Saturday, June 06, 2015

Zaki's Original Review: The Fifth Element

First published: May 29, 1997
Man, I'd forgotten what Chris Tucker is wearing in this thing.
Note: I haven't revisited The Fifth Element in the eighteen years since I first wrote this review for The North Current, at the tail end of my senior year of high school. Knowing that it's become something of a cult artifact in the interim, I'd be very curious what I think of it today, with the benefit of all that added mileage.

Never has so little been made out of so much. The Fifth Element, starring Bruce Willis, is the latest work of French director Luc Besson, who rose to fame with such movies as La Femme Nikita and The Professional. While boasting impressive visuals and some truly inspired set and costume designs, there is little in the way of substantive narrative to make the film anything but a glaring example of what is so horribly wrong with modern cinema.

The Fifth Element is little more than a melange of numerous science fiction/action movie cliches, with vestiges of everything ranging from StarGate to the Die Hard movies apparent to this critic. The story, as dreamed up by Besson, starts on Earth in the early twentieth century, with shiny aliens meeting up with an archaeologist and his aide (Luke Perry, actually getting billing for what is little more than a walk-on).

From there, we are catapulted to the twenty-third century, where we meet Korben Dallas (Willis). Thanks to some well-placed exposition, we learn that Dallas is bitter after a divorce, and is waiting for "the perfect woman." Enter the perfect woman: Leeloo, played stunningly by model Milla Jovovich. Here things really get confusing, as Dallas and Leeloo, who, it turns out, is the only weapon against mass of pure evil (huh?!), go to a giant cruise ship and contact a space diva who holds four elements (that somehow tie into the shiny aliens from the prologue).

Add to the mix Gary Oldman as a pointless character with strange tastes in hairstyles, and a bizarre amalgam of Dennis Rodman and Prince (Chris Tucker), and you wind up with total anarchy. Repeatedly, tantalizing tastes of promising plot points are given and then abruptly dropped, while other story elements are given far too much attention (Dallas' mother keeps calling up at inopportune times to complain about him. This is supposed to be funny?).

Aside from Besson's impressive directorial panache, always providing something eye-catching  and original to look at, be it the ornate cityscape of Manhattan 2259 or the almost-there costumes worn by Jovovich, there is little else about The Fifth Element that is particularly noteworthy. C-

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