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The Fifth Element

Fifth Element, The (1997) Movie Poster
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  •  France  •    •  126m  •    •  Directed by: Luc Besson.  •  Starring: Bruce Willis, Gary Oldman, Ian Holm, Milla Jovovich, Chris Tucker, Luke Perry, Brion James, Tommy 'Tiny' Lister, Lee Evans, Charlie Creed-Miles, Tricky, John Neville, John Bluthal.  •  Music by: Éric Serra.
        In the twenty-third century, the universe is threatened by evil. The only hope for mankind is the Fifth Element, who comes to Earth every five thousand years to protect the humans with four stones of the four elements: fire, water, Earth and air. A Mondoshawan spacecraft is bringing The Fifth Element back to Earth but it is destroyed by the evil Mangalores. However, a team of scientists use the DNA of the remains of the Fifth Element to rebuild the perfect being called Leeloo. She escapes from the laboratory and stumbles upon the taxi driver and former elite commando Major Korben Dallas that helps her to escape from the police. Leeloo tells him that she must meet Father Vito Cornelius to accomplish her mission. Meanwhile, the Evil uses the greedy and cruel Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg and a team of mercenary Mangalores to retrieve the stones and avoid the protection of Leeloo. But the skilled Korben Dallas has fallen in love with Leeloo and decides to help her to retrieve the stones.

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Image from: Fifth Element, The (1997)
Image from: Fifth Element, The (1997)
Image from: Fifth Element, The (1997)
Image from: Fifth Element, The (1997)
Image from: Fifth Element, The (1997)
Image from: Fifth Element, The (1997)
Image from: Fifth Element, The (1997)
Image from: Fifth Element, The (1997)
Image from: Fifth Element, The (1997)
Image from: Fifth Element, The (1997)
Image from: Fifth Element, The (1997)
Image from: Fifth Element, The (1997)
Image from: Fifth Element, The (1997)
Image from: Fifth Element, The (1997)
I remember, being a child of the New Age of Plastic, getting shiny plastic toys for Christmas. Boiling with excitement, I tore off the paper, pulled open the box, yanked out the shrink-wrapped contents, and attempted to retrieve the toy, the actually goodie, from layer after layer of thick clear plastic. Invariably my mother had to retrieve her heavy metal sewing shears to cut through the nearly-impenetrable stuff.

The combined smell of all of this, both toy and packaging, was almost insufferable: that dense, noxious smell of plastic and complex chemicals, compounds of benzene and styrene and polymethylchloryl-something-or-other, things that you just knew by instinct had never existed until just a few years previous, when clever scientists in lab coats had finally figured out how to dredge up the muck of countless long-dead creatures that had stored up energy from the sun when it burned a billion years ago, and coax and tease that muck into weird new chemical syntheses that will without doubt long outlive us all, buried in the bottom of a reeking landfill.

But I was happy. I had my brightly-colored, plastic-smelling toy. It looked phony, it felt phony, it smelled phony, and if you burned it, it even burned phony, somehow, big glowing globs of plastic dripping like hellish candlewax. I soon tired of it, tired of the phoniness, and most of all the smell...but there would always be a new shiny plastic toy to catch my eye.

It's that empty, shiny phoniness, that noxious smell that you hate subconsciously, but that reminds you of new toys, so you tell yourself you love it, that I get out of "The Fifth Element." It is not the first movie that has reminded me of that plastic smell; in fact, I once thought that no movie would ever unseat "Total Recall" as the champion of the Plastic-Smelling Movie. I was wrong. I was wrong on a colossally huge scale.

Everything about this movie, and brother, I do mean everything, is completely fabricated and plasticized. The harsh lighting, the ugly, garish costumes, the Looney Toons color scheme, the overwrought sets, the bright red hair, the deep blue skin, the rubbery-looking bad guy aliens, the whiney pseudo-Jewish mother on the cellphone, the meandering, pointless plot. Throw in double-takes, cartoon sound effects, goofy slow-mo, and a futuristic villain with a Southern drawl, and you have a movie that not only fails to capture your imagination and interest, but acts as a kind of reverse magnet for both. Try as you might, this movie locks imagination and interest right out with a big steel padlock.

And yet I take my big metal sewing shears to this movie and try to cut off all of the senseless clear plastic wrapping to get at the brightly-colored, synthetic-smelling toy inside. Why? I don't think I can answer that question. I'm old; I know better. There is no rational explanation.

So I'll leave it aside and move on to other topics. Example: This movie rips off lots of other movies. The similarities to "Total Recall" are too numerous and obvious to list. And then there are the echoes, however clumsily handled, of "Blade Runner." (Although this megalopolis of the future is sunny and almost appealing, instead of dark, rainy and gritty.) Even "Star Wars"--those rubbery aliens, as a single example.

