THE YEAR: 2005
THE DIRECTOR: Rob Bowman
THE WRITER: Zak Penn, Stu Zicherman, Raven Metzner
THE CAST: Jennifer Garner, Goran Visnjic, Kirsten Prout, Terence Stamp, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa
Spin-offs have always been an odd thing. They are often obscure in relation to the original work, trying to place a smaller, supporting character into a lead role. The results over the years have been all over the map, sometimes eclipsing the popularity of their initial source, sometimes disappearing without notice. In the case of Daredevil, however, the character of Elektra already had a built-in fanbase that rivaled Daredevil himself. Surely giving Elektra her own movie was a guaranteed win after Daredevil‘s success?
Well, let’s ninja attack the rewind button and see what happened…
Despite having a smaller budget (a paltry $43 million compared to Daredevil‘s $75 million), on paper, Elektra seemed like it would have the makings of a better movie. Jennifer Garner was still on the hit JJ Abrams series Alias which was seeing its highest numbers yet. Among the writers was Zak Penn, who helped script the wildly successful X-Men 2 (and has gone on to work on many awesome comic-related things). And Daredevil’s sophomore director Mark Steven Johnson was succeeded by veteran Rob Bowman. Bowman has a laundry list of producing and directing credits in the television industry going back to 1985, most notably for a little show called The X-Files and its first theatrical film, creatively titled The X-Files.
So where would this creative team take the film?
Elektra’s past was barely hinted at in the first movie, so surely they could go in depth into her back story and flesh the character out. No, not really. There is a singular flashback, but it does more to set up the villain than it does to give any depth to Elektra’s character.
Do they delve into her complicated emotional relationship with Daredevil? Shot but deleted cameo. But fair enough. You give Elektra a solo movie to see her thrive on her own.
They could dig into the crates of classic storylines by greats like Frank Miller and Mark Millar, but did they? Well, there’s barely an approximation of one. Kinda. Hints of Elektra’s ward Nina McCabe can be found here. Even that, however, is stretching things. In all seriousness, the only thing that feels like it ties Elektra to its source material is the character of Stick, who trains Elektra (and others) in the books. Now I neglected to give Ben Affleck his due for how much he put into portraying a blind man in Daredevil. He was very believable in that respect. Terence Stamp as Stick, however, could really have taken a few notes. But judging by any of the rest of the performance, Zod was just there to cash a cheque.
Of course, you don’t need to cling to established storylines, but surely they would have her face off with some legendary adversaries from the books? Well, one of the five is. The others have the names of various Marvel Comics characters, but they are in name only. But even putting that aside, the villains of the film have some cool ideas behind them, with powers that should make for some exciting and interesting fights with our hero. Instead they get dispatched in short order. To make things even worse the legendary Hand, the guild of ninja assassins, are almost comically clumsy, leaving the viewer with no tension when they attack Elektra.
At the end of the day, Elektra suffered much the same fate as Daredevil. The studio wanted to have a PG-13 rating and avoid dealing with any of the grit of the character. This left the character decidedly watered down. What was left (again) was a very phoned-in, paint-by-numbers action film. Add in a mixed bag of sub-par CGI and the already growing disdain for Daredevil and you have a movie that people were actively prepared to avoid.
While it did eventually make back a little more than its original budget, Elektra opened at number five at the box office, dropping off over sixty-nine percent the following week, and was the first bomb in the boom of Marvel Comics-based movies. Still to date it remains one of the poorest performing Marvel movies ever.
Rumor has it that a video game was developed as a tie-in for the movie, but was abandoned and left unreleased. Given the history of comic book movies being adapted to video games, most games have tended to include more from the comic book source materials that the films they’re supposedly based on. This usually means more classic villains and story. If that’s the case, an Elektra video game might have ended up quite bad ass.
THE BIG QUESTION:
Ben Affleck did return to this film as Matt Murdock/Daredevil, but the scenes were eventually cut. Do you think the return of Daredevil would have helped or hindered the Elektra movie?
Let us know in the comments below!
I defend the Director’s Cut of Daredevil quite a lot and I will continue to. I can’t do the same with Elektra, though. It hits almost every wrong note along the way. Garner wants to be here even less than the audience.
(On a side note: On top of being unenjoyable already, Elektra suffers from one of the worst quality Blu-Ray transfers I’ve seen to date. Any shots inside are marred with large amounts of noise and distortion.)