THE FIFTH ELEMENT

PROS:  It looks and feels different from most science fiction films.  Creature, spaceship, set and costume designs are all unapologetically bizarre.  It’s a lot of fun.

CONS:  You’d have to be made of stone not to love Leeloo a little bit, but her cuteness wears a little thin at times.  Ruby Rhod inexplicably sticks around for the whole third act and really wears out his welcome.

THINGS I LIKED:  Milla Jovovich really made that invented language sound real.  Even though he ends up wearing out his welcome, Ruby Rhod is perfect as the amped-up future version of that inexplicably popular, narcissistic, flashy celebrity asshole.  The weird, blue-alien aria scene.

NITPICKS:  For the perfect warrior, Zorg took her out pretty easily.  I thought the ‘body rebuilding’ scene was hokey, even in that universe.  Before Leeloo breaks the glass in that same scene, you can clearly see the breakaway piece in the shot.

I went to see The Fifth Element with my brother.  He hated it, and I loved it.  That’s not that surprising – we sync up on some things but have wildly different tastes the rest of the time.  I have a feeling this ‘love it or hate it’ vibe might be true in general, though, because The Fifth Element is weird, different, and doesn’t care who knows it.  You will either be on board with that, I think, or you won’t.

At it’s core, it’s story isn’t groundbreaking…basically ‘an unimaginable evil’ drops by every so many hundreds of years to take a stab at devouring all life.  An opposing force (the fifth element) exists to stop said evil, and it’s time for their semi-millennial showdown again.  The difference is that this go around it takes place in Luc Besson’s bizarro future.

The story might not be especially deep, but it unfolds in a very weird and fun way.  The ‘unimaginable evil’ takes the form of a planet-sized black sphere which continually expands.  The Fifth Element takes the form of Milla Jovovich looking like a cross between Raggedy Ann and Blade Runner’s Pris.  The evil essence knows that The Fifth Element needs four stones to work her mojo on it…it’s already arranged to have them stolen using an Earthing patsy named Zorg.  Zorg is some kind of futuristic mega-corporation dickhead played by Gary Oldman and he seems like he has the time of his life with the part.  When anyone (including Zorg) speaks with the evil essence for longer than about twenty seconds, some kind of black sap inexplicably begins to force its way from their scalp and begin running down their forehead – this made it all the more amusing to me that when the essence wants to speak to Zorg, it calls his secretary and asks to be put through.

The fact that the evil essence deals with Zorg’s secretary is kind of indicative of the movie in general.  There are a hundred strange throwaway moments like that.  People dress like action figures straight out of their plastic blisters.  The soundtrack ranges from sinister ambient, to operatic, to french accordion.  A door-to-door mugger wears a big mirror on his head.  The police dress like armored stormtroopers but most of them seem overworked, underpaid and almost bored with the brutality they dish out.  Luc Besson actually uses the old Warner Bros bit where someone puts a food tablet in a futuristic kitchen device and an entire chicken dinner comes out.  The city sprawls endlessly in every direction (even up and down) but everyone is still packed in like sardines, and there’s an ever-present traffic snarl in three dimensions as far as the eye can see.  To get away, humans and aliens take cruises on interstellar luxury liners that travel the galaxy.  I couldn’t decide if that world would be a blast to live in, or just horrifying.

Probably a blast, as long as I didn’t have to work for Mister Zorg.  He fired ten million of his employees (when he could have just laid off one million and fixed his budget) for absolutely no reason other than the fact that he is a complete dick.

BOTTOM LINE:  Be careful when you wish for something ‘different’ because you just might get it.  It’s not Star Wars or Star Trek and that’s exactly what I loved about it.

2 comments

  1. Eric

    The”door to door mugger” did not have a mirror on his head. It was a picture of an empty hallway so people checking thir door’s peephole would think no one was waiting.

    1. James

      Good catch (it had been a while since I’d seen it). Either way it was, as Dallas pointed out, a very nice hat.

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