The Fifth Element (1997)

the fifth element


The Scoop: 1997 PG-13, directed by Luc Besson and starring Milla Jovovich, Bruce Willis, Ian Holm and Gary Oldman.

Tagline: It Mu5t Be Found.

Summary Capsule: Even the world’s strongest Amazon minx needs the assistance of Bruce Willis to save the world.

Louise’s rating: Five out of five elements.

Louise’s review: Sci-fi comedy is a rare and beautiful creature which must be cherished. This mad little film is nuzzling its way into my already over-full heart, and I predict it will become a firm favourite. The plot is quite hard to describe, but I shall attempt it:

There is a glowing ball of pure Evil headed for the earth. The Evil is aided by the most hammy, cheesy villain since Ming the Merciless was actually transformed into a scrummy croque monsieur in a deleted scene of Flash, viz. Gary OldmanThe Evil is planning to completely, completely, completely destroy the universe, so why Gary Oldman thinks his own destruction a cause worth helping is never explained. There are some dopey orc-like mercenary aliens who initially aid and abet Gary Oldman, but after he turns on them they become a third party in the war.  

Fortunately, the earth has on its side four magic stones, two priests, and the good robot-duck aliens, who send us Leeloo, a bandage-wearing angel played by Milla Jovovich. The old priest is Ian Holm and the younger priest is King James II (Charlie Creed-Miles). Unfortunately, by breaking out of custody, Leeloo puts herself and her protectors (the priests, and Brooklyn cab driver Bruce Willis) on the wrong side of the law. Half way through the film, everyone realizes they need to go to a floating pleasure resort to retrieve the magic stones from an opera singer, and this introduces a new character, the high-wattage DJ Ruby Rhod.

As stories should, it all ends happily, with a final gag adding a touch of James Bond to the mix. Oh come on, that’s not a spoiler! As if it would end on a bum note, with John McClaine in charge!

It’s funny. Oh, gee whiz is it funny! It is a comedy thriller set in the future, and the future moreover visualized as fun and shiny and neon as a Japanese anime, rather than grim, rainy and dystopian. I can’t wait for the 23rd century, is what I’m saying.

You can put a bone in a microwave-like box, and come out with a whole roast chicken. Chinese food comes to your window and post comes into your hand down a yellow tube. Seemingly anyone can have an audience with the president. Bubble-wrap is an acceptable clothing material. Multi-limbed blue women sing opera. A whole apartment can fit into the space of one room.

The 23rd century is cool, but with a slight naivety to it. Like Leeloo herself — she is a supreme being, but she’s very innocent and needs a bit of love to get her to actually get off her bottom and do some world-saving. The comedic element comes from the outrageousness of the characters and costumes, and also the farcical nature of the plot — old-fashioned stuff where the laughs come from hiding behind doors, mistaken identity and pathetic attempts at deception.

There’s even a bomb.

My favourite characters are the priests, Vito and David (Ian Holm and Charlie Creed-Miles). My least favourite is Ruby Rhod. He annoys me, actually. I rather wish he hadn’t been included. Still, he’s required for Plot, and he’s not so awful that he ruins the picture. In short, Fifth Element: it’s very enjoyable. It will cheer you up. Watch it by yourself. Take it to a movie night and show your friends. Take it to Bad Movie Night, because you can laugh at it as well as with it. It is whack (sp? “wack”?). My heartiest recommendations.

DnaError’s rating: Orange hair = FUN!

DnaError’s review: Popcorn Movie: (n): A movie that may be not an intellectual feast or profound statement, but is damned fun and enjoyable. A movie to eat popcorn to. From the Latin “Popcornus Moveatis”.

The Fifth Element is a perfect popcorn movie. It’s fun, it’s fast-paced, it’s always interesting and exciting without ever being original plot-wise. I really like this movie, it’s a guilty pleasure to enjoy every pulp sci-fi cliche thrown at you. Sure, there is not an original idea in the movie’s pretty little head, but it’s all done so well that you just sit back, enjoy, and shovel popcorn in your mouth.

I guess you want an actual REVIEW okay then. The Fifth Element is the story of an all powerful evil… an evil energy that seeks the “the fifth element”. The story cuts from 1914 Egypt where huge aliens in their oddly shaped ships retrieve the other four Elements… then cuts to the 23rd Century when this dark force manifests itself again and the fifth element must be found.

