The security guard on the lookout for movie critics who might moonlight as video pirates during a recent screening of Elektra supplied more diverting action than Elektra herself, and that’s not good. He was just a gray-haired guy on the clock, and she’s a Marvel Comics action heroine played by iron-jawed changeling/Alias star Jennifer Garner. He wore an anonymous navy blue jacket, and she crouches and leaps in a cunning red bustier picked from Madonna’s castoffs. He lugged only night-vision goggles, while she wields fancy three-pronged daggers and steely glances on her rounds as a contract killer — an assassin who shakes up the natural order of this comic-book universe when she decides to protect the lives of a father (ER’s Goran Visnjic) and daughter (Canadian TV actress Kirsten Prout) she’s supposed to eliminate. The guard had a strange and interesting job to do; she did not.
Once, Elektra was Daredevil’s squeeze (I dare you to remember Daredevil), and then she was dead, and then she was returned to life through the mystical ministrations of a blind guru (Terence Stamp). But you know what? Just as all regular models can’t be supermodels, so all action chicks can’t be superheroines. Elektra Natchios turns out to be walled off rather than mysteriously alluring; blank rather than deep. And since no spirit flows through Elektra, who’s dammed up in a way Garner avoided in 13 Going on 30, it follows that no spirit flows through Elektra, either. The psychotherapeutic subplot in which she works out her own childhood trauma through her relationship with the (rather super) girl whose life she saves doesn’t make her any happier; the jumpy pace established by Reign of Fire director Rob Bowman doesn’t enhance the impersonal special effects. Chased by evil henchmen from the dark-side syndicate known as The Hand, Elektra girds her loins with less intensity of purpose than if she were scanning the darkness for signs of copyright infringement.