A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 89 – The Fifth Element

The Fifth Element – May 28th, 2010

This movie is so bizarre. I mean, it’s not totally incomprehensible. It doesn’t leave me scratching my head. It’s no Un Chien Andalou or anything. We’re not talking experimental film or plotless mood piece. There’s a plot. There’s good acting. It’s mostly coherent except when Leeloo’s speaking her nonsense language. And even then it’s coherent on a larger scale. You know she’s speaking nonsense. You know no one can understand her. So it’s not like you’re sitting there watching the movie going “I’m missing something, aren’t I.” It’s just a bizarre movie. It’s all over the place. Not necessarily a bad thing, but there’s a lot to take in.

First, there’s the overarching plot. Some big bad destructive force is speeding towards Earth to destroy all life because it’s apparently the antithesis of life and that’s what the antithesis of life does. The key to stopping that is the Fifth Element, which has been locked up in a temple in Egypt for thousands of years, awaiting the attack. In order to activate said element, magic stones representing the other four have to be put in place and activated at the right time. That’s all well and good, but about two hundred and fifty plus years after the intro some rubbery aliens blow up a ship where the Fifth Element is now being protected and it has to be recreated. Then the stones have to be found, which is made difficult by at least three different factions wanting them, and they all have big guns. And then everything needs to be taken back to that temple so the world can be saved. Hurrah. That’s not a terribly far out sci-fi movie plot there, you know? So it’s a little sci-fi/fantasy. No big. I can run with that.

Second, there’s the particulars. The Fifth Element isn’t a thing, it’s a person. It’s a person shaped like a mostly naked orange haired Milla Jovovitch and she doesn’t speak English right away. And like I said, there are three factions looking for the stones: The government, which is portrayed as well-meaning but somewhat brutish and slow. The rubbery aliens, who are also brutish and slow but more violent. And Zorg, played by Gary Oldman with some amazing false teeth and a southern accent, who is a business man who makes guns and runs all sorts of business and is somehow in cahoots with the antithesis of life. Which calls him on the phone. Nice trick for a planetoid. So the Fifth Element, Leeloo, doesn’t know what’s up with the folks who recovered her and runs off. She crashes into a cab driven by Korben Dallas, played by a refreshingly low-key Bruce Willis. There is nothing else low-key in this whole movie, so thank goodness for Dallas. He gets her to a priest who knows about the stones, and they set off to recover them.

Third, it’s so not that simple, if simple can even be used at this point. The government enlists Dallas to get to this luxury hotel where an alien diva will be singing, since the alien diva is also the caretaker of the magic stones. The priest steals his tickets to the hotel (which is on another planet) and runs off with Leeloo. Dallas follows and catches up with them but not before Zorg and the aliens both find out where he’s headed and who’s got the stones. So one by one they all try to get on board the ship going to the hotel and eventually everyone gets there including the least low-key member of the cast: Chris Tucker as Ruby Rhod, a fast-talking DJ who never ever ever fucking shuts up for one second he’s on screen. If he’s not talking he’s screaming or babbling nonsense syllables. He’s also apparently like the Justin Bieber of his time. Or something. Only more flamboyant and with better hair. Maybe he’s more like the Johnny Weir of his time but without the ice skates. Girls swoon over him and all the stewardesses on the ship to the hotel want him and he’s this big ball of sex. Played by a constantly-babbling Chris Tucker. Whatever. Like I said, thank goodness for Dallas. So everyone ends up on the hotel, which is a ship and there’s a big ol’ shootout with the big guns everyone has and people get shot and lots of stuff explodes and of course they find the stones and the bad guys die and they book it back to Earth to save the day.

It’s a hell of a lot. And it’s all done at a frenetic pace in a screen full of things moving and people talking and there are very few quiet moments in the whole movie. It just keeps going and going and going while everything in every shot keeps going and going. The colors are all bright and day-glo and the future is kind of gritty and shiny at the same time. It sort of reminds me of bits of Joss Whedon’s Firefly. Or I guess the other way around. The setting’s got a similar feel in places but with more plastic. Part of the point of the hectic pace and constant background chatter is to inject some humor into the movie, and that works some of the time, not so much in others. Really, Leeloo and Dallas are the heart of the film, though I do also love Ian Holm as the priest. But it’s weird. My eighth grade English teacher hated it when people called things weird. She thought it was a cop-out. But if all of what I’ve said above doesn’t explain what I mean by the use of the word, I don’t know if I can make it any clearer. Leeloo’s language (created by Luc Besson and Milla Jovovitch), the dirty artificial world full of prepackaged shine, Gary fucking Oldman, Chris fucking Tucker? It’s just all weird. I mean, I like it and all, but there is no way it’s not bizarre.

May 28, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , | 1 Comment

The Fifth Element

May 27, 2010

The Fifth Element

I remember being extremely disappointed in this movie the first time I saw it. I blame the marketing campaign. It was marked as a cool summer sci-fi action flick. I had it in my head that since it was written and directed by Luc Besson and starred Bruce Willis that it would be like a hardcore futuristic sci-fi version of La Femme Nikita. It’s not that kind of movie at all, so I was mightily let down when I got my chance to watch it.

You can kind of understand my confusion if you go purely by the visuals of the movie. It has a fantastic production design aesthetic. The cool flying cars that fill the skies. The whole futuristic world feels kind of like Brazil crossed with Blade Runner. The airport is piled high with garbage on one wall from floor to ceiling. The guns and tech are all cool and explody. But you can’t really make assumptions about what kind of movie this is from it’s very slick visual aesthetic.

The truth of the matter is that this movie is something altogether other than what I was expecting. With many more viewings I have come to appreciate it for what it is: a big budget slapstick action/comedy. It’s more akin to Judge Dredd or Demolition Man. The main bad guys are an annoying business man and arms dealer (played with much scenery chewing by the ultimate film chameleon Gary Oldman) and a squad of rubber-faced mercenaries who are never really threatening despite their tendency to randomly blow things up.

When an malevolent planetoid threatens to destroy all life the only hope of the universe lies in the use of an ancient weapon that uses four elemental stones and a fifth element – the ultimate being. Jean-Baptiste Emanuele Zorg (Oldman’s character) is in cahoots with the evil planet (presumably because he can profit from the chaos it will bring about.) Through a series of preposterous circumstances the ultimate being – Leeloo comes to Korben Dallas – an ex special forces major who is down on his luck and working as a cab driver. Leeloo and Korben and Zorg and a priest and the mercs all end up on a cruise ship called Floston’s Paradise to do battle for the elemental stones. All of that could have been the plot of a perfectly fine action movie, but as I mentioned before that’s not what we have here.

In addition to the action you have a whole lot of ridiculous comedy as well. For example you have the almost unwatchably shrill performance of Chris Tucker as Ruby Rhod – a loudmouthed radio DJ. You have the alien mercs who are the keystone cops of the movie – cannon fodder really. You have a whole scene where the megalomaniac Zorg chokes on a cherry. At no moment is there any real tension – it’s just a bunch of crazy action.

Indeed the movie is pretty much a complete mess. But it’s saved by the two leads. Bruce Willice as Korben plays things pretty much straight. He’s very much in Die Hard mode here – kicking ass and taking names. And Milla Jovovich does a great job as the fifth element. She’s kick ass and vulnerable and cool and funny. Together they save this silly mess of a movie from itself and make it pretty much worth watching.

I still would like to see the badass La Femme Nikita in space movie that I thought I was going to see the first time I watched this, but by now I can at least enjoy the movie for what it actually is. Inconsequential sci-fi fun.

May 28, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , | Leave a comment