If it sounds like the plot to a pulp comic or RPG, that’s cause, it is. The whole movie has the look and feel of an outrageous comic book. (including a humorous tone of adventure… this is not a movie that takes itself seriously or for anything more then what it is). Flying cabs zipping under towering buildings, sexy alien chicks, villains named “Zorg”, and a strange pseudo-mysticism around it. While Star Wars was rooted in westerns and space operas, The Fifth Element takes it’s cue from dime store comics and pot boiler sci-fi. It’s as if the writer/director, Luc Besson, just handed a bunch of copies of Amazing Stories to the art director and said “Make this real.”

And, they did, and did it wonderfully. The visuals in this movie are orginal and eye-exploding both for realism and creativity. New York City of the 27th century is a beauty to behold, the Jetsons meets Blade Runner meets anime. Later the movie treats the audience to outrageous and wildly imaginative airships and singing alien divas. Sure, the plot often takes a back seat to these stunning sets and CGI, but hot-dang, they are eye candy at it’s best.

The acting fits the movie. Bruce Willis’s put-upon cab driver, Korben Dallas is believable when surrounded by such insanity. Gary Oleman is having a great time chewing the scenery as “Jean-Baptiste Emmanuel Zorg”, the evil CEO… who seems to be Ross Preot on crack (as seen in a scene where he sells a new advanced gun like a used car salesman.) Milla Jovovitch is perky as Leeloo, the gibberish speaking sexy alien who has a bad habit of wearing very little. And “Ruby Rhod” (Chris Tucker), the drag queen/radio host/Howard Stern-meets-speed is gleefully over the top and campy that he steals the scene in the 3rd act.

So, in short, if you like having fun, see this movie. It’s a brightly colored comic book come to life, a visual smorgasbord of detail and wild imagination. The plot, for all it’s cliche, is damned enjoyable, a world is created in front of your eyes and the pacing is fast and furious, with a lighthearted, never-too-serious mood that keeps it enjoyable and humorous into the last act. And don’t forget the popcorn.

Justin’s rating: Bebop-skittle-do

Justin’s review: French movies are weird. There’s really no way to get around that fact. American movies made by French people in a French style are equally strange. Sure, they get big points for creative sets and looks, but there’s always this thing for dorky hairstyles and a general setting that nobody would take seriously.

The Fifth Element is a French/American hybrid of a film. At first glance, it’s got a lot of the elements (no pun intended, believe you me) that are ever at the forefront of American film: car chases, big explosions, a macho hero that looks a lot like Bruce Willis. But don’t let that fool you: Fifth Element is peppered with bizarre icons that can only be the product of a French imagination (in this case Luc Besson, of La Femme Nikita and The Professional).

For instance, the alien and police armor suits are the bulkiest contraptions imaginable, able to easily house a sumo wrestler. The soundtrack is comprised of Euro club beats. Fashion statements are made from a lot of transparent and plasticy-looking products. And with the exception of a few recognizable American actors, the rest have a definite oddball feel to them. Not that it’s bad, it’s just… different.

Once again, the Earth is facing destruction. That’s always a statement that invites ridicule, but never has the presentation of disaster been so… awkward. See, there’s a big ball of Evil coming to crash into Earth. Why? Because it’s evil!

The government and military advisors, made up of the most artificial-acting actors you will ever see, are clueless to stop it. So fresh off of saving L.A., Washington D.C., and New York City, John McClaine is called up to service. You really feel bad for Brucey boy, who tries to get through his lines and action sequences without laughing at how stupid of a plot is passing him by.

To make matters for Earth a bit worse, a traitor is in their midst. Zorg (Gary Oldman) is assisting the Big Evil Ball and for some reason sweats chocolate sauce. But fortunately Earth has a savior, the mystical “fifth element” who happens to be the Maybelline girl, Milla Jovovich herself. Touted as all that and a bag of bandaids, Leeloo’s (Jovovich) main power is having flaming red hair and having a talent for being beaten up a lot. At least we can stomach her hideous looks for the sheer depth of acting talent that lies within this ex-model.

Essentially, the cheese factor here is high. Kraft. Velveta. Easy-Cheeze. Aside from the whole fake-Frenchy thing and Leeloo doing next-to-nothing other than wearing next-to-nothing, we have the indignity of Chris Tucker being a complete spaz of a radio personality. I don’t need his motor-mouth in my life, but at least Bruce Willis strangles him at one point.

