Spin-offs are something of a rarity in Hollywood. Well, let me clarify that statement for a moment, spin-offs occur frequently in television, but with feature films they are far less common. When they have occurred in the movies they tend to not be as successful as the film or film series that inspired them. A few examples of spin-off feature films that had varying degrees of success or lack there of, are as follows: “The Scorpion King” (moderately successful), “Supergirl” (massive flop), and “Catwoman” (even worse than “Supergirl”). So, with only a couple of decent successes with spin-offs (“U.S. Marshals” would be another one), it strikes me as odd that 20th Century Fox would choose to make one based on their 2002 smash hit “Daredevil”, instead of going with a direct sequel. Whatever the motivation, the decision was made to move forward with “Elektra”, and the final product we were given was an average action movie, mixed with elements of other assassin-themed films, and almost no connection to the original film that introduced the titular character.
“Elektra” picks up essentially where Elektra’s story ended in “Daredevil”, with her death at the hands of Bullseye. When all hope seemed lost, along comes a mysterious man named Stick (Terrence Stamp), a blind martial arts instructor that hopes to train and recruit Elektra to join him in an ongoing war against the evil organization known as The Hand. The Hand is also aware of Elektra and her abilities, and is just as interested in her joining their side as Stick is for his. However, Elektra’s death and resurrection has left her cold, and she now uses the training she received from Stick as a means to become a world-renowned assassin. It’s only a matter of time before Elektra’s destiny catches up with her, and she will be forced to choose which side she will stand with.
As I said before, I doubt I’ll ever understand the reasoning behind going with a spin-off such as “Elektra” over making another “Daredevil” film. I know that Jennifer Garner’s character of Elektra was popular, especially amongst male audience members; however, I have a hard time believing that the response to her character was so overwhelming to inspire the suits at Fox to believe in moving forward with a movie focused solely on her. I know that critics were unkind to “Daredevil”, although movie audiences were much more in favor of the film; but based on box office returns and an almost universal panning by critics, I don’t believe “Elektra” faired nearly as well as a “Daredevil 2” would have among moviegoers. So, I wonder now, can anyone at 20th Century Fox say the words “Colossal faux pas”?
The problem with “Elektra” isn’t only the fact that it didn’t make all that much money, but that it just wasn’t on the same level as “Daredevil” or anything else that Marvel was placing in theaters at the time, or since then for that matter. The storyline was very simplistic for the most part, and truthfully, when the story stayed simple, that’s when it entertained the best. When the story broke away from the simple plot and tried to get too complicated, that’s when things first began to suffer. This was caused by the writers attempt at including a paper-thin psychological sub-plot for Elektra to deal with. Another set of problems for “Elektra” were caused by the lack of originality, brought on by borrowing heavily from other assassin-themed movies such as “The Replacement Killers”; and lastly, all but severing all possible ties to the original film “Daredevil” that allowed this movie to happen in the first place. Now, the first two problems were troublesome enough to cause “Elektra” to lose points in my opinion; however, the almost complete omission of all things “Daredevil” bothers me the most. I know that many times spin-offs will not really do much to reference the original film(s) that created them, but most of those do not pick up part of their storyline wherever the original film left off. For that reason, I believe “Elektra” should have contained more than just a fleeting reference to the events of “Daredevil”, and had they done so, I probably would have enjoyed this movie a lot more than I did.
I’m sure after reading that previous paragraph that you are probably thinking that I barely enjoyed “Elektra”. Well, for some unexplained reason (and that’s the God’s honest truth, I have no logical explanation for why), I actually did moderately enjoy “Elektra”. It doesn’t make sense to me at all, but there’s just something about it that still appeals to me, regardless of all the problems I have with it, several of which I listed above. I’m sure the appeal of this movie has something to do with the fact that Jennifer Garner (“13 Going on 30”) stars in it, but I know that can’t be the only reason, because if that were the case, I’d enjoy “Catwoman” due to Halle Berry (“X-Men: The Last Stand”), and believe me there is no enjoying that movie at all. The only thing I can come up with is that “Elektra” is simply one of my “Guilty Pleasure” movies and nothing more.
Speaking of Jennifer Garner, she is one of the few bright spots for this movie, and I appreciated that she chose to reprise her role. Not to mention donning the bright red, skin tight leather costume this time around. I’m sure that the writers of the film, and probably even director Rob Bowman (“Reign of Fire”), had good intentions of giving Jennifer more to do than just appear somber and angry throughout the movie, in her defense she did always look great while acting as if she could kill you at any second, and no doubt the inclusion of the muddled psychological story for her character was an attempt to challenge Jennifer. However, even the best intentions can’t always make things right, because aside from receiving a paycheck and having fun kicking butt onscreen again, based on what little else she had to do in the movie, I can’t see any reason Jennifer would have for returning to this role.
Alongside Jennifer Garner, the rest of the performances in the film were a mixture in quality, with very few worthy of note; and almost all across the board everyone appeared somewhat disconnected from the material. I don’t know if a majority of the cast was given instructions to be flat when giving their line readings or what, but something definitely did not feel right much of the time. The only other cast member, besides Jennifer Garner, that I enjoyed having in the movie was Terrence Stamp (“Superman 2”) as Elektra’s mysterious mentor, Stick. For some reason, I enjoyed watching him, and it wasn’t that he did a whole heck of a lot; it’s just the way in which he carries himself, just seems to command attention.
One thing is for certain though; “Elektra” is by no means a great movie, in fact there were moments when I watched it that I found myself wondering if it’s just barely above average. But, in the end I do feel that the movie does a decent job of entertaining me, and for that reason, as I said earlier, it warrant’s itself a place in my favor as a guilty pleasure and not much more.
On a side note, 20th Century Fox did give “Elektra” the same treatment they gave to “Daredevil” by releasing a Director’s Cut of the film on DVD. Truthfully, I don’t know how much was added or was different from the theatrical release, but it does seem like there is slightly more story included, and the movie seemed to work just a little bit better.
“Elektra” is rated PG-13 for violence and language.
“Elektra: The Director’s Cut” is unrated and contains violence and language.