Release: 24th August 2020
Format: BR / DVD
New York, the twenty-third century. The Earth is about to be destroyed by a huge ball of fire racing toward the planet. Cornelius, an old monk, knows how to stop the burning sphere: the Fifth Element, the Supreme Being, who unites the four basic Elements — air, water, fire and earth — must be summoned for it is the only being who can stop Evil. Cornelius, with help from Korben Dallas (Bruce Willis) a taxi driver and former secret agent, and Leeloo (Mila Jovovich) an alien in the shape of a beautiful, orange haired woman, set off on a myriad of adventures in an attempt to save humanity and fight the horrendous Zorg (Gary Oldman).
Luc Besson’s The Fifth Element is a film as cult as they come. Primarily a tour de force of eccentric camp sci-fi, not since Flash Gordon has a film so uniquely walked the line of taste. With this in mind, it seems odd that this eurotrash fusion of blue-collar machoism and fierce haute couture would make a suitable candidate for a 4K release…until you consider that Flash Gordon turns 40 this year and has had similar treatment with both films being released one week apart.
Destined to split opinions, The Fifth Element has long been considered either a work of auteur brilliance or a jabbering mess. At nearly 25 years old, it is still unclear which is the most accurate summation. There are moments when Luc Besson’s visual intent runs away with the film; and we spend chunks of time world building with exposition and aesthetic tomfoolery. While, at other junctions, character seems to take more of a precedent with the central performances from Bruce Willis and Milla Jovovich adding layers of nuance and humanity to an otherwise cartoonish world of lunatics. One thing that does arise is the complicated nature of the relationship between these two leads. A seemingly childlike figure, Jovovich may be able to carry herself in a fight, but there is more than a touch of Lolita in Leeloo. So, although Dallas is a broken and hopeless romantic, his mildly predatory infantilism of Leeloo is a little troubling.
The triumph of The Fifth Element always comes down to one’s own reaction to Chris Tucker’s Ruby Rhod. At first a seemingly innocuous comic relief entering the film halfway through act 2, Rhod is a maniacal pre-YouTube rendition of future ‘influencer’. From his garish vocals to his hypersexual androgyny, Rhod represents everything The Fifth Element stands for. He is loud, fast, colourful, incoherent, vulnerable, out of control and crumbles in the face of danger. When Rhod is “super green”, the film functions as a fever dream of fashion masking dystopian values. When Rhod gives over to Bruce Willis’ Korben Dallas for protection, the façade is literally blown to pieces as an action film emerges. In short, if you can swallow the ‘red pill’ and enjoy the ride, there is much to be experienced. Whereas, the rest of the world need find their action in the last 20 minutes.
In this 4K presentation, that film carries a healthy grain with improved clarity. The soundtrack plays well, and one could even forget the film’s age. What is unusual, however, is a seemingly muted colour palette. For a film that thrives with black lights, yellows, oranges and neon trimmings; it plays out with much less saturation than one might expect from Dolby Vision. Still, this is likely the best the film has ever looked, and for fans is a must buy.
Film Grade: C+
Where all our special features at!?
Special Features Grade: F
The film looks great, but its sexual politics seem questionable. Also, the lack of special features is a big badda boom bad move.