Speaking of which, Bruce is the only factor that makes this movie watchable. He’s genuinely funny, even with the lame lines given to him. He’s hysterical arguing with his cab computer, and has a couple touching moments being the big protector of Ms. Supreme Being. Of course, no Willis action flick would be complete without a gun in his hand and him using it, which happens much too late in the film for my tastes.

It’s cheese, but somehow goes down all the same. Fake roots or no, redheads wearing Band-Aid clothing are watchable. Flying cars bring back Jetson memories, which is watchable. Big blue aliens singing opera… okay, weird, but eventually she shuts up. That’s watchable. Wondering what American cinema has come to: priceless.

And a thousand convention costumes were born…


  • In the future New York City, Central Park is the same size as the real one and is in the same place… but 100 feet in the air.
  • Volumes of two manga series — Sanctuary, by Ryoichi Ikegami and Sho Fumimura, and Adolf, by Osamu Tezuka — are briefly visible in Korben Dallas’ apartment.
  • Korben Dallas is a lot like Harry Canyon, the scene from Heavy Metal that they “borrowed” the character from.
  • When Cornelius arrives at Korben’s apartment, he refers to him as “Mr. Willis.” Korben corrects him [incidentally, Louise thought he called him “Mr Wallace”, though “Willis” makes more sense.]
  • The exact date the movie takes place is March 18th, 2263
  • The Princess Leia cinnabon haircut on the general… oh dear.
  • Korben Dallas has the coolest room… EVER!
  • When the President tells Priest Vito Cornelius he has “twenty seconds” to state his point, Vito talks for exactly twenty seconds.
  • The cigarettes have a superlong filter and a very short burnable part.
  • When Leeloo punches through the glass in her cage, you can clearly see the prepunched hole a second before she hits it.
  • Ruby’s (clearly foam) blonde hair is modeled after Egon Spengler’s from The Real Ghostbusters. In addition to the Egon hair, the nametags of the scientists are the box with red letters a la the Grey GB uniforms.
  • The Diva Pauvalagona’s voice cannot be done by a human. Opera singer Maïwenn Le Besco had to have her voice altered digitally to achive the alien-like music.
  • The explosion in the Phloston main hall was the largest indoor explosion ever filmed. The resulting fire almost got beyond control.
  • Luc Besson had this idea when he was a teenager.
  • The language spoken by Leeloo was invented by director Luc Besson and further refined by Milla Jovovich. By the end of filming they were able to have full conversations in this language.
  • Charlie Creed-Miles, who plays the young priest David, played James Duke of York (later James II) in the BBC series Charles II: The Power & the Passion. He was also in King Arthur as one of the Celtic peasants subservient to that Roman git who ties up Keira Knightley – he’s the one who asks to come with Arthur and then starts organizing the evacuation. Ah, jobbing actors, it is you, not the so-called stars, who make TV and film worth watching.
  • Another area where this movie shines is the soundtrack by maverick composer Eric Sierra. It’s a variety of music… from ambient clayspo/techno to middle eastern mystery to the “techno opera” sung by the Diva.

Groovy Dialogue:

Korben Dallas: Whats your name?
Leeloo: Leeloo Minai Lekarariba-Laminai-Tchai Ekbat De Sebat.
Korben Dallas: Good. That… that whole thing’s your name, huh? Do you have, uh… a shorter name?
Leeloo: Leeloo.

Father Cornelius: Evil begets evil. Shooting it only makes it stronger.

Father Cornelius: You’re a monster, Zorg.
Zorg: I know.

Ruby Rhod: What was that, honey? It was bad! It had no fire, no energy, no nothing! So tomorrow from 5 to 7 will you PLEASE act like you have more than a two-word vocabulary! It must be green!
Korben Dallas: Can I talk to you for a second? [Throws Ruby up against a wall] I didn’t come here to play Pumbaa on the radio. So tomorrow from 5 to 7 you’re gonna give yourself a hand, green?
Ruby Rhod: Supergreen.

Ruby Rhod: What the hell are you screamin’ for? Every thirty seconds there’s a bomb or somethin’! I’m leavin! bzzzz!

Police: Are you classified as human?
Dallas: No, I am a meat popsicle.

Dallas: I only speak two languages – English and bad English.

If you enjoyed this movie, try:


  1. This is one of those movies I’ve seen about a million times over the years, always enjoyed, but don’t actually own. I’ll have to rectify that one of these days.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s