As I might have mentioned in my article last Monday, I don’t really get much of a chance to see too many movies. Well, that’s not entirely accurate. I have Netflicks, and there are always theaters around if I really, really want to make a day of it, but generally I tend to avoid watching full length feature films. Still, I’ve been watching Elrood and Enosh pound out movie review after movie review, I’ve been itching to give it a try myself.
So, after my complete and utter failure to watch the awfully terrible GI Joe movie last week, I decided to try something I knew I could sit through. I last saw The Fifth Element back in college (which was an increasingly depressing long time ago), but didn’t remember much about the film, which I chalked up to the film being not that interesting. I was informed by my brother over the weekend that it was actually halfway decent, so I booted it up to see what its deal was.
Turns out, it’s a pretty solid action film, even if it does have a tendency to fall into some pretty obvious sci-fi clichés along the way. Bear with me! Spoilers, probably, maybe? Though since this film was from what? 1997? I’m willing to bet most people know the plot by now.
The Fifth Element starts out in the bygone year of 1914, where an aging archaeologist and his… son or something, are investigating ancient, spooky ruins in Egypt. Where in Egypt? Dunno! Deal with it! Anyway, the professor is making great strides in deciphering the ancient hieroglyphics, which talk about some kind of battle between good and evil and how you’re supposed to use the power of the four elements, plus a mystery fifth one, to save all life in the galaxy. Or universe. Whichever makes the movie more interesting for you.
According to my notes (yes, I took notes. I have a bad memory, okay?) Old Beard Man is unhappy about the expedition, so he resolves to poison everyone to keep things on the down low. Before he can, though, ALIENS land outside, and slowly waddle their way inside, whereupon they steal some rocks, kill an old guy, and then abscond with the whole shebang.
My notes call these aliens Waddlebeasts. They’re large (big-boned), have shoulders covered with pointy things, to ward off birds, probably, and have very tiny heads. Their space suits put special effect lights right between their legs. Not sure why. Anyway, after telling Old Beard Man to calm the eff down because the evil apocalypse won’t happen for 300 years, the Waddlebeasts get back in their space ship and leave.
Three hundred years later, humanity is orbiting around, what my notes refer to as Swirly Evil Fire Planet. Because we’re humans, we quickly resolve to blow that shit right up, but that only pisses it off. After this point, everyone seems to say “eh, okay we tried,” and lose interest, sending away the one guy who actually knows anything about the Evil Swirly Planet and how we might be able to blow it up more effectively.
Anyway, that’s the back story. On one side, you have EVIL, which is pretty easy to identify. On the other side you have GOOD, which you know is supposed to probably be the Fifth Element. That’s right. BORON.
Okay, not really. Elements in this case are more traditional water, fire, wind, and earth. The fifth one, as it turns out, is a hot chick. Which is okay by me. Milla Jovovich is a lot easier on the eyes than Boron. Besides, the film probably wouldn’t have been as compelling if Boron was the hero. What the hell is Boron, anyway? Wikipedia says it’s a metalloid, which is obviously a secret liquid spy that has been placed among the metals in order to infiltrate their society.
Anyway, this whole mess ends up falling into the cab of Corben Dallas (played by Bruce Willis) after the Fifth Element (played by Milla Jovovich) escapes a science facility after being wrapped in some skimpy medical bandages. Dallas is a cabbie! Or maybe he’s a car thief? He could have been an ex-military operative. Dunno. The movie switches between backstories for Dallas when it’s convenient, which is okay. Willis is a decent enough of an actor to take them all in stride, while still coming across as a reluctant, I-probably-shouldn’t-get-involved-but-she’s-hot archetype character.
Jovovich has a bit of a harder roll to fill. First off, for most of the film she speaks in a completely illegible dialect which had to have been a bitch to get right. Or maybe she was just making it up as she went, who knows. Anyway, without the standard ways to build character, Jovovich has to make The Fifth Element (or Leel00 to her friends) actually likable. She does this with facial expressions, inappropriate laughter, and by repeating the five words she does know with enthusiasm.
