Quick Hit: Full of life and creativity, but maybe a bit too much of it.
So awhile back, I reviewed Luc Besson’s Valyrian and the City of a Thousand Planets. It had been a long time since I had watched the Fifth Element, and I remember thinking that it was a much better movie than that. And while that does hold, it does so just barely – it succumbs to most of the same problems, but just happens to have stars that carry the movie a bit better than that one did.
The Fifth Element, for those that don’t know, is a movie from 1997. I think the best thing I can say about the movie is how much it doesn’t look like 1997. The effects in this movie, still hold up – sets built largely from miniatures that allow true scale to be formed, and a world-building is truly rare in a standalone movie like this one. We have Korben Dallas (Bruce Willis with hair), who is a taxi driver with a military background. He gets roped into the business of the Fifth Element when Leeloo (Milla Jovovich sporting bright orange hair) jumps into his car when escaping some military men. Leeloo has been created from the cells of another, and represents the very essence of life.
There’s a LOT going on in this movie, and I think that’s what makes it tough. The movie lands at somewhere a bit over two hours, and means that there are a lot of characters that just don’t make the cut, or maybe get a bit too much screen time (like Chris Tucker’s Ruby Rhod). Even Gary Oldman’s character, while wonderfully menacing, really has no reason to be in the movie at all. I think a slimmed down version of this movie would probably have been a science fiction classic. Instead, it has been relegated to cult status due to its terrific inclusion of world building elements.
And man, does this take some of the other science fiction movies to task. We have blue-skinned aliens that perform concerts for us – and suddenly the Star Wars prequels started to feature aliens that looked similar to this. The ship design and even the flying cars look different than they’ve been presented before. It’s an impressive feat to build upon what science fiction came before it and not seem like its copying. Even the alien races themselves are unique and fun, even while being strange and different. It’s quite a feat for Besson, who wrote the film as a teenager.
The film just falters under its own wait. The jokes that may have been funny the first time start to lag as they run ragged, like the aforementioned Ruby Rhod. Along with that, the dialogue that is given to Willis is rarely good, and Jovovich, while owning the role fabulously, doesn’t get nearly enough to do besides be ogled in her one of a kind outfit, which looks like it has less fabric in total than my whole shirt. Really all the set designs are good – though you can tell budget had to be spared in certain scenes to save for others – it all lends to that cult status I talked about.
I think The Fifth Element is a fun movie that few people will ultimately regret watching. I’m giving it a “B-“.
For more on this film, check out IMDB.
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"