
Layered over a rippling — and crudely computer animated — red cloth background, the movie introduces the audience to its boring hero through a series of sketches reminiscent of fashion ads. Next, a somewhat paltry voice narrates a contrived history lesson of good ninjas and bad ninjas. Instead of sounding wise, the narration sounds like something one might overhear when eavesdropping on a madman’s rambling monologue in Starbucks.
After its modest beginnings, the film slides into cursed mediocrity. Tightly panning on a snowy secret lair — which seems oddly filched from the “Polar Express” trailer — a pensive “bad guy” explains the Elektra enigma to a peer before a crackling fire. “You can’t stop her, nobody can stop her,” he hisses with dumb apprehension.
Before you can say “B-movie,” the film cuts to shadowy images of a warrior in billowing attires while she slinks through the gaudy fortress. Several slow motion sequences later, Elektra, clad in red leather attire that any hooker would envy, whispers, “I died once” in the doomed man’s ear.
Luckily for the audience, it only gets better from there. Elektra returns to her bizarre townhouse to scrub her floors and pout. With her constantly peeved and annoyed demeanor, Garner’s Elektra needs a big bowl of Midol sorbet. After a strained run-in with a throwaway sidekick in her living room, Elektra jets off to a lush lakeside palace to await her next assignment. Armed with an innate ability to kill, Elektra works as a “good guy” assassin. Her foes are the “bad guy” ninjas, a boardroom of Japanese suits dressed like furniture salesmen of the future.
Elektra, still unaware of her target, enjoys temporary respite by indulging in sumptuous leisure — morning swims in the frigid lake, fits of terror resulting from repressed childhood memories and obsessive footstep counting. Her neighbors, a tall and vaguely foreign Mark Miller (Goran Visnjic) and his teenage daughter, are seemingly nice people. After an awkward Christmas dinner stoked with contrived intimate conversation, they seem destined for white-picket fence perfection. Unfortunately for Elektra, she has to murder them.
Somehow though, Elektra has performance issues when the scruffy European man and his conventionally rebellious daughter come into her crosshairs. Predictably, she fails her mission, and the boardroom assigns new assassins for the role — a flying V of freakish warriors. The roll call includes the following: Typhoid, capable of killing her victims with her sickly kiss (she predictably shares a gimmicky Sapphic with Garner), Stone, a towering juggernaut of impenetrable flesh, and Tattoo, a grossly painted man vaguely resembling a Berkeley barista whose tattoos happen to be capable of coming to life. Perhaps Tattoo is a literary allusion to Ray Bradbury’s masterpiece “The Illustrated Man” — or maybe he’s an excuse to have a CGI zoo of creatures emerge from a man’s skin.
“Elektra” continues along a somewhat predictable track henceforth. To no one’s surprise, Visnjic’s obviously fabricated past (“We’re from … Baltimore,” he nervously says with a knowing glance to his daughter) is a lie. In reality, they’re ninjas as well! While the Baltimore plotline might have been more interesting, Garner learns that Visnjic’s daughter, known by a white robed ninja elite as The Treasure, is destined to become the greatest warrior this fictional world has ever seen.
To give the movie a microscopic shred of credit, it manages to entertain, albeit on a wonderfully superficial level. At times, the fight scenes are fast-paced and enjoyable to watch.
But the visual effects often misfire, taking down entire scenes (including the movie’s finale, a ninja brawl in Elektra’s dilapidated childhood living room).
As a result of this, not to mention its putrid acting, direction and screenplay, “Elektra” feels like a Sci-Fi Channel movie with a recognizable cast. The mere act of sitting through the film is an exercise in ninja-like patience. To quote Elektra herself: “I’m not a good person to get involved with” — perhaps the only words of wisdom from the film.