Thursday, June 21, 2018

Blast from the Past Movie Review: The Fifth Element (1997)

Once upon a time when I was in fifth or sixth grade, a science-fiction movie called The Fifth Element came out. My parents were rather conservative about what I was allowed to watch until probably my junior or senior year of high school, so I wasn't allowed to watch it. I pretty much forgot about the movie--looking back most of the movies I wasn't allowed to watch were pretty stupid, like the monster movie DNA that's so bad I can't even find it on Amazon Associates--until Myopia: Defend Your Childhood decided to do a podcast episode on it.

Well, here's the podcast. Now for the review...

The Plot

After a short prologue set in Egypt in 1914, we jump 300 years into the early 23rd Century. Korben Dallas (Bruce Willis), a military veteran turned taxi driver, crosses paths with Leeloo (Milla Jovovich), an avatar of powerful alien forces. She's pretty important, because an ancient evil that emerges every 5,000 years has returned to threaten Earth. It can only be stopped by five artifacts, four stones representing the classical elements (earth, water, air, fire) and one "fifth element," but eccentric (to say the least) billionaire Jean-Baptiste Emmanuel Zorg (Gary Oldman) is in league with this evil and is planning to steal the stones himself.

The Good

*I liked that it was a Coptic Christian priest (he certainly doesn't look European) who was part of the ancient alien conspiracy. The Copts are the direct descendants of the original Egyptians (see this article here about their language), so they're a lot more likely to get involved with Ancient Aliens-type stuff than the more recent Arab arrivals.

*Korben's military history is shown rather than told--military commendations on his wall, a call from his old commanding officer to catch up, etc. This sets up his bad-ass exploits later on. And although exposition through dialogue is usually not done well ("as you know, Bob"), Zorg exposits the reason why the pig-orc Mangalores are willing to help an ancient evil power destroy Earth pretty neatly without wasting a lot of time.

*There's some pretty good humor in here, like how Korben defeats a mugger and, well, the Space RuPaul that is Ruby Rhod.

*Gary Oldman is clearly playing against type--rather than an obvious tough guy like Sirius Black, Commissioner Gordon, Count Dracula, etc. he's an effeminate Southern-drawling corporate bigwig who's not completely sane. I can appreciate that--roles like this show his range as an actor and he's one of the most entertaining elements in the film. That said, he's sneaky-smart and still pretty handy with a gun.

*A character's death actually caused me to have an emotional reaction, and they're only on-screen for five to ten minutes at most.

The Bad

*For starters, the movie is way, way too long. It's around 2.5 hours if I remember correctly.

*Many of the characters' actions make no sense and serve only to advance the plot. For example, Dallas flees the police with Leeloo when she starts to cry after literally falling into his cab, despite living in very precarious circumstances (i.e. he doesn't have the resources to evade the police, nor defend himself legally if arrested) and having only just met her. Yes, it's clear he's not over his wife having left him, but there's making bad decisions due to a broken heart and there's making truly nonsensical decisions based on a broken heart. The same with Zorg's various antics, especially later in the film.

*The opening is a little slow. Although the beginning in Egypt is kind of cool (including the line about the Germans), the Mondoshowans were hard to take seriously as threatening, or for that matter functioning, aliens. They came off to me as obese robotic Skeksis (from The Dark Crystal). And some of the aliens' actions don't make much sense in the beginning either.

*A modern-day priest claims that trying to fight the Ancient Evil with weapons is trying to fight evil with evil, but he proposes no actual alternative to the President even though he's part of the secret society that's been in league with the aliens for thousands of years. Now might be the time to spills the beans, Father.

*When Leeloo first materializes she's completely naked, as one might expect. Then come some "thermal bandages" that don't really insulate much. Come on, we know that's just for audience titillation while avoiding an R-rating. Just have some doctors give her a robe or something.

*So many McDonalds product placements. It's so obvious.

*The romantic relationship between Korben and Leeloo that develops doesn't seem to have any basis in, well, anything.

The Verdict

There are some parts that are actually pretty entertaining, but it's silly and generally not very good. Don't bother. 6.0 out of 10. 

No comments:

Post a Comment