Thursday, July 17, 2014

MR The Fifth Element

Spoiler alert: Captain Planet was totally correct. Right, Ma-Ti?

Movie: The Fifth Element (in French Le Cinquième élément)

Directed by Luc Besson
Release date 1997
Genre Space Opera/Science-fiction action adventure film
Country France

Lots of people have mixed feeligns regarding this classic Luc Besson film. For one it's pretty far from most of the rest of his filmography.

The Fifth Element was something unlike any other film at the time.

Originally it was a story Besson imagined as a kid in 1975, when he was only 16. It was then titled "Zaltman Bleros" and was a 500-page long story, long before he ever dreamed of making films. And that it is, a kid's fantasy! Owning a lot to old serials like Flash Gordon or kitsch shows and cartoons from the 70/80s.

It was of course much shortened for the film, it was one of those rare screenplays he keeps writing all the time he decided he should direct it himself. When the technology was advanced enough and his career as a filmmaker established the film was then finally shot, mostly in England. To one of the biggest budgets for special effects he could afford at the time.

To help him with this production, Luc Besson enlisted the help of a lot of very talented people from many different fields to help him bring this dream to screen. First and foremost was renowned science-fiction comic book artist Jean Claude Mezieres (author of Valerian) who helped craft the scifi futuristic scenery of this world. The film was also greatly influenced by the designs of the comics of Jean Giraud (aka Mœbius) who did some uncredited work on the aesthetics of the creatures and vehicles.

More surprising was how Luc Besson was able to get Madonna's favorite world-famous fashion designer Jean-Paul Gaultier on a science-fiction film! Besson wanted to have Gaultier work on the costumes of the film! He told him he could really go nuts with it, despite a budget that was getting a bit tight, and covered the entire film! He did really great in my eyes, setting The Fifth Element into a unique direction compared to most other space-based scifi films. Most famous was our heroine's now-iconic smexy "dress".

The film stars a lot of famous names such as Bruce Willis, Ian Holm, Gary Oldman, Chris Tucker and the debuting Milla Jovovich at the time. 

The Fifth Element was to this day this French director's biggest American studio production to date (I'm pretty sure Lucy just beat it...) and one of Europe's most expensive film ever produced. With all this money at his disposal he could finally bring this long-favorite childhood story to the big screen. 

It's a loving tribute to old space opera classics and all those Heavy Metal comics of old. Never a real parody or satire of the genre, just a very fun action adventure film!

Our story first begins on Earth in 1914.

In Egypt, we find this race of giant turtle-like creatures called the Mondoshawan. They have this alliance with humans to protect our race. They are the keepers of these 5 elemental stones. Once every 5000 years they protect our galaxy from being ravaged by an astral being of pure Evil.

The story now goes forward 300 years in the future, it's not the 23rd Century! 2257 to be precise! The cities of Earth have considerably expanded vertically due to the pollution on the surface of the planet.

These dog men, the Mangalores, go after the Mondoshawans as they about to deliver the 5 Elements to protect our planet... They are killed, leaving no traces of the elements, thing is they were careful enough not to carry them actually!

Earth scientists are able to save partial tissues and use those to genetically create "the perfect being". This artificial "woman" Leeloo escapes the labs, jumps away in the crowd of these futuristic flying cars and crashes herself into this taxi cab roof.

We meet this New York cab driver Korben Dallas. Who, guess what, was just the wrong guy at the wrong place (as always!). He meets the perfect woman! The perfect being! And actually the perfect weapon.... And adventure ensues!

The only hope if mankind is to survive the incoming catastrophe is to gather the 4 Elements, fire, water, earth and air. And find the 5th Element which was destroyed.

Along the way Leeloo and our taxi driver-turned hero will meet several other crazy figures, like a strange scifi-esque take on a reverse-gender Pinocchio in a way!

Meanwhile this human named Zorg who actually ordered the Mangalores to kill the Mondoshawans is revealed to be working for this Evil. And wants to steal the stones for himself.

They will have to find all the stones while looking for the eponymous fifth element to stop the world from being destroyed.

Korben Dallas gets the help from a shady priest who was in this history-long secret all along. A talk-show star tags a long. They find this space-diva who was entrusted with the actual Element stones.

Our cloned supreme being will also have to deal with some of humanity's less positive aspects..

All said and done, it's a pretty basic plot for an adventure film when you get down to it. The film feels almost disjointed with these random scenes always launching the next one like a succession of random little action and comedy pieces.

