The Fifth Element (DVD, 2006, 2-Disc Set, DVD + UMD Combo)

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Sexy Redhead saves the world

Dec 25, 2003 (Updated Dec 26, 2003)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:.

Cons:.

The Bottom Line: A simple film designed to entertain without being too full of itself, shame about the 'Special Edition' though.


French director Luc Besson (Nikita) is not one I would have readily associated with a fantasy adventure, certainly not a PG rated, family friendly fantasy from the director of movies such as Nikita and Leon, yet this is the material that he was using with spectacular results in 1997's classic The Fifth Element.

The Fifth Element tells the story of a great evil that comes through a black hole every 5000 years, with our only defense being 5 sacred stones, 4 based on the elements of Wind, Water, Earth and Fire, with a mysterious Fifth Element being the main component of this defensive weapon. However with the outbreak of World War 1 Aliens came down to Earth to take the stones for safe keeping, returning 300 years later when the stones were needed. Sadly, when another species allies itself the evil, 4 of the stones are lost, and the Fifth Element has taken on the form of a beautiful woman, whom we come to know as Leeloo (Milla Jovovich). Bruce Willis plays Corben Dallas, a former marine turned cab driver who is given the mission of retrieving the other 4 stones, but are his feelings for Leeloo completely professional?

Now admittedly that is a simple story, and that is what The Fifth Element is. A simple film designed to entertain without being too full of itself, a film that knows it's goals and shoots for them, but thanks to Besson's masterful directing, the film scores, and sores better than nearly every other simple fantasy movie about, including Star Wars.

There's one scene in particular in The Fifth Element that reminded me exactly why it's OK to love action movies. In this particular scene Leeloo is dispatching a group of aliens using her martial arts prowess, but, at the same time, Corban is at a concert waiting to meet his contact. The choreography in this sequence is stupendous, a word I don't think I've ever used before, as Leeloo fights in time to the opera singers music, a music that gets the blood pumping and makes the scene that much more exhilarating.

It's not the only scene though, there's plenty of well choreographed action scenes throughout The Fifth Element including a scene which takes up the main body of the film, where Corban shoots up nearly every alien in the Hotel, and an introductory car chase, erm hover chase, that proved to be so popular it was granted it's own official videogame release, something I only know of happening one other time.

Of course one of the other reasons for the endearing success of these scenes is in Besson's visual style. A style that works as sort of a colorful, almost comic book movie. Vibrant colours clash together, particularly the primary colours of Red, Yellow And Blue to give the scenes a cheery atmosphere that is unmatched among other films of its ilk. Everything from the elaborate costumes, ridiculous weapons and larger than life aliens gives off the impression that a lot of imagination went into the designing of this film, further giving off it's comic book atmosphere.

Of course there are other films that can boast a similar thing, but it's rare to see a pure spectacle movie give that kind of attention to detail. What is an even rarer thing is to find that a pure spectacle with that kind of attention to detail, and, has good acting to boot. Both Bruce Willis and Milla Jovovich breath life into their roles, giving surprisingly sensitive performances as the 2 main characters and sharing a lot of on screen chemistry. Ian Holm gives a funny, blustering performance as the nervous, unprepared priest, whos purpose in life is to ensure the success of the stones against the great evil, and Chris Tucker is perfect as the most annoying radio DJ in history, past present or future. In fact, even Luke Perry does well in his brief scene at the start, something that would normally have represented the coming of the apocalypse, but here he does good. Yet the most impressive actor is the ever brilliant Gary Oldman, who plays the evil corporate head, Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg, who is hired by the evil to retrieve the stones before they can be used. Oldman knows exactly what to do with the material at hand, adding a sarcastic sense of humour to the character that makes him a more interesting villain than the deadly serious, big scary bad guys of other fantasies.
5/5

The Disk

Sorry guys, this set is currently Region 2 exclusive, and the official word is that there will be no Region 1 release because the companies distributing the film are different, so this one is strictly for UK members and importers alone.

Extras
The first disk is an annoying thing because the menu's are just too flashy. Each option zooms at the screen and you have to hit enter before it disappears, otherwise you hit the next one and have to wait until the one you wanted comes back. Very annoying. Still it comes with a very interesting commentary track about the films visuals, there are number of cast members each of whom worked on the films visuals. I watched this after writing my initial review, and still found it interesting as the highlighted the visual shots that I didn't even notice.

The second disk opens with a Making Of Documentary that comprises of 4 separate featurettes, Imagining The Fifth Element, The Art Of Fifth Element, An Audience With Diva Plavalaguna and Elements Of Style, and it's an interesting documentary. It offers an insight into various stages of the production, from the initial script that was too long for a film, to a the brining in of French comic book artists to help with the films look, including the design of the Diva Alien who sings the opera during my favorite scene and ending with an in depth look into the unique style of Jean-Paul Gaultier who designed the films elaborate costumes. That last one I found particularly interesting as it shows how the cast felt about their costumes, especially Chris Tucker who's comments made me laugh.

The Trailers section is home to the films teaser, it's trailer and 5 TV spots. All of them are strong, classic trailers with excellent editing and use of sound. However the quality is just plain, URGH. Double interlaced, a technical term for those who watch these on a PC, extremely grainy and so Dark that you can't see a thing. I am still waiting for these trailers to become available, somewhere in high res, but this DVD set is not the one to watch it for.

A section entitled print is available to show you various posters, concept images, newspaper cut outs and other various still images. Not really useful, those who collect posters will collect posters, not little images on a TV screen, which even on larger TV's are too small for viewing the little details. Very dull extra.

The Cannes MTV Special is just what you would expect, an MTV special on the Cannes festival at which this film was premiered. Bruce Willis and Demi Moore were looking uncomfortable together even then and you get a section devoted to Jovovich, both of which are fun, but on the whole this is one boring extra. Fine as a teaser before the film came out, but now, without the mystery it's all really dull, and I don't even want to remember Gaultier's models, who must surely rank among the most unattractive women in history. This extra is too long too.

Finally The Sixth Element is a few pages of text that discuss Besson's work on this film. Showing how he originally wrote the story as a 16 year old with no idea how to make a movie, he wrote a 400+ page script that was too long for one film, it was then planned as a 2 film story, before the script was edited into a 160 page script we see in the film. It tells that Besson would like to return and do the sequel Mr. Shadow but despite teasing it's readers, this text offers nothing to indicate this will ever happen. Nicely short, just a few pages, but interesting and informative, a very good extra.
3/5

How does the DVD look?
The film has been digitally remastered, and it does look genuinely clear. It's just that the colour resolution is too bright, effecting the films look very slightly. It's not really too noticeable, but it is bad, especially in a film as visual as this one.
2/5

How does the DVD sound?
The film sounds excellent, offering both Dolby 5.1 and a 5.1 DTS track for those with the equipment to make use of it. It sounds genuinely clear too, with not so much as a hint of noise, obviously excluding the sounds made by the film itself, and as such you can sit back and enjoy the films soundtrack come pumping out of your speakers, adding to the overall experience. Though, no they haven't altered Chris Tucker's voice, even though so many of the films fans hate him.
5/5

Overall
The film is fantastic, but this set is not really worth the money. There are a few extras, though nothing to compare to other special editions like Se7en, and most of the extras are both uninformative and boring. Trailer's are of awful quality. I'm glad I have it because I love a good commentary track, always feel cheated without one, but unless you feel the same go for the other sets which, while lacking extras, have the better colour contrast.
3/5


Recommend this product? Yes

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