Click to enlargeSo, there once was a male super hero franchise that featured a strong female equal yet polar opposite. Eventually, some Hollywood suit decided that said “good girl gone bad villain” would make for a good spin off unto herself and fan boys of said male super hero would surely flock to said movie. It was simple Hollywood math: Hot chick + comic book + rabid male fanboys = hit movie (with an eye toward a franchise). It didn’t work for Catwoman (spun from Batman). [It probably won’t work in the future, so someone tell the Hollywood exec who’s thinking about this to spare us the Jinx movie (spun from the James Bond film, Die Another Day)]. It didn’t work for Elektra (spun from Daredevil).

The truly frustrating part is that, like Daredevil, they almost get it right.

Click to enlargeDon’t get me wrong, I am Exhibit A for said Hollywood math. I am their prototypical target market. I’m a big Jennifer Garner fan (grade A hot chick and star of cult/hit show Alias and perfect choice for the role of Elektra Natchios). I am a comic book junkie (fan of Daredevil comics from Frank Miller’s legendary run). And, yes, I am a red-blooded, rabid fanboy (it’s no coincidence that the last movie I reviewed was Blade: Trinity). I wanted to love this movie.

Click to enlargeDo I need to demonstrate my Elektra credentials? Owner of her first appearance, in fact, her every appearance as written by her creator, Frank Miller. Elektra: Assassin is one of my favorite comic book mini-series of all time. It is here that we learn that “The Hand”, the secret group of ninjas that trained/corrupted Elektra, view themselves as “the hand of the Beast” (thus explaining the beast imagery in the movie). I love Elektra and have long salivated at the possibility of her solo in a movie.

Click to enlargeHere’s the flaw in the Hollywood exec’s thinking. They think that if they take the Alias fans, add the comic book fans, add the Daredevil movie fans (both of us), and those fans who’ll simply go to see anything with Jennifer Garner in a skimpy outfit, that would make a great crossover market, especially if those guys take their girlfriends. There are two problems with this theory: 1) all those fans are the SAME market and 2) those guys don’t have girlfriends. Okay, cheap shot at fandom, but let’s face it, these type of movies make their money from repeat viewing. I’ll admit to seeing Batman six times when it came out. But you have to give those fans something worth watching again, something to mentally chew on beyond Jennifer Garner’s midrift.

You just won’t find it here.

There is a lesson to be learned from the movie Catwoman: don’t make radial departures from the source material. Granted, Elektra was fairly wasted in the Daredevil movie. What should have been nearly operatic tragedy instead was little more than “insert love interest here” material. In fact, watching Daredevil didn’t leave one pining for an Elektra movie.

The back story of the movie manages to make no mention of Daredevil. This wasn’t the chief offense of the movie, because Elektra can very capably stand on her own apart from Daredevil. Even ignoring the Greek myths from where she drew her name, the tragedy of Elektra begins with the loss of her father. The story of Elektra, at its heart, is about a girl who lost her way, due to the death of her father. She turns to the dark side, then finds the light through her death and resurrection. You might think that this falls into the category of “geek night out” nit-picking, but that’s the problem with the movie: I and my fellow army of geeks know the back story, so we can fill in the blanks. We bring her mythology to the table when we dine at this cinematic venture. Those left with only what the movie provides leave especially hungry. The movie doesn’t make clear any of the motivations for our heroine. Click to go to 13 GOING ON 30Jennifer Garner, who demonstrated some of her range in 13 Going on 30, looks lost in this movie, like she doesn’t get the character any more than we do. Thus we’re left with her granite faced method of emoting. The best we can puzzle out is that Elektra’s pain turns on the death of her mother, making this more a revenge flick. See, we can’t handle the subtle dynamics and themes of a girl loving her father too much, but revenge we get.

Click to enlargeThe story, such as it is, involves Elektra, high priced assassin, being hired to kill a father (Mark Miller, ER’s Goran Visnjic in the “insert male love interest here” role), in and a daughter, Abby (Kirsten Prout). She instead befriends them, seeing in the girl who she once was. Well, the girl turns out to be “The Treasure”, a unique warrior. “The Hand”, led by Kirigi (Will Yun Lee), wants the Treasure for themselves, or at least out of the hands of Stick (Terrance Stamp, another perfect choice) and his disciples, in order to tip the balance of the war between good and evil in their favor. The movie defines “unique” differently than my dictionary as Elektra, Typhoid Mary (Natassia Malthe), and Abby are all defined as either this unique warrior or the treasure. This is part of the problem with the movie: I, as the comic book geek, know who all the players are while the movie provides no real sense of them.

Click to go to BLADE:TRINITYThere are two things that Elektra shares with the other comic book-cum-movie dud, Blade: Trinity. One, it has lots of action to gloss over a lack of characterization. You have ninjas and kung fu sequences, Click to go to  HOUSE OF THE FLYING DAGGERSbut in the last year, we’ve seen grand and elegant fight sequences in movies such as Hero and House of Flying Daggers. Frenetic action and jumbled quick shots aren’t going to cut it. Two, its main villains, ninjas instead of vampires, should be threatening by themselves but are dispatched too easily (and thus don’t seem all that convincing as a threat).

Click to enlargeUltimately, this is a story of the war between good and evil, in the big picture sense, fought in the shadows. While kind of a reminder that though there are battles fought in the heavenly realms, the true battleground is often “within the heart of a single individual”. And it is individuals who tip the balance. Elektra is a lost soul, we’re told that rather than shown this, with a tragic past that she hasn’t learned to get past or make a part of her. [Comic book geeks know that it is that pain that the Hand used to get a foot hold in her life, turning her to their side for a time. The Hand is the corrupting influence, the sinful nature that she battles against. In the movie, it is unclear what exactly she is struggling against.] Evil, represented by the Hand, can lurk anywhere, even within an ordinary looking corporate office building. Elektra’s is a path of violence and pain while searching for “the way”. Though she doesn’t want to see Abby on such a path, she knows that everyone has a path that they are called to walk. The journey is the test, as “some things cannot be taught but have to be lived to be understood”. Elektra has been a resurrected into a new life learning that “your second life is not always like your first … sometimes its even better.” And though she may stumble on occasion, she gets back up. It is that battle that makes her heroic.

Any adaptation, be it from a novel or a comic book, makes narrative choices in order to get at the essence of the character and story. This was a rated-R tale that was made PG-13 and lost its way. I have only hinted at the much more interesting story that this movie could’ve told. We don’t see Elektra’s darkness that the movie hints–for example, made explicit in the comic book with her being a member of the Hand–Click to go to DAREDEVILso it is difficult to see her redemption. Like Daredevil, I liked the movie more than it deserved, probably due to a fanboy filling in what the movie fails to deliver. There is plenty of “cool” here, but not a clear or strong enough narrative to tie it all together and give it meaning. Like it’s heroine, Elek

tra needed to find its heart.