Revisiting The Fifth Element (1997)

Plot: Korben Dallas, a cab driver, tries to secure four mystical stones and a mysterious fifth element that alone can defeat a cosmic evil force during an apocalyptic war.

I hadn’t watched The Fifth Element for several years and frankly forgot just how entertaining it is; I remember always finding Chris Tucker’s Ruby Rhod up there with Jar Jar Binks in terms of characters that ruin films but for some reason this time around he didn’t bother me at all and for the most part I found him pretty funny. He wasn’t in it as much as I remember and I was too busy being swept up into this brightly coloured and not entirely unpleasant future to care.

If I remember correctly at the time director Luc Besson mentioned that he didn’t want to create another dystopian future but to give us something which actually looks appealing and perhaps maybe even believable… at least in some ways and I think he pulled it off. I was reading on IMDB that he apparently demanded that “most of the action shots in the movie take place in broad daylight, as he was reportedly tired of the dark spaceship corridors and dimly lit planets common in science fiction movies, and wanted a brighter “cheerfully crazy” look as opposed to a gloomy, realistic one.”

The visuals are still utterly spectacular and manage to look better than a lot of modern effects which is somewhat baffling. There is a perfect mixture of practical and CG which I think is why it still holds up so well. The Fifth Element is incredibly imaginative with some cool looking aliens and technology which show far more creativity than the recent Star Wars movies did.

This was back during Bruce Willis’ heyday when he showed personality and Korben Dallas is one of his best characters; he was essentially the same as John McClane or Joe Hallenbeck but it was Bruce being cool which he used to just do with ease.

Gary Oldman hams it up wonderfully as the villain Zorg but what’s interesting is that he and Bruce never actually have any screentime together in this entire movie. It’s rare that the antagonist and protagonist never actually meet.

Zorg is working for an evil planet (kinda like Unicron) known as Shadow that is made of pure evil and it wants to destroy Earth. It’s up to Leeloo (Milla Jovovich) and Korben to gather 4 stones and combine the 5 elements together to stop the evil forever.

I think I fell for Milla (like very other man) after watching this movie as Leeloo’s purity and Milla’s natural beauty was so appealing. I still can’t believe I got to meet and interview her in real life which really was a dream come true…

Anyway, the movie is very lighthearted with plenty of humour and great one-liners; I love just how out there some of the costumes are by Jean-Paul Gaultier. It really was very unique and unlike any movie that had come before, at least visually. I always thought the future version of New York was the inspiration for Coruscant in the Star Wars prequels as it is similar although once again this looks better.

Eric Serra’s score is one of his best and manages to have its own sound so it doesn’t seem like any other music score.

The Fifth Element has a fantastic supporting cast that includes Ian Holm, Brion James, Luke Perry and Tommy ‘Tiny’ Lister who plays the President. FYI I would totally vote for Lister if he ever ran for President… and if I was actually American.

Overall, The Fifth Element is one of Luc Besson’s best pictures but also one of my favourite Bruce Willis movies; it is crazy stuff with some amazing visuals and incredible imagination that still holds up after all these years. Multi-pass!