Twenty years after she originated the role of Elektra in the Ben Affleck movie DaredevilDeadline is reporting that Jennifer Garner will return to her Marvel character in Deadpool 3. The Ryan Reynolds-led film also stars Hugh Jackman as Wolverine and it is heavily rumored that it will feature other characters and actors from 20th Century Fox’s Marvel movies. Garner’s inclusion certainly makes those rumors appear to be true. And Garner has the unique, and dubious distinction, of headlining the very first solo Marvel heroine movie: Elektra.
Following Daredevil‘s release in 2003, Fox didn’t immediately order a sequel. Instead, Fox went forward with a spinoff movie starring Garner’s character, Elektra Natchios. Elektra arrived in theaters on January 14, 2005, and it promptly bombed at the box office. The poorly reviewed movie arguably prevented other Marvel heroines from getting their chance to headline a film until Captain Marvel in 2019. It’s also worth noting that neither Elektra nor Daredevil are currently available to stream on any service, although they can be purchased or rented from digital outlets. If Marvel and Disney want to bury these films, that’s the easy way to do it.
But is Elektra as bad as everyone, including myself, remembers it to be? Or was the female-led action movie underappreciated in its time and worthy of a re-evaluation?
The acting is terrible
By 2003, Garner had already proven herself as a capable actress with her starring turn in the TV series Alias. Garner was also wonderful in her later feature films, including 13 Going on 30, Juno, Catch and Release, Butterand Dallas Buyers Club. But there’s none of that charm or charisma in Garner’s performance in Elektra. Instead, her character is unconvincing and frankly boring to watch. And she’s not the only one guilty of this crime in the movie.
When even the great Terence Stamp can’t make the material work, there’s a big problem. Stamp portrays Elektra’s mentor, Stick, and he only appears sporadically throughout. A good comic book movie needs a compelling villain, and Elektra has to settle for dull-as-dishwater bad guys like Kirigi (Will Yun Lee), Typhoid (Natassia Malthe), and Tattoo (Chris Ackerman). That’s the kiss of death for almost any movie, and literally Typhoid’s power in this flick.
The script doesn’t stay true to the comics
It’s always a bad sign when the creative team behind a movie decides to “improve” the source material for the big screen. In this case, screenwriters Zak Penn, Stuart Zicherman, and Raven Metzner only lightly touch on Elektra’s life as an assassin. Bizarrely, they decided to create an entirely new tale about Elektra as the protector and mentor of Abby Miller (Kirsten Prout), a young girl who is a martial arts prodigy. The script also casts Goran Višnjić as Mark Miller, Abby’s father and Elektra’s love interest. And the movie’s attempt to convince us of these bonds falls flat on its face.
Granted, a story about a resurrected assassin and two rival ninja clans isn’t exactly high drama. But the MCU’s Daredevil series did a much better job of handling both Elektra and the Hand. That show’s accomplishments only demonstrate just how badly the Elektra movie failed to do right by the title character.
The action is terrible
If Elektra has an unforgivable sin, it’s this: The action sucks. Superhero movies live and die on their characters and their action. And great action can gloss over a lot of problems with any film. Unfortunately for this movie, the bad and unconvincing action scenes only highlight how terrible everything else is as well.
Asking the audience to believe that Abby is an elite martial artist was a bridge too far, but even Elektra looks amateurish during her clash with the evil assassins. This comes down to lackluster fight choreography and a lack of visual imagination from the screenwriters and director Rob Bowman. People come to the best superhero movies for exciting stories and action that no other genre can provide. Elektra simply doesn’t live up to the standards of 2005 films, much less the peak superhero era of 2023.
Having said that, I’m happy that Garner will get her shot at cinematic redemption when Deadpool 3 hits theaters on May 3, 2024. Elektra is as bad as everyone says it is, but that just means Garner has plenty to mock or make fun of when she shows up cracking jokes next to Ryan Reynolds meta Marvel hero.
If you’re brave enough, Elektra can be rented or purchased at a variety of digital vendors including Prime Video.