I remember when 'The Fifth Element' first came out in the cinema in 1997. I saw it twice. It was awesome. It was only really after its release did the narrative begin breaking through (the ways thing did prior to the internet!) that it wasn't 'very good.' And yet everyone I spoke to loved it. I worked in a video rental store in 1998. It was still a major title and the public seemed to love it, too.
Over time I realised that, despite critics seemingly delighting in pulling it apart, the general public thought it was great. They say there are only about ten different story types and that every film is just a variation on the way each is told. With that in mind, 'The Fifth Element' isn't anything particularly original in terms of the actual story - in the distant future, a giant planet of 'pure evil' is hurtling towards the Earth preparing to wipe all us humans out. The only thing that can destroy it is a being of pure goodness (Milla Jovovich before she hit the big time in the 'Resident Evil' franchise), who just so happens to be in the care of a wise-cracking New York taxi driver (Bruce Willis when he still put effort into his performances). However, what makes the film stand out is the way its presented.
If ever a film 'built a world' it was here. The special effects may look just ever-so-slightly dated today, they were amazing for the time and I think most people will still enjoy them for what they are. You'll see New York in the future with mile high skyscrapers and flying queues of cars gridlocked around their peaks (beating the 'Star Wars' prequels by a few years!). You'll see a variety of futuristic settings and technology, presented as if they are just everyday items that everyone uses. I hear fashion designer Jean Paul Gauteur (spelling!) personally designed every costume - right from the stars' own wardrobe to the background characters to give every person that 'space-age feel.'
I've already said that Bruce Willis was still an A-list star when he made this. His once natural charm and endearing smirk, mixed with wise-cracks and macho heroics worked well here with Milla Jovovich's faux naive persona which underlies her true mystical powers. But they're just the icing on the cake. 'The Fifth Element' is practically an ensemble cast with villainous Gary Oldman as the bad-guy and Ian Holm as the well-meaning priest who's on hand to help out. Maybe the reason there was a certain amount of hate directed towards the film was down to Chris Rock. If you ever see some online list of 'Most Annoying Characters in Films' you'll probably find him as 'Number 2' (only pipped by Jar Jar Binks from 'Star Wars'). Yes, he's pretty obnoxious - but he's supposed to be! You're supposed to be irritated by his antics and he only comes into the story in the last third, so - personally - if you really can't stand him that much, I'm sure he should ruin the whole film for you.
Basically, 'The Fifth Element' has everything an enduring film should have. It has action, romance, sci-fi (if you're into that!), adventure, sets, special effects, costumes, humour, brilliant direction (the way characters in one scene answer a seemingly unrelated question a different character had just posed is very nice and adds to the quirky feel very well) and - perhaps most importantly - if has all that without needing to be 'adult' in content. It was rated 'PG' here in the UK and I think it's a film that all the family can enjoy together. Better still... it never received a sequel or remake (to date, 2020!), therefore leaving this as a perfectly self-contained little gem of sci-fi brilliance.
The Fifth Element
Action / Adventure / Romance / Sci-Fi
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2 hr 6 min
P/S 5 / 39