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‘Elektra’ too complex

Dan Thomas

It’s hard to argue that “Elektra” doesn’t have a point since nearly everyone in it winds up stuck on the end of the title character’s swords.Because I’m not sure about the movie’s central thrust, it’s a week later and I’m still deciding how much I liked it. As exhibit A in the case for Jennifer Garner being a badass, it’s lethally effective – a stripped-down comic book chick flick laced with a dark sense of humor. As a martial-art house morality play in the “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” mold, it’s way too silly to take itself as seriously as it does.In bringing Elektra (Jennifer Garner, expanding on her character from “Daredevil”) and her identity crisis to the screen, “Elektra” suffers from an identity crisis of its own. Paralleling Elektra’s struggle to figure out whether she’s an assassin, martial artist, mentor or crimefighter, the movie can’t seem to follow one of those paths. With Elektra in badass-vigilante-assassin mode, it fires on all cylinders and reminded me of “The Professional” more than anything else, with Elektra dispensing justice and flinty one-liners like Jean Reno. (It probably doesn’t hurt that when supervillain Tattoo lapses into one of his creature-launching trances, actor Chris Ackerman seems to be channeling Gary Oldman’s drug-addled DEA agent from the same movie.)Those moments aren’t few or far between. However, there’s enough other stuff going on to distract viewers and detract from its best moments. After all, “Elektra” still has to cram in a protégé, Abby Miller (Kirsten Prout) and her dad, a mentor named Stick (Terence Stamp) and a bunch of mystical argle bargle about the Way (think the Force, only without the intellectual property lawsuits), as well as obsessive-compulsive disorder. (And you thought that was only in “The Aviator.”)Since Marvel Comics and the people who brought the X-Men franchise to the screen had a hand in “Elektra,” it has some of the same problems. It bites off more than it has time to chew, then hurtles through an entire comic-book mythology at a breathless pace that scarcely allows viewers to differentiate between characters – let alone care what happens to them.Maybe it’s telling that when Elektra dispatches a villain – whether faceless assassin or supervillain with sinister powers – her victim disappears in a puff of green smoke. It’s a definite contrast to some of the better comic-book movie franchises of the past few years, which have taken pains to portray comic-book characters as mortals who happen to have superpowers. When the vanquished vanish instead of suffering, bleeding and reflecting on their villainy – and ultimate justice at the hands of Elektra – even they kind of miss the point.Maybe it’s telling that when Elektra dispatches a villain – whether faceless assassin or supervillain with sinister powers – her victim disappears in a puff of green smoke. It’s a definite contrast to some of the better comic-book movie franchises of the past few years, which have taken pains to portray comic-book characters as mortals who happen to have superpowers. When the vanquished vanish instead of suffering, bleeding and reflecting on their villainy – and ultimate justice at the hands of Elektra – even they kind of miss the point.


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