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The Fifth Element

movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4

All-Reviews.com 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 Andrew Hicks
2½ stars out of 4

THE FIFTH ELEMENT is an action / science-fiction hybrid that cost nearly $100 million to make but left out two of the most crucial elements of both genres. The best action flicks have a good sense of humor and the best science-fiction films have a brain. THE FIFTH ELEMENT has neither, and zero suspense. What it does have is a terrific visual style, outrageous art direction and a wide variety of people sporting a wild variety of costumes, proof movies are looking more and more like music videos. If only they'd fade out after four minutes...

The first 15 minutes or so take place in Egypt, 1914, where an explorer has discovered some strange markings in a temple as Luke Perry looks on. A priest tries to stop the explorer from stumbling upon a cosmic secret, but too late. Down comes an alien spacecraft, out of which steps a strange bronze / chrome being that unlocks the entrance to a strange room. The brings out four small stone obelisks just as Luke shoots it. No, Luke, it's a friendly alien! Too late, the alien dies, after squeaking out a warning about the evil invading the earth 300 years from now.

Flash forward, oh, 300 years or so. We meet Bruce Willis, a retired government agent who's now living out the mundane existence of a cab driver. In the first few scenes, we get the requisite world-of-the-future scenes. The bed makes itself, the microwave cooks food in a second, the cigarettes are four-fifths filter and the cars fly.

Willis heads off in his cab as we cut to a secret government lab, where a group of scientists are examining the DNA of an armor-clad hand, the only remaining body part of an alien spacecraft that was shot down earlier in the day. They stick it in some futuristic chamber and reconstruct the entire being based on the DNA of the hand. After a few bright flashes we see a nude, orange-haired Milla Jovavich. One of the scientists makes the mistake of getting too close to the glass chamber, as Jovavich smashes the chamber and bashes his head in before jumping through the wall of the building.

A chase ensues as she jumps from the building and right into -- as coincidence would have it -- Willis' cab. She's just beautiful enough that he risks his life outrunning the cops. Of course, she doesn't speak any English, so she can't tell him who she is or what she's running from. All she can say is the name of a priest, one in a long line of holymen who has been trained to protect the four stones. But we soon learn the stones were stolen by evil Zorg (Gary Oldman), who is working for the evil aliens that want to destroy the earth.

Jovavich was sent by the good aliens to protect -- she is the fifth element. So the elements are earth, air, wind, fire and anorexic models? I can handle a universe like that. The weak writing shows through as the priest reminds Willis that she may have superhuman strength but she is also fragile. She needs his love to survive. Pathetic, as are the caricature portrayals by Oldman as the psycho villain and Chris Tucker as a flamboyant but frightened radio host who is thrust into the action two-thirds of the way into the movie.

THE FIFTH ELEMENT has a few interesting elements. It's fun most of the time and always flashy, but it's also missing a lot. We don't care about the characters, there's no suspense and the plot is predictable and borrowed from hosts of other sci-fi flicks. If they're going to throw so much money at a movie, they should at least invest a few million in the creative end. The mise en scene is nice but it doesn't balance out the writing.

The two-and-a-half star rating applies to the viewing experience I had -- huge screen, digital stereo sound. It was almost enough to make it seem good at times. Otherwise, the rating is knocked down by at least a half-star.

Copyright 1997 Andrew Hicks

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