The Fifth Element – Review

by Ken B.

Good luck on trying to identify what The Fifth Element is really trying to say; it’s not that easy. Maybe it’s partially because of its visual intake as an action film, and then blind siding you with odd originality that you’re reluctant to embrace, maybe it’s because it’s so difficult to understand, maybe it’s because in a completely neutral statement, you have probably seen nothing like this before.

The movie begins in 1914, where we are briefly introduced to the pre-existing four elements, presented in the form of colorful stones. We’re in Egypt, in the midst of World War I. Suddenly, mysterious creatures arrive in search of a weapon created only by combining the four elements with a mysterious Fifth Element, and when the mission fails, promising to return in three hundred years.

Obviously, cut to three hundred years later. We’re now in New York, briefly focusing on the life of cab driver Korben Dallas (BRUCE WILLIS). He’s apparently a former Special Forces officer, and he’s just living life as what I can only assume is the average NYC cab driver (that means not a good driver).

We find out that this Fifth Element is now in the form of a human, taken in the existence of a young woman (MILLA JOVOVICH) who escapes from a scientific lab and crashes onto Korben’s cab, thus initiating the main story, an adventure that will take them everywhere, from the place of weird evil aliens lead by Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg (GARY OLDMAN) and the bizarre land of an eccentric talk show host (CHRIS TUCKER).

If there is one compliment that must be revealed, it is the visuals, especially 2214 New York, which thanks to Digital Domain, pops with vivid red, oranges, and yellows. It is the most telling part in this movie, adding life and energy to a movie that soon runs out of it.

What do I mean by that? The run time. This movie clocks in at 127 minutes, but in a move I previously observed in Superman: The Movie, doesn’t release it lacks enough story to justify it running 127 minutes. Maybe if you sliced out 25 or 30 minutes, we’d have something a little more tolerable. It becomes progressively harder to pay attention, and only The Bruce Willis Recipe for Awake (large action scenes with explosions) can snap us back into reality.

This movie is directed by Luc Beeson, a French director who has apparently been involved in the creative process behind nearly fifty films in the past thirty years. If you watch The Fifth Element, you are immediately presented with more than enough evidence to prove that Beeson is not the stereotypical French filmmaker (Beeson favors big explosions, slick visuals, and an apparent lack of long dialogue with people in armchairs smoking cigarettes). Beeson is Hollywood’s action man outside of Hollywood, an artist in the visual department, but lacking in the story department.

The Fifth Element is extremely peculiar. It’s loud, boisterous, and vivid, but somehow kind of empty and flat. I still wonder how to express my full thoughts in words, and may possibly never find out how. To understand what I mean you must watch it also. It seems obvious on the surface, but if you look at it too long it loses all easy understanding capabilities.