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.
Quick Hit – Matt Damon with an unplaceable accent and a ponytail has a predictable character arc in this effects driven movie.
This is a movie that features Matt Damon in a period piece fighting monsters on the Great Wall of China. That is what I went into the movie knowing, and that’s what I knew after I watched the movie. If you’ve watched the trailer, you know the plot – there are monsters on one side of the wall. An army of Chinese soldiers try to keep them back in spectacular ways, in really colorful armor. Matt Damon shoots things with arrows. The end.
And really, it’s that simple. Matt Damon may go through a short character arc where he generically becomes a better person, but none of it feels like there is any conviction. His sidekick steals the show more than once, and Willem Dafoe peters in and out of the movie at what feels like his own whimsy, seemingly playing a different character each time. There is a love story (kind of) with no passion.
The only redeeming quality in the movie is the effects. The creature effects are pretty good, despite being heavily CG’d. I also thought the actual design of the creature is good. I really liked the queen idea, with the communication through her hood, and her harem of protectors that are seemingly arrow proof. But the whole thing gets lost because rarely do you make a movie that features only on monsters. Plus, the whole thing seems strangely familiar. If you know what I’m thinking of, hit me up in the comments section – I honestly don’t know why these monsters ring such a bell in my head.
I was really disappointed here, and that’s a shame. I mentioned in the quick hit that Damon does an accent, but I’m not sure where it was from. It sounded to me as if he was trying to strip the Boston out of his voice so he just sounded like a generic European, but I almost would have enjoyed it more if he at least attempted to sound like he was from somewhere.
This movie isn’t very good, and I wouldn’t waste your time with it. I’m giving it a “D-“.
For more on this movie check out IMDB.
Quick Hit: This fever dream of a Michael Bay film has tons of highlights despite being messy and having nonsense throughout.
There seems to be a large portion of the population that hates Michael Bay. I’m not going to say that he’s the devil incarnate, but I haven’t particularly enjoyed his movies of late (I say of late because I loved The Rock) – TMNT and TMNT2 were a bit of a mess, and the continued amount of Transformer films fills me with dread (despite the fact I can’t help but be intrigued by the involvement of those like Anthony Hopkins). (Yes in case you’re wondering I do have two sets of parentheses in the same sentence – my bad for not following the traditional grammar rules – let’s just say I have more thoughts than I can get out like a normal person).
So, naturally, with my recent knowledge of his films, when I saw Directed by Michael Bay pop up on my television screen, I may or may not have let out a small groan. But sometimes, (ok, quite often) my initial thoughts or groans turn into a rapid excitement. Despite writing about movies daily, I never quite seem to be entirely right about movies until I watch them.
I’m not sure how I passed over The Island which somehow stars Ewan McGregor, Scarlet Johansson, Sean Bean, Steve Buscemi, and Djimon Hounsou. It tells the story of Lincoln Six Echo (McGregor) and Jordan Two Delta (Johansson) as they strive to reach the mythical island. The entire first half of the film is filled with a scientific dread, and even before the twists that are revealed, there is a distinct sense of wrongness throughout. You know what it reminds me of? District 13 in The Hunger Games series – rationed food, everyone wearing the same clothes, controlled amounts of fun, etc.
Somewhere around the halfway point of the film, all plot considerations seem to just leave the movie behind. It devolves into a giant chase scene for the final hour or so of the film. If there is one thing that Mr. Bay knows, it’s chases and explosions, and both are featured heavily here. It’s actually extremely exhilarating, with our characters constantly figuring out new ways to survive in the chase.
Speaking of those characters, I thought that Ms. Johansson and Mr. McGregor did a stellar job with what they were given. The fact that the agnates were essentially raised to be childlike is something that is often taken for granted when it comes to be acting. Their childlike wonder often comes across to propel conversations that otherwise would have staled out. Along with that, they play the roles with an innoncence that is rarely seen in the movies. Bit parts are fleshed out with Hounsou, who plays a mercenary, Buscemi, who plays the same character he always does, and Sean Bean, who plays a sleazy corporate doctor.
I’m not going out and saying that this is a great movie – it barely qualifies as good. But it is extremely entertaining, as well as coming out and putting forth some political views on a lot of the progress that science continues to make. That’s what good science fiction films tend to do – ask questions and leave them only partially answered. This movie fits that, and is good enough for a “B-“ from me.
For more on this movie check out IMDB.
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"