So once again we have survived.

The Fifth Element

The Fifth Element is your usual Bruce Willis movie that starts out in Egypt in 1934 and ends up in some fancy space hotel in 2334 with this blue skinned space opera lady singing opera and then busting off dance moves. Bruce is introduced down on his luck, pretty much like in the Die Hards – his wife left him, he’s trying to quit smoking, his mom won’t stop hassling him and he’s “5 points away” from losing his job as a flying cab driver in space age New York.

In fact this is a lot like a Die Hard movie except in a cartoony comic book space world instead of a building. Instead of talking to a cop on a walkie talkie, he just talks to his mom on the phone, and instead of terrorists there’s this big ball of fire hurtling toward the earth that turns light to dark, life to death, sometimes has a giant skull for a face, eats missiles and sattelites, and calls himself Mr. Shadow during phone calls.

The Fifth ElementIt’s a pretty simple plot. There are these four stones that combined with a perfect being called “the fifth element” can stop the ball of fire. These stones are in Egypt but then these fat robot guys come down from space and take them away for safe keeping. But then 300 years later they try to bring them back but their ship gets blown up by these muppet dog men. But the government finds a glove inside the ship and they use it to construct the perfect being, a hot orange headed gal named Leloo. So then she and a priest and Korben Dallas have to pretend they won this contest and go to the space hotel and the rocks are inside the belly of a singer so after she dies they take them out of the belly and there is a shoot out so they bring them to Egypt and do the whole ritual and whatnot.

The appeal of this picture is mainly visual. It’s a real spectacle like some artsy fartsy comic book some frenchy would do. Bruce doesn’t joke too much and he gets some corny lines like, “There are some very good words in V: valiant, vulnerable, very beautiful.”

But let’s face it the man looks cool even if a little gay. He’s got blond hair and he wears arm warmers. Later in the movie after the space opera there is a big shootout, so he is right at home in space.

Now this Leloo is a pretty young gal with freaky ass hair like Lola in Run Lola Run. She’s played by 1999 Outlaw Award Honorable Mention for Best Badass female Milla Jovovich from The Messenger and she seems completely real, hopping around like some kind of animal blurting out crazy japanese or some shit. See she’s this “perfect being” reconstructed by scientists, so she has to use computers to learn about earth culture, and she only speaks “the divine language.”

Now I might be imagining this but I seem to remember hearing a story about how this movie was made, I believe this girl was a wild child that they found out in the jungles of south america or something, they dressed her up and let her loose on the set and just filmed whatever she did. Now some would say this is cheating as far as acting like an alien goes and that’s probaly why she wasn’t eligible for an oscar for this piece. However if you’ve seen The Messenger story I think her english has improved quite a bit after being out in civilization for a while and she seems to be learning all the social rules, how to stand up straight and eat food properly and what not, although you can still see she’s a little crazy, a little wild. But I hope she is happy living out in the concrete jungle. Kind of a shame really, I think like Tarzan or King Kong this will inevitably lead to tragedy but what the hell, the little jungle girl makes a damn good Leeloo in my opinion.

There’s a lot of comedy type shenanigans in the movie that I don’t think are very good. There are three different parts where people faint, if that gives you an idea. At the end the president tries to talk to Bruce’s mom on the phone but she doesn’t believe he’s the president, and it’s just awful as far as being funny. But Leeloo is funny. And there is this scene, Leeloo has just been created in the lab but the scientists and soldiers are just busting her balls so she decides to just haul ass out of there, and the cops chase after her. Funny thing is, they know she’s this alien being just created in the lab two minutes ago, but they call her “lady” and get mad at her for not having an ID. Fuckin pigs man. Nothin changes in 300 years.

The casting in this movie is good. Not just Bruce and jungle girl, but they got this HUGE motherfucker Tommy “Tiny” Lister playing the president. This is a dude I would vote for in my opinion. There’s also this goofball playing Rhuby Rod, a superstar dj that dances around, sings, rhymes, and dresses like a lady. When he’s reporting live from the scene of a terrorist attack all he says is “Omigod, omigod, omigod, omigod.” Rest of the time he’s spinning around, going “bzzzt,” “super green super green.” I don’t know WHAT the fuck this freak is blathering about but I’m not surprised that shit is popular in the future. I mean look at Pokeyman.

