Nothing But Memory

Marvel Movies Project: Elektra

Movie poster for Elektra (2005).

Remember last post when I was saying how of all the Marvel movies I’d watched so far, only Blade: Trinity and X2 would pass the Bechdel Test? Well hey, look at this — it’s a movie with a female lead! A comic book movie … about a woman. And not only is a woman the main character, a teenaged girl is the second most important character! This movie is like a unicorn or something.

I remember back when Elektra was released, I went to see it and thought it was terrible. Upon watching it again last night, I have changed my opinion a bit. It’s still not very good, but terrible is probably too harsh. For the most part, it’s visually interesting; I particularly liked the way the filmmakers sometimes used brief flashes of red to show Elektra moving through the darkness. The Vancouver area scenery is lush and mysterious as always. The story, about a legendary female warrior who will play a role in the eternal battle between good and evil, is engaging enough. The characters, on the other hand, are mostly lacking. Elektra and Abby, the young girl she’s protecting, have spark, and a couple of the villains — Typhoid and Tattoo — do some cool tricks. But everyone else in the film is fairly generic, from Goran Visnjic as Abby’s dad/Elektra’s love interest to Terence Stamp (whose voice I can no longer hear without thinking of his work as Jor-El on Smallville) as the grey-haired wise man figure, to Will Yun Lee as Elektra’s main antagonist.

One of the things I originally really did not like about this movie was the fact that they took Elektra, solitary unemotional badass, and essentially made her a mom. “Why must a female character only find fulfilment through motherhood?” my self of eight years ago asked. There are aspects of this I still don’t like very much, but mostly my perspective has changed. Now, I can see the good in the fact that instead of the traditional story about a man with daddy issues, we get a film about two “motherless daughters” with some mommy issues. (I felt the same way when I saw Beasts of the Southern Wild: a quest story where a young girl goes looking for her mother.) Elektra not only helps Abby cope with the absence of her mother, she even gets to avenge her own mother’s death in the end. I also quite like the fact that there’s a superhero movie where a female protagonist serves as mentor to a future heroine. Abby’s idolization of Elektra is kind of adorable: stuck with a weighty destiny in a male-dominated world, Abby clearly craves a female role model. So, when Elektra — who is basically the perfect role model for Abby’s situation — shows up, she goes Mini-Me. Aww.

All that said, though, there are things I hate about the way Elektra’s gender comes into play in this movie. For starters, the satiny corset costume she wears for her most important fights is ridiculous (though admittedly not more ridiculous than comic book Elektra’s outfit). Fortunately, she only wears it in a couple of scenes, both of which, perhaps coincidentally, are shot in a way that calls to mind either a Victoria’s Secret ad or a Meat Loaf video. I can’t decide.

Then there’s the way the film is marketed. See the poster above: the tagline “Looks can kill” is obviously awful and stupid. Really? Elektra kills with her looks? Here I was thinking she used knives. See also the description of the movie in the iTunes store: “Superstar Jennifer Garner proves that looks can kill as the sexiest action hero ever to burst from the pages of Marvel Comics.” Ick. Based on this, it sounds like Jennifer Garner’s hot body in her battle lingerie is apparently the only reason to watch this thing. Hey Hollywood! How about making a movie about a female superhero and marketing it, I don’t know, to women? Too revolutionary? Here’s hoping Scarlett Johansson can use her clout do something about this situation if a Black Widow movie ever makes it onto Marvel’s list of confirmed projects. The fact that nothing has been announced yet is discouraging, though.

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