It's a goofy plot! At least it never takes itself too seriously.

And in the end, it all turns out the key to put a stop to this giant ball of fire of incoming Evil was... love

The Fifth Element has a unique visual direction with some clear influence from French science-fiction work (mostly Métal Hurlant comic books).

Luc Besson invested himself a lot during all the time of this production.

Besson and Milla Jovovich actually created an original secret language between themselves for Leeloo, and Bruce Willis' reaction to it in the first scene was actually genuine since he was just as surprised and had no idea what she was saying.

The film is a loud fun colorful action movie. With such a convoluted story and featuring this larger-than-life world Besson imagined while crafting its mythology we only get to glimpse a little of, here and there.

The cast was clearly having a great time on the set. 

With a Bruce Willis doing his best Bruce Willis impersonation, who basically smirks his way through the entire story.

Most of the critiques usually go to Chris Tucker's character. You can't take Chris Tucker seriously as this "DJ Ruby Rhod", in ridiculous make-ups and costumes. This over-the-top futuristic Prince parody is probably why some people can't stand this film as a whole. Like the entire film, you either embrace and accept its craziness or you don't. It's made harder specially as Ruby Rhod is turned into Bruce Willis sidekick for comedic relief for the later second half of the film. Chris Tucker did really totally embrace this crazy role 100%. His character also almost predicted these crazy trends you see in music nowadays.

There's also an over the top unrecognizable Gary Oldman, like you've never seen him before. Who gives just as an over-the-top performance as the flamboyant Chris Tucker who's super feminie yet a huge with the ladies. Both almost stealing every scene they're in. This comic book-ysh villain with a southern accent has a direct phone line with the film's pure evil villain-thing destroying the universe, somehow!

Luc Besson then-wife at the time Maïwenn Le Besco played the blue alien diva. Fun random fact the woman engaged to Besson got to play a blue background alien while his future wife, Jovovich, was this film's main heroine! This Maïwenn didn't like how her musical number was intercut with Leelo's fight, but I personally find it such an effective scene.

The film had some of largest explosions filmed on studio sets back in the day, which is saying much compared to nowadays mostly-all post-production CGi explosions.

The movie was made right before all the new computer techniques arrived and special effects in films radically changed since then forever. Things weren't that easy to get on the big screen at the time.

The Fifth Element is a true modern space opera tribute, a very fun homage to the genre. Full of wacky humor and playing with a lot of old scifi tropes.

It's such a fun chaotic film. With a fantastic pacing and a unique sense of style. 

Such an highly quotable film with lots of great classic lines!

It's a pretty basic big story of good vs. evil. A really unique film and so fun to follow.

The majestic beautiful scene of the space diva is such a lovely deep scene. With an epic opera singer to boot. Yet Besson turn that over its head when she turns into these silly dance beats!

Fantastic set designs, a little crazy French touch and a lot of improvisation on the part of the actors made The Fifth Element into a cult classic.

Love it or hate it, you can't deny all these visuals look great on screen. It's such an imaginative vision. The film has this grand space opera grandeur that has never been much explored by Hollywood nowadays anymore.

Let's also mention the fun dynamic music composed by Éric Serra. His soundtrack is really intense and mixes electronic elements with digital beats, percussions and hints of opera tones.

The film first premiered at Cannes in 1997. It proved a huge success, winning many, many awards. The reception was kinda mixed at the time (and to this day). 

Overall, it's a Recommended science-fiction adventure for fans of the genre looking for something different and quite unique!

I can't believe this cult classic is already 17 years old, and it has barely aged! I still remember easily when this came out on theaters...

Basically said, the film can be summed as a "Die Hard in space!". It's kinda silly while not feeling that entirely campy. It plays with a lot of scifi/space adventure films clichés.

Lots of people seem to have polarizing opinions on it. I see it as a "love it/hate it" type of film. 

It's another one of these good action films that are so much better than the actual last couple of Die Hard films... It's better paced, much more interesting and better produced action-wise.

While there were rumors the studio asked for a sequel at time, Luc Besson never planned to go much further than this cult "little" film. He seemed interested in going back to a pure science-fiction universe, in a couple of recent interviews, but nothing like an actual second installment.

Fun trivia for you, there has been two different videogames revolving around The Fifth Element produced by  French developer (of course!) Ubisoft. One a 3rd person action/adventure, the other a racing game.

I give it:
2.5 / 3 UFOs!

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