The 101 Sci-Fi Movies brings a colorful, flamboyant and undeniably fun addition to the list with this fun ride, that features Bruce Willis as an unemployed cab driver who is trying to save the world.
Set in the distant year of 2263, the thing I love most about this film is that its future is completely realized, there are rules to it, cultures living it, problems central to it, and we don’t always necessarily understand all of it as a viewer, but we can get the gist of it.
Korben Dallas (Willis) a recently retired special forces operative, and now taxi driver, with one point left on his licence is thrust into an epic battle of good and evil when the fifth element, in the form of a supreme being named Leeloo (Milla Jovovich) literally drops into his life.
On his side is Father Vito Cornelius (Ian Holm), the president (Tommy ‘Tiny’ Lister), an eccentric talk show host Ruby Rhod (Chris Tucker) and a former commander General Munro (Brion James). He’s up against evil itself in the form of a planet-sized mass of evil referring to itself as Mr. Shadow, and those who serve it including Zorg (Gary Oldman) and his thugs for hire, an alien race known as the Mangalores.
Co-opted to save the world, if not the universe, Dalla and Leeloo head to Phloston, a beautiful remote planet to recover a set of missing stones needed to complete a ceremony to preserve the Light, before the Dark can take hold of it and bend the universe to its will.
Along the way Dallas gets to quip, fall in love with the girl, and blow stuff up.
The film never takes itself too seriously and there are tons of comedic and colorful moments, the picture hat, Leeloo kicking Mangalore ass, Zorg choking on a cherry, Dallas asking for help in the middle of a huge gun battle, the fantastic costume and character designs, multi-pass, and that’s just a few. The film is colorful and epic, wonderfully unique, and it’s not a surprise that it doesn’t appeal to everyone.
It’s created its own world and you either buy into it and go along for the ride, or you sit there and wonder what you’re watching.
Willis is, of course, perfectly on track with his quips and facial expressions, looking like he’s having a great time jetting around the universe, Milla is lovely and endearing, not to mention it’s always great to see her kick ass.
Stacking the deck around them with names like Ian Holm and John Neville just adds a layer of reality to everything, and Luc Besson makes it all work.
Scoring it all, is a wonderful, and slightly unusual soundtrack by Eric Serra.
I love the look of the film, and the CG and practical effects are almost seamless, and even 16 years later (!) still look really good.
This is a film that I don’t often watch, but when I come across it, I sit there and watch it all, because I seem to forget how fun it is until it’s on.