There’s also Emannuelle Jean-Baptiste Zorg, right hand man to the evil ball of fire. This guy’s such a prick that when his adviser tells him they’re worried about the economy and want him to consider laying off 500,000 workers, he says, “Fire one million.” He has a hitler type haircut and wears a fancy plastic thing on his head, but he talks like Andy Griffith. This guy turns out to be a puss, though. His big scene where he almost dies – and I’m not joking about this – he’s sitting at a table flapping his big yap and then he chokes on a cherry. Like a true super villain he just barely survives that one by the skin of his teeth. But then he gets blown up by muppets before he even meets Bruce. And I mean why should Bruce have to bother with this pansy anyway.

It’s a goofy movie, but it’s a beautiful movie. It’s like if you take Die Hard, plug it into a wall, paint it blue and red and teach it how to fly, that’s the fifth element. You know what I’m talkin about.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Tuesday, January 1st, 2002 at 6:36 am and is filed under Action, Bruce, Reviews, Romance, Science Fiction and Space Shit, Thriller. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

8 Responses to “The Fifth Element”

  1. I’m glad to read you weren’t quite as taken with this thing as most of my generation is. For years I thought there must be something wrong with me, I’m the only person on Earth who doesn’t think FIFTH ELEMENT is super awesome. But now I know there are more of us. It’s time we came out of the shadows and proudly proclaim, “We are here, and we find FIFTH ELEMENT unforgivably shrill and underwritten, although not completely bereft of redeeming qualities!”

  2. Meh. It’s an OK movie. ‘Underwritten’ is a good word for it. It tries to have so much plot and do so many things and occupy so many different styles and tones it doesn’t really work out. But there’s nothing else really like it out there (and it imagines a world where Tiny Lister is President of the Universe) so I’m willing to cut it some slack.

  3. FIFTH ELEMENT seems kind of similar to HUDSON HAWK in my opinion, and not just because they both have Bruce. Same kind of silly action scenes, same kind of slapstick humor mixed with mawkish sentimentality and big-budget F/X.

    FIFTH ELEMENT does have some fantastic visuals at times though, especially the Earth through the huge window in the opera house, which is gorgeous.

  4. Mr. S – I thought FIFTH ELEMENT was quite decent for what it was: A Franco-churned STAR WARS knock-off. I mean is that such a bad thing?

    rainman – Except ELEMENT was more successful at what it was gunning for than HUDSON HAWK, if you ask me.

    Vern – review HUDSON HAWK

  5. Yeah, this one sure hasn’t aged well. Or maybe I was a lot dumber when I was younger.

  6. When I re-watched it a few years ago, I really didn’t like it that much anymore, but I re-watched it again yesterday and now I believe that it really holds up. It’s super bizarre and noisy and has some gaping plotholes (Like why do earth scientists randomly decide to take an alien hand and clone Leeloo with it or why does the “perfect being” look like a 14 year old boy, yet everybody still falls immediately in love with her) and totally fails at worldbuilding (Despite being played by Tiny Lister, the president seems to be a cool guy, yet the police on earth seems to be more of the facist kind, the way how they decide to use rockets against cab drivers and randomly raid apartment buildings.), but I enjoyed it a lot this time. The way it stuffs a million different SciFi concepts into one movie and goes from ridiculous to sentimental and back, makes it more or less the most expensive episode of DOCTOR WHO ever, only without the doctor.

  7. And yes, I love Chris Tucker in this one. I can see how he annoys certain people, but every single of his screams made me laugh like crazy!

  8. I always liked Chris Tucker in this one as well. It’s my third favorite performance from him behind FRIDAY & DEAD PRESIDENTS. I just always found it really fascinating that the combined essences of early 80s Prince and late 70s disco divas actually survived pretty intact almost 400 years into the future.

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