In bringing Elektra to the big screen, producers Gary Foster and Avi Arad faced an interesting dilemma: How do you build a new franchise around a supporting character who was originally introduced-and apparently killed off-in another movie? Judging by the finished product, it appears that they chose to tackle this problem by ignoring the previous film entirely. An unimaginative approach, perhaps, but it's just as well since the Elektra depicted here bears little resemblance to the character we first met in the 2003 dud Daredevil. She still has the face and form of Jennifer Garner, but in attitude, motivation and heck, even costume, she's a wholly different person. That's made very clear in the title sequence, during which an unseen narrator speaks in grave tones about a "fierce warrior" who will play an important role in the never-ending battle between good and evil. That warrior, it seems, is Elektra, even though this grand destiny was never alluded to in Daredevil, where she was primarily just out to avenge the death of her father.

Of course, that film chronicled the events of her previous life, right up to the point where she was stabbed through the heart and died in Daredevil's arms. Elektra picks up after she has already been brought back to life by a blind martial-arts expert named Stick (Terence Stamp), who somehow has developed the power to revive the dead. He resurrects Elektra in the hope that she will aid him in the fight against a villainous organization known as The Hand. Unfortunately, the young woman carries too much rage to be a force for good and Stick has no choice but to expel her from his school. With few other marketable skills, Elektra becomes an assassin-for-hire and builds a reputation for being an efficient killer who also possesses a stellar fashion sense. For her latest assignment, she's been paid to kill Mark Miller (Goran Visnjic) and his adolescent daughter Abby (Kirsten Prout). But when the time comes, Elektra finds herself unable to carry out the contract. It's a good thing she lets them live, though, because it turns out that Abby also possesses special powers, which have made her a target for The Hand. So Elektra becomes her protector, fighting off a crack team of Hand assassins, including the organization's formidable second-in-command, Krigi (Will Yun Lee). By the end of the film, the formerly dour assassin has come to realize that maybe she's not such a bad person after all.

It's hard to imagine general audiences, let alone rabid comic-book fans, being satisfied with Elektra. For a superhero yarn, it's remarkably talky; after the opening action sequence, a good 40 minutes go by before Elektra picks up her weapons again. This wouldn't be a problem if the writing was better, but the script is weighed down by clichés and a few outright howlers. (Sample dialogue: "You speak in riddles, old man.") When the fists finally start flying, the action is so poorly staged it generates little excitement. The filmmakers have repeatedly stated in interviews that the actors did all their own fighting with no CGI assistance, but you'd never be able to tell from the chaotic way these sequences have been edited.

As for Garner, she remains a lovely screen presence, but it's impossible to buy her as an emotionless killing machine. Although the actress tries hard to convey Elektra's deep inner turmoil, she just comes across as mildly bummed out with her lot in life. Perhaps realizing that Garner is at her best when she's allowed to be a little more cheery, the filmmakers give her a few comic bits and a tentative flirtation with Visnjic, but these scenes only serve to confuse the movie's tone. They are also liable to annoy anyone at all familiar with the original comic-book character, who is more or less an unrepentant psychopath. Naturally, that version of Elektra would never be allowed to headline an expensive picture (at least, not as the hero), but she would have been a lot more fun than this sullen imitation.