A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

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 | , , ,

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