Written by David Holland
What happens when you cast a prominent actor known for a lead role in an action TV series to star in a comic book movie spinoff from an existing franchise? Obviously you end up with… a commercial and critical flop that becomes a byword for missteps in the genre. Wait, that can’t be right.
This song is starting to get old, but I liked the opening scene of this movie. Elektra lives up to her reputation as a ghost-like assassin, easily dispatching the Bad Guy’s bodyguards before finishing him off. We also get to expand the Daredevil-verse to meet a few new characters. Stick, Daredevil’s mentor in the comics, is introduced as Elektra’s trainer. The conflict between the righteous Chaste and the villainous Hand is explained, and the Hand has potential as a shadowy organization of martial arts focused bad guys. Kirigi, impatient with the Hand’s old way of doing things, challenges Roshi, the group’s leader and his own father. The Hand’s hunt for the Treasure forces Elektra, the obsessive assassin, to change her loyalties. She defends Mark and Abby from Kirigi and learns the importance of family or the power of friendship, or something like that along the way.
The action sequences in this movie were pretty well done. I particularly enjoy Elektra’s ability to sense a few seconds into the future and react accordingly. The opening scene and the fight in her childhood home between Elektra and Kirigi are the best sequences, but I also like the various fights against Kirigi’s empowered followers. Tattoo was a bit much by the end, but otherwise it was the right combination of flash with good old-fashioned kung-fu.
Jennifer Garner was pretty open about the fact that she did not want to make this movie, but only did so because of contractual obligations from Daredevil. Ben Affleck managed to get his way out of a Daredevil sequel, but Garner had no such luck. In other words, this movie got made because Garner got Marshawned.
Then there’s the other obvious flaw in this film. It does not connect to Daredevil. At all. Even the flashback to Elektra’s death takes place in an ambulance instead of flashing back to the actual scene from that movie where she died. She never mentions Matt Murdock, Bullseye, her recently deceased father, or her time in New York. In fact, her father takes on a completely different personality in flashbacks during this movie, becoming an abusive taskmaster instead of a loving father with an actual Greek accent. Not only that, but Ben Affleck actually filmed a scene as Matt Murdock in which he appears to Elektra in a dream and it was cut from the final film. I can’t get over how strange it was to make this choice. You either want this film connected to the first one or you don’t, but trying to have it both ways seems like a recipe for disaster.
As I said at the top, Elektra was a commercial and critical failure. But that failure did not just affect the Daredevil-verse, which ended after two movies. In the 2014 Sony Pictures email hack, Elektra was cited as evidence that female-led superhero movies could not be successful. Obviously this logic is ridiculous. There have been plenty of mediocre to bad comic book movies led by men that were never used as evidence that comic book movies can’t be successful if the lead actor is a man. Regardless, consider how long it was after Elektra for there to be another solo female superhero movie, which I believe was Wonder Woman in 2017. Marvel would not attempt this against until 2019, over a decade later! And yet this year we just finished an incredible, smash-hit television series led by a female superhero. It is a tragedy that it took so long to unlearn the lessons Elektra unfortunately taught the major studios.
Elektra fails to live up to its potential, probably because nobody really knew what it was supposed to be. Reshoots make it feel disjointed, but if you can forgive strange pacing and directorial decisions, the action sequences are acceptable.
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