Here I am, rockin' out again on Fishing in the Discount Bin, my weekly ramble about one of the many movies I own. As my friend told me when he suggested I do it, "Just rant about why you like it." Well, sometimes I have movie that I don't like that much, such as today. The Fifth Element. This is in my notes at February 14, 2015.
There are certain movies I buy on home media just so I can maintain my status as an alpha geek. A good example: The Lord of the Rings Extended Edition. I'm quite happy with the theatrical versions, but when I finally saw the Extended Edition in the discount bin, I thought, "Hey! I should get these, cuz I'm a geek." Just went through that again with my recent purchase of The Fifth Element.
I remember when it came out in the summer of 1997, The Fifth Element really didn't grab my attention. But when I was back at university that fall, the damage had been done. "How can you call yourself a geek when you didn't go to see The Fifth Element?" said my peers. For a stretch there in the late 1990s, at least until the 1-2 punch of The Matrix and Episode I in 1999, The Fifth Element was regarded by many to be THE hottest new sci-fi universe on the block.
I eventually got around to renting it. When I saw it, I thought it was pretty good, but it didn't strike me as anything remarkably new or mindblowing. But still, there's a faction that regards it as THE sci-fi movie, so when I saw in the discount bin, and in a collectible tin to boot, I figured it was time to snatch it up.
French director Luc Besson was starting to make his mark on the world stage with his gritty, tough action films coming out of France, particularly La Femme Nikita. He made his debut in Hollywood (and discovered Natalie Portman) with Leon: The Professional. And as I've blogged before, eventually a talent reaches a point where they get a blank cheque to make whatever passion project they choose. Besson got his blank cheque, and he dug out this sci-fi epic he'd been writing since he was 16 years old.
In the 23rd Century, during a great planetary convergence, out comes an orb of pure, unmitigated evil. And it's heading straight for Earth. In order to combat this evil, a great super-weapon must be gathered, using 4 stones representing the four elements, and a fifth element, a supreme being, in order to blast away this evil. The task falls to New York cabbie Korben Dallas, when the supreme being, Leelo, literally falls into his lap. With Leelo in tow, Korben is off to recover the stones and save the world.
But, what really does make this movie unique is its striking visual style. A friend was telling me about the first time he showed it to his sister. His sister is a massive, massive Star Wars fan, and her mind was blown at seeing this huge flying car chase, with people skydiving between the cars, a full five years before Lucas did it in Attack of the Clones. The sight of this futuristic New York really is something else.
This is kind of a last hurrah for good ol' practical effects, too. CGI is used sparingly in the film, using model shots for most of the space scene, and animatronic puppets for most of the aliens. I was totally diggin' it. Even though this movie was made in the 1990s, the model work looks more 1970s. A great classic sci-fi vibe to it all.
And the acting is...well. Korben Dallas is played by Bruce Willis, and it's Bruce Willis doing his standard action hero bit. Milla Jovovich, in the role that really made her acting career, is Leelo, and she brings just the right amount of adorableness to it...this supreme being, kept in stasis for centuries, and alien to our ways. Gary Oldman was stunning as the villainous Zorg. Hard to believe just 10 short years later he'd be Commissioner Gordon. And Chris Tucker as radio announcer Ruby Rhod. If you thought Tucker was annoying in the Rush Hour movies, here he turns it up to 11. And as annoying as he is, I do like the idea of a radio announcer who saves the world.
So, yeah. While it does have an incredibly unique visual style, The Fifth Element really doesn't bring anything new to the space opera genre. But still, it's in my collection now, and my alpha geek status is secure.