Just as Frank Miller resurrected his anti-heroine for the graphic novel The Return of Elektra, so too did Jennifer Garner survive a fatal stabbing to headline this solo outing for Daredevil’s lethal lady. An enigmatic martial arts master named Stick (Terence Stamp) grants Elektra a second chance at life. His portentous voiceover describes her as “a motherless child”, and neatly hints at what will emerge as this film’s theme: the gradual humanisation of Elektra via a dawning maternal instinct. The moody opening, featuring a cameo from Jason Isaacs, establishes a suitably mythic aura around Garner’s femme fatale (“They say Elektra whispers in your ear before she kills you…”). Colder, more withdrawn than before (with character quirks like an obsessive cleanliness), Elektra now works as a hired assassin. Dispatched to an island retreat she is befriended by adolescent Abby Miller (Kirsten Prout) and her father Mark (Goran Visnjic), who turn out to be her targets. Unable to murder two innocents, Elektra takes the Millers under her wing, as they elude supernatural ninjas working for The Hand. A plot twist reintroduces Stick, as Elektra and Abby become key players in a mystical battle between good and evil.
This semi-sequel was a flop when many less deserving actioners were hits. With comic book colours, a b-movie plot, and a likeable chopsocky vibe reminiscent of films like Sister Street-fighter (1974), Elektra consistently entertains and packs a surprisingly sweet-natured subtext. Its visuals and choreography evoke Ching Siu Tung, with moody, slow-mo shots of billowing hair and flowing fabrics, accentuating Garner’s sensual presence. Comic book fans may prefer Frank Miller’s downbeat, intense heroine, but Garner’s Elektra remains more accessible. A convincing Amazonian badass, she cuts a striking figure in her scarlet outfit, while her dramatic strengths and warm smile ably convey Elektra’s emotional journey. Like Daredevil (2003), the narrative occasionally lacks momentum, but it has knack for conveying character traits via visual flourishes, and the performances are better than you’d expect. Prout is such a convincingly hapless teen that the mid-film twist works very well and Abby becomes more interesting as the story progresses. Her disguise as a brunette is a neat touch, confronting Elektra with herself as a child (Laura Ward). Goran Visnjic has a likeable, easygoing charisma, while old pros like Terence Stamp and Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa lend gravitas to some admittedly cheesy dialogue. A beautiful looking film, X Files veterans director Rob Bowman and D.P. Bill Roe produce crisp visuals with surreal horror imagery (marauding demons, shape-shifting bad guys). A climactic chase through a maze full of snakes is especially striking. However, what pleases most are themes of trust, family, a killer regaining her humanity, and how, through Abby, Elektra redeems the little girl she used to be. As for super-villainess Typhoid (Natassia Malthe) whose poison kiss requires she lock lips with Elektra, Garner summed it best, laughing in an interview: “Men! Any excuse to have two women make out!” Elektra is sexy, stylish, action-packed fun.
American TV director and producer who worked on Star Trek TNG and The X Files before directing the movie version of the latter. Followed it up with dragon adventure Reign of Fire and comic book spin-off Elektra.