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The Fifth Element

Human Rating: 3 / 5 Alien Rating: Crop Circle


The Fifth ElementDie Hard (1988) in outer space? No, that would be unfair to The Fifth Element. In fact, the movie has a lot more going for it than this. For one, the film is a visual delight - from the excellent special effects to the costumes designed by Jean-Paul Gaultier (perhaps best known for dressing Madonna occasionally). Perhaps the best thing is its overall look and feel: it manages to stay away from the Blade Runner-like post-apocalypse urban landscape that has become a cliché in recent science fiction movies. Its look is all its own. The last sci-fi movie with such an individualistic look was Total Recall (1990). While it doesn't go for the dark dystopic look, it does borrow liberally from the European Heavy Metal magazine's visual style (and most specifically, from the artist Moebius). It borrows more than that: viewers of the Heavy Metal (1981) movie will notice more than shades of the taxi cabby in the New York of the distant future story segment from that movie.

Whereas Heavy Metal (1981) had a cynical grin around its mouth, The Fifth Element movie takes itself more seriously. Sure, there's some unexpected humor in the film - but there's no self-conscious Last Action Hero (1993) or Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990) type of postmodernism. Another thing going for it is the sight of model turned actress Milla Jovovich gallivanting about in the scantiest of clothing, some excellent well-done bad guy aliens, great sets and more special effects. All with a distinct European flavor - after all, it is the most expensive European film ever made. (It is directed by Frenchman Luc Besson who scored hits with The Big Blue (1988) and The Professional (1994).)

The Fifth ElementWhat it doesn't have going for it, is the plot. It involves the earth being threatened by an "ultimate evil" and Bruce Willis as a hapless New York cabby in the 24th century becoming embroiled in a chase to track down four stones (each symbolizing the four elements from ancient Greek philosophy) to stop this evil. The fifth element, which triggers the other stones and unleashes the power to stop this evil, is Milla Jovovich herself. However, the plots with films like these are inconsequential - they just serve as set-pieces for elaborate action sequences and special effects. And director Besson keeps the action moving fast enough to satisfy any action movie junkie. It is doubtful whether The Fifth Element will translate well to the small screen - but that is a common complaint with most of today's big blockbuster pics. So catch The Fifth Element at a big screen near you now - you won't be disappointed.

Review by James O'Ehley from The Sci-Fi Movie Page.

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