So I get a lot of shit for liking The Fifth Element. I’ve never quite understood all the hate for the film online. Ernest Cline has Buckaroo Bonzai. I have Korben Dallas. I think the problem is that people just don’t understand what they’re seeing when they watch The Fifth Element. Here. Let me explain it a bit in list form.
1. The film is a living, breathing, comic book. No. Really. The film was designed by Moebius, one of the greatest artist that has ever lived and it is the ONLY film that looks like his pages just came to life. The aliens, the armor designs, the vehicles, everything in that film looks like it came out of a french comic book and I love it. The visuals are amazing.
2. The world lives. The problem I have with a lot of sci-fi films is they feel the need to explain themselves. “In the year 2525 mankind has constructed spit cities in the clouds due to. . .” whatever. Ya lost me all ready. I don’t care. The Fifth Element cuts through this by just dropping you in the future and making you assume things. These people don’t stop for exposition. They just do their jobs and live their lives. Why are the filters on the cigarettes so long? Why is there a trash workers strike? What does “SMOKE YOOOOOOOUUUU!!” mean? Doesn’t matter. We’ll figure it out. The world is lived in and I want to see more of it.
3. The crazy casting. I don’t mean Bruce Willis going back to a more comedic slant or Milla Jovavich’s adorable portrayal of a Supreme Being. I mean everyone else. Luc Besson cast folks completely against type. Brion James is charming and likable as General Munro. I have no idea why they cast Tommy Lister as the President, but it was by far my favorite thing he’s ever done. It was great to see him NOT play the asshole thug for once in his life. Don’t even get me started on how awesome Ian Holme was in this movie as a bumbling priest. I wish more directors would do this. These guys were great and they deserve better than what they usually get.
4. Gary Oldman, Gary Oldman, Gary Oldman. Seriously. Do I really need to sing this guy’s praises still? I love his ridiculous performance and costume. He stole every damned scene he was in and that leads me to my next point. . .
5. Hero and villain never meet. Not once. In every Hollywood movie the hero and the villain meet in an epic fight that will shatter the bones in your face. The Fifth Element doesn’t and that’s a good thing. The last thing you would want to do is put Gary Oldman in the same scene as Bruce Willis. Someone would come out of it seeming less. There’s that one scene on the Cruiseliner where they almost meet. Zorg comes out of the elevator just as Korben is going in. They almost meet. And how does the villain meet his end? By his own hands basically. He screwed over the wrong person and paid for it.
6. Chris Tucker. Man, you just. . . Go watch his damned scenes.
7. The world was saved by love. Really. There was no titanic war. The gun fight in the film wasn’t to save the world, that was to get the keys to saving the world. To save the world a man who had been hurt and scarred emotionally had to gradually come to terms with that and realize that he could love again. Did this get explained to us like we were a bunch of kids who couldn’t understand? No. Was there a heavy handed moral that got narrated to us by Ian Holme? No. It all got summed up when Korben finally found himself able to say the words “I love you.” I’ll take that ending over anything Michael Bay could ever make and any sappy rom/com ever written. Jerry McGuire didn’t even handle it so simply.
So now, go back and watch The Fifth Element. Maybe you still don’t like it, but maybe now you can appreciate it. Maybe you’ll see it the way I do. If not, well, SMOKE YOU!! 🙂