Ode to The Fifth Element,
SciFi cult classic from Luc Besson.
Monkeys Fighting Robots wants to say,
How much we love your crazy ways
Happy birthday 20 years ago this day.
A Look Back At The Fifth Element, 20 Years Later
For those who haven’t seen The Fifth Element, I suggest you stop reading and go watch. The science fiction film centers around a great galactic threat that’s heading towards Earth. A species of robots, charged with stopping the great evil, is mostly wiped out before they can get their plans into motion. The weapon against the great evil is a young girl who’s the perfect human. But she needs one thing to make her unstoppable, and that’s where cabbie Korben Dallas comes in.
Watching the Fifth Element today you’ll notice just how flawless and vibrant the effects remain. Every penny of the 90 million dollar production is well-spent. Costumes (from legendary designer Jean Paul Gaultier), ships, weapons, creatures, cityscapes, and sets are richly detailed. There’s nothing here that screams “I want to be like Star Wars.” If you know Director Luc Besson’s work, he doesn’t imitate or copy. Certainly, Fifth Element is inspired by science fiction before it, but it’s mixed with an attitude and style that’s rare. Fifth Element is as fresh and diverse a film today as it ever was and will likely be so for a long time.
During the 80s, French filmmaker Luc Besson put together a robust filmography under his belt. In 1990, Besson made a little mainstream motion with Nikita an action film that’s been remade as a movie once and as a TV show twice since. In 1994, Besson made his big splash with Leon: The Professional. By this time Besson was clearly a visionary director with a clear sense of style and signature.
Besson’s vision included beautifully detailed miniatures mixed with CG recreations and classic practical effects. Three effects teams worked on the production with Digital Domain, James Cameron’s people, working on the CG visuals. Besson also recruited many of the comic book artists whose work inspired him to create designs for the film.
The 1990s were a good time for Bruce Willis. After starting the decade with Die Hard hits, he parlayed that into dramatic work in Pulp Fiction and then out into a broad range of work. Willis was perfect as Korben Dallas, a throwback hero in a future world. Willis’ masculinity as a character is further enhanced by the effeminate males that dominate the rest of the film’s characters.
Opposite Willis was Mila Jovovich who had done five films in the years leading up to Fifth Element. Jovovich became an action star as Leeloo, a perfect human meant to save the universe from evil. Jovovich became an action star following Fifth Element, going on to make the Resident Evil films enjoyable, Joan of Arc interesting, and Ultraviolet a quiet cult classic.
No great movie works without an extraordinary villain. Gary Oldman slipped into the role of weapons dealer and opportunist Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg perfectly. Oldman’s performance is off-kilter, like a ‘roided up version of his character from The Professional. Though Oldman says of the film that he “can’t bear it” his performance as an unhinged villain is one of the actor’s best, particularly in the realm of pop culture.
Providing a heavy dose of comic relief was late 90s “it” comedy actor Chris Tucker. As a celebrity in the world of Fifth Element, Tucker’s Ruby Rhod was caught in the middle of an intergalactic power struggle. His shrieks and delivery are borderline obnoxious, but that’s the point of his character and Tucker pulls it off.
French musician Eric Serra is a longtime collaborator of Luc Besson. Serra creates a score for the Fifth Element that both enhances the movie’s darker moods while enriching it with energy that drives kinetic scenes to a fever pitch. The mix of Arabic horns, industrial progressions, futuristic pop, and atmospheric vocals is spot on. In this age of movies without exciting music or thematic chords carried throughout the experience, Fifth Element’s soundtrack only gets better.
However, there is one scene in the film that’s closely tied to the music which is what people remember the most — the Blue Opera Singer.