Sexy assassin Elektra (Jennifer Garner)—who died in 2003’s dreadful Daredevil but has been resurrected by Fox suits for this spin-off—is an OCD sufferer who maniacally scrubs floors and lays out her toiletries with the same meticulous care as she does her martial arts weapons. If only Rob Bowman’s inconsistent film—which then has the neurotic Elektra spill innocent security guards’ blood, dramatically toss clothes on dirty floors, and not bat a single curled eyelash when her chestnut hair is tousled by the wind—paid such compulsive attention to detail. Character discrepancies are, admittedly, the most minor of Elektra‘s glaring deficiencies. But given Bowman’s supposed focus on his heroine’s tedious inner turmoil (all centered around her mommy’s murder), one wishes the director—working from X2 scribe Zak Penn’s prosaic script—were more concerned with reliably following through on his film’s themes of obsession, honor, and redemption than with ogling Garner’s impressively chiseled cheek bones and cleavage.
Having been raised from the dead by a blind mentor named Stick (Terrence Stamp), Elektra is hired to kill hunky Mike (ER‘s Goran Visnjic) and his bratty teenage daughter Abby (Kirsten Prout). Things go sour, however, when she decides to forgo her assignment and protect the family, thereby incurring the wrath of a group of evil Asian business executives known as the Hand (lame variations on Blade‘s nefarious industrialists) and their superpowered goons (including Tattoo, whose animal body art comes to life, and goth hottie Typhoid, whose breath is poison). That Elektra’s fascination with sightless do-gooders might be related to her self-esteem and trust issues is a topic never broached, though the buxom badass’s surrogate wife/mother relationships with Mike and Abby (who, like Elektra, is a gifted, motherless martial artist) is hammered home with comical solemnity.
Garner looks delicious in a rose-red bustier and matching hot pants, and the girls-gone-violent film fleetingly taps into its potential for sensuality during Elektra’s soulful mouth-to-mouth moment with Typhoid (Natassia Malthe) amid a shower of dead leaves. Unfortunately, this fetching killer’s tiresome hang-ups—ill-matched with slow-motion shots of her strutting like a second-rate fashionista auditioning for America’s Next Top Model (or Alias, for that matter)—cause all traces of eroticism, intrigue, and gravity to evaporate like the Hand villains who turn into green smoke after being vanquished. As in Sophocles, the fatherless Elektra must ultimately avenge the death of her slain family. Yet substituting titillating triumph for tragedy, this adaptation of Marvel Comics’s knife-wielding knockout comes across as hopelessly blunted.