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The Fifth Element

movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: The Fifth Element

Starring: Bruce Willis, Gary Oldman
Director: Luc Besson
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 122 Minutes
Release Date: May 1997
Genres: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Action, Cult

*Also starring: Luke Perry, Milla Jovovich, Ian Holm, Chris Tucker, Lee Evans, Yolanda Garza, Nina Brosh

Review by Edward Johnson-Ott
2½ stars out of 4

Here's the bottom line. If you love sci-fi thrill rides, go see "The Fifth Element" right now. Don't read the rest of this review until after you've seen the film and don't let your friends tell you about the movie. Just go and enjoy the most spectacular piece of mindless eye candy to come along in years.

I really should stop right there, but if I did there would be a big blank spot on this page and I wouldn't get paid, so I suppose I should proceed. When I was little, I watched "The Jetsons" a lot. The writing was awful, bad enough to make "The Flintstones" look good by comparison, but that didn't matter. I just loved watching those anti gravity cars whizzing through the air past futuristic buildings. As an adult, I trotted off to every sci-fi film that came to town, yearning to see a realistic depiction of the kind of world in which the Jetsons lived. There was "Logan's Run," with its horribly fake looking models of a futuristic domed city. Then came "Star Wars," which did show a futuristic town, but the hover-cars were cheesy and the buildings looked like pueblos. The "Star Trek" films gave us glimpses of San Francisco in the future, but it was always the same shot; a panorama including the Golden Gate bridge and a couple of flying cars. The shot was tantalizing, but just didn't cut the mustard. Then "Blade Runner" hit, with its beautifully realized vision of a futuristic decadent Los Angeles. The massive motion picture billboards, flying cars, and post-punk city streets were dazzling, but it still didn't satisfy my adolescent Jetsons fantasies. After "Blade Runner, " most sci-fi flicks tried to copy the same look, or simply avoided city scenes altogether.

"The Fifth Element" is my Jetsons wet dream come true. We get a long, breath-taking look at New York in the 23rd century, with loads of knockout shots of flying cars in intricate traffic patterns whizzing past massive futuristic buildings. I drank in every moment and wished there was some way I could move there.

What's really great is that those stunning cityscapes are just a tiny part of the film. From beginning to end, "The Fifth Element" fills the screen with one incredibly imaginative scene after another, all presented with high style, lots of action and a great sense of humor. Starting in 1914 Egypt and quickly moving to the mid 23rd century, director Luc Besson ("The Big Blue") gives the audience a visual feast at breakneck pace. "The Fifth Element" is flat-out the coolest sci-fi flick since "Star Wars."

You may have noticed the rather juvenile tone this piece has taken. It is quite deliberate. Sci-fi springs from that 15 year old kid that lives in all of us. Great sci-fi requires an epic (and usually pretty silly) story involving the fate of worlds; with cool aliens, tons of killer special effects and a villain whose name starts with the letter Z. "The Fifth Element" delivers on all counts, and throws in some good acting as well.

Bruce Willis plays our hero, a cabby with a colorful past. A couple of years ago, some other movie critic came up with the Bruce Willis Rule, which is very simple. The shorter Willis' hair, the better his acting. That rule has held true until now. Willis has a pretty good head of hair this time around, yet delivers a straightforward, quite charismatic performance. He even knocks off lines like "I only speak two languages; English and bad English" without hamming it up. Gary Oldman plays the evil Zorg in freaky clothes and hair, while giving his character's presence a nice twist. When he makes his first sinister appearance, you expect a deep, ominous English accent. Instead, Oldman delivers his lines in a halting Arkansas drawl. The effect is disconcerting and very effective. The radiant Milla Javovich casts an otherworldly spell as Leeloo; the key character in the epic master plan.

"The Fifth Element" breaks up the action with some broad comedy, ranging from a stocky Police matron in a Princess Leia cinnamon bun hairdo, to a interplanetary deejay whose presentation style is more flamboyant than Little Richard. The film contains loads of other treats, but you don't want to read about them here. Just forget about being an adult and let that raging 15 year old inside you loose. Haul ass to a theater with a great sound system and have a field day with this epic, goofy beaut of a movie. I'm going back as soon as possible, and I swear that I will never watch those damn Jetsons again.

Copyright 1997 Edward Johnson-Ott

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