The movie's attempts at humor are so ham-handed that they're laughable...or rather, beyond laughable. Insulting, really. The most extreme example of this is Chris Tucker's role, which is part superstud celebrity, part drag queen, part Buckwheat, and part PeeWee Herman. You have to admire the sheer chutzpah of the role, I suppose, even though it fails to work right from the start. But a failure like this is so cataclysmic that it's bound to evoke at least some pity. If a toy balloon pops at a party and a toddler sheds a few tears, we manage only a gentle smile. When the Hindenburg goes up in flames, we gnash our teeth and lament, "Oh, the humanity!"

That's what this role is: It's the bleeping Hindenburg, only it's loaded with nuclear bombs instead of mere explosive hydrogen. Tucker has no choice but to keep rolling with this disaster, growing shriller and wider-eyed with every scene. Imagine being trapped in a role like that; you know it's not working; the cast and crew know it's not working; everyone knows it's not working. But what can you do? The hook is sunk, the barb has caught your flesh, so you put on your pushy-up bra and your fake-rose-festooned gown and crawl around on the floor on all fours, dodging rubbery-alien bullets and screaming like a little girl. Oh the humanity!

Willis nearly disappears in this movie, even though he's the protagonist. It's just Willis being Willis. That same I'm-so-1940's-film-noir-hardboiled look he brings to practically every role. That same nonchalant way he lights a cigarette, or talks on the phone, or rolls his eyes. Willis shrinks to a vanishing point in this movie; they should have made his character a robot. An invisible robot.

About two-thirds of the movie, there's a scene where a hotel-in-space is about to explode, and panicked guests rush to little space lifeboats, which stream away from the hotel by the hundreds. Alas, we are not so lucky, because even though the number one humanoid bad guy has been atomized, and the fabled "stones" recovered, there is still a big fireball hovering outside Earth, for some stupid reason, so we must soldier on. The attempt to build tension for the climax is ridiculous, with the rescue from death of the entire planet delayed until the very...last...second, and it's achieved by the silly red-haired chick's performing a kind of cosmic laser yawn.

Oh, and by love. Stapled on at the last second because the red-haired chick was looking at a montage of pictures about war, for some inexplicable reason, and apparently she had never realized until that moment that the world is filled with ugliness. Even though everything IN THIS ENTIRE MOVIE up to that point has been UGLY. I mean geez, was she in a coma or something? Is this the same chick who personally kicked the asses of about 50 of those really ugly, violent rubbery aliens? (In a scene, incidentally, that is pure Three Stooges--except it isn't funny.) And then had to flee an exploding space hotel? Did she think that was a kid's birthday party or something? Anyway, these pictures convince her that there was no point in living, not for her or anyone else, and it takes Sweet Baby Bruce the Lovin' Hunk to convince her that she should do the laser yawn thing about 15 milliseconds before the Earth is atomized. Bruce: You might want to put parental controls on your collection of genocide pictures. Safety first!

Oh, before I forget: those rubbery aliens have machine guns whose bullets can't penetrate even the flimsiest of furniture. They fire off about 50,000 rounds at Willis while he's hiding under a table whose top looks paper thin, and we see the table shredded to bits, but our hero emerges unscathed. Steven Segal would have been proud. In fact, about the only thing this movie lacks is a patented flabby kung fu scene by Segal where he moves with all the speed of a tree sloth and yet fends off 25 attacking super-ninjas. If I were making a "special edition" of this movie, I'd splice in one of those scenes right in the middle of this movie. I bet you no one would even notice.

Then we cut to the final scene, which is another pointless ripoff (the director no doubt thought of it as an homage), to the Bond movies this time, where the hero beds the chick while the VIP's stand around and wait to congratulate him. Bruce and the red haired chick are in what appears to be an iron lung. Again, why? Maybe they mentioned a reason, but you're beyond paying attention to the movie at this point, so you just shrug your shoulders and say, "Because that's what they came up with to rip off the Bond-in-a-space-capsule-in-the-sea schtick." And the very last second of the movie is...I swear I'm not making this up...a freeze-frame. What the heck? Is this 1973 or something?

Please please please do not watch this movie. I couldn't bear it. Do you hear me? I couldn't bear it. No! Put it down. No! No! I'm begging....

Fine. Just for that, I'm watching "Neighbors" again. No, don't start complaining now. I'm going to watch it, and I'm going to ENJOY it, and make you suffer.


Review by Dan from the Internet Movie Database.

 

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May 6 2017, 14:04
May 6 2017, 13:47