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