Dir:Rob Bowman. US. 2005. 96mins.

Sheappeared - and apparently died - in last year's Ben Affleck vehicle Daredeviland now Marvel Comics character Elektra gets her own movie, withJennifer Garner, from TV's Alias, once again playing the mysteriousaction heroine with the sexy costume and lethal martial arts skills.

This comics-to-screen transfer, however, produced forFox by Regency Enterprises, is a curiously ponderous affair, with an excess ofpop psychology character background and cod Eastern mysticism and not enoughfun or action. Even the much touted red outfit - replaced by black leather in Daredevil,to the dismay of comic book purists - only gets an airing in a couple of keysequences.

Elektra should still be capable ofa decent box office run in the US, where Fox launches the film today (Jan 14): male fans of the comic books andof Garner will have been primed by the recent start of the new season of Aliason TV, while the movie's emphasis on character, as well as its PG-13 rating,could draw many of the women and younger females who enjoyed the actress inlast year's mid-level comedy success 13 Going On 30.

Theresult may well be a final US gross closer to the $100m-plus of Daredevil(also produced by Regency for Fox) than the disappointment of that other recentfemale-themed comic book adaptation, Catwoman. And the video market, ofcourse, should produce even better returns.

Familiaritywith Alias outside the US will boost the movie's internationalprospects, but the fact that Elektra is a lesser known Marvel charactermay limit the final overseas take. The film's martial arts elements mightprovide an additional hook in Asian markets, though they might conversely makethe movie pale in comparison to locally-made action offerings.

There'sno direct reference to Daredevil (the character or the movie) in thecharacter background provided by the script from Zak Penn (X2) andStuart Zicherman and Raven Metzner.

Elektra,we learn, was resurrected after her death by Stick (Stamp) a blind master whotrains his pupil in martial arts (the character has no super-human physicalpowers) and the meditation-derived skill of seeing into the future. Elektra'sflirtation with the dark side of her nature gets her ejected from Stick'straining camp and she becomes an assassin-for-hire. But her prodigiousabilities attract the attention of The Hand, an evil syndicate whose memberspractice a dark martial art of their own.

Afterits opening action scene, the film goes into an extended period of flashbacksand character background that give Elektra some complexity but deprive thestory of momentum. Director Rob Bowman, who previously made enjoyable sci-firomp Reign Of Fire, lingers over moody footage of the title characterand jumbled, and not terribly enlightening, flashbacks to her childhood.

Thepace begins to pick up with the introduction of Mark and Abby Miller (Visnjicand Prout respectively), a mysterious father and daughter who break throughElektra's emotional armour. Abby, it turns out, is a kind of junior Elektra, amartial arts prodigy who The Hand want to make one of their own.

Theaction sequences that result from Elektra's quest to protect Abby mix martialarts stunt work with slightly cheesy special effects. Bowman is moresure-footed with the action material but none of the sequences really takes offand the Hand ninjas Elektra battles - intended as a sort of dark side versionof the X-Men - are a mostly undistinguished lot.

Theaction scenes show the influence of new wave Asian martial arts movies like Hero;but here the billowing fabrics and fluttering leaves just don't seem to havethe same poetic effect.

Garnercuts an impressive figure as the title character and gives the movie a muscularphysical aspect that a more conventional star might not have delivered.Unfortunately though there's little room in the movie for the playfulness thatshe puts across so well in Alias.

Canadianteen Prout, known in the US for TV guest appearances and movies like OnceUpon A Christmas, stands out from the rest of the supporting cast with hernice blend of feisty attitude and vulnerability.

Prod cos: 20th Century Fox, Regency Enterprises, Marvel Enterprises,New Regency/Horseshoe Bay
US dist:
Int'l dist:
Fox Int'l
Exec prods:
Stan Lee, Mark Steven Johnson, Brent O'Connor
Arnon Milchan, Gary Foster, Avi Arad
Zak Penn, Stuart Zicherman & Raven Metzner
Bill Roe
Prod des:
Graeme Murray
Kevin Stitt
Christophe Beck
Main cast:
Jennifer Garner, Terence Stamp, Kristen Prout, Goran Visnjic,Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Will Yun Lee