There are some other supporting roles here, too, like Ian Holm as the unconfident but dedicated father Cornelius, Charlie Creed-Miles as his bumbling assistant. They’re both eclipsed, however, by Gary Oldman, who plays as the films secondary evil villain, Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg. Yeah, calm down, that’s not really a spoiler. When a character shows up with a overly long emo-mowhawk shoved into a plastic helmet thing who is quick to dispense the dark glowers, you pretty much know where they stand in the grand scheme of things. Plus, everyone calls him Zorg, which is a dead give a way. It starts with a Z, for crying out loud. Everyone should have seen it coming.
Errr, anyway, yeah. Oldman is equal parts brilliance, ruthlessness, and insanity as Zorg, which actually made the cookie-cutter villain archetype somewhat refreshing. So there’s that.
Oh, also, big warning: THERE IS CHRIS TUCKER IN THIS FILM.
If you do not like Chris Tucker at all, avoid this film. His character, Ruby Rhod, a hyperactive radio personality with a love for the ladies, is Chris Tucker at his squeakiest, loudest, and most irritating. Though, he does spend most of his time in the film being thrown around, so there’s that to look forward to. He might have been the reason I wrote this film off as mediocre the first time around, but this time I was expecting him and it safely upgraded the movie’s status to “pleasantly okay.”
Anyway, I mentioned some pretty obvious sci-fi movie clichés early on, and then just talked about Waddlebeasts and Bruce Willis and hot, barely dressed superweapon chicks!
First off, I touched on this with Zorg, but you can easily identify which aliens are good and which ones are evil. Because the evil ones will be ugly. Hideously, unashamedly ugly. I think the movie gives us an actual reason why most of society hates them, but it was a bit tacked on. Ugly aliens are like Nazis in movies- you know all you need to know about them in the first five minutes because they’re just BAD. Some actual character development would go much farther.
Second, sci-fi outfits never made a lot of sense to me. I’m not talking about Leeloo’s medical wear that was really just an excuse to see Milla Jovovich topless, or the standard issued flight attendent look-at-my-chest garb, because that’s pretty much a genre staple. No, I’m talking about ridiculously impractical body armor suits for cops, futuristic clasp-on-the-shoulder science robes, and this orange… vest? thing? that Bruce Willis wears for most of the film.
There’s a couple of others, from the mandatory impromptu alien autopsy under high duress, watching a freaky blue alien chick sing some kind of opera techno song, and the fact that Dr. Evil is apparently working for the President of the
United States World. Oh god, the President. If you want me to actually point at what the weakest link is in this film, it’s Tommy ‘Tiny’ Lister, acting as President Lindberg. His lines are delivered flat and dead, and at one point he actually looks drunk off his ass while on set. It was a bit jarring. Luckily he’s just a secondary character so it’s not that big of a deal.
Anyway, the Fifth Element was a pretty solid movie that actually kept my attention, which is pretty odd for movies these days. Though now that I really think about it, I’m not really sure what’s going on in it. This Evil Swirly Planet thing is never really explained, it just is. And everyone said it wants to kill all life in the galaxy/universe, but it seems to only really care about Earth, so I’m not sure what’s up with that. But anyway, if you don’t dig too deep and try not to think of all the places you’ve seen this stuff before, it’s actually a pretty solid film.
One last tidbit from me, and then I’ll bring this to a close. In my scrawlings while I was watching this film, I apparently wrote the phrase “freaky elephant cat,” but now I can’ t seem to remember what it was referencing. So there’s something else for you. It’ll be like a special scavenger hunt special from me to you.
Filed under: Movies Tagged: | Bruce Willis, Charlie Creed-Miles, Chris Tucker, Corben Dallas, Cornelius, David, Evil Swirly Planet, Gary Oldman, Ian Holm, Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg, Leeloo, Milla Jovovich, movie reviews, sci-fi, The Fifth Element, Tommy "Tiny" Lister, Waddlebeast