Most movies set in the future depict either an overpopulated and dying world or a technologically advanced utopia with flying cars. 1997’s The Fifth Element isn’t just an example of the latter, it practically invented the genre. The movie had been a virtual mystery before it was released, and for good reason: it was unlike anything that had been seen before. Borrowing elements (pun intended) from the French comic Valerian and Laureline, the film is saturated with colour, the technology is outrageously advanced and the aliens are about as unique as animals are in a zoo: they’re not everywhere, and if you want to see one you have to pay.
Storywise, the film falls into pure sci-fi hokum territory. Earth is attacked by a force of “pure evil” which can only be defeated by the collective power of the four usual elements and a mystery fifth element in the form of a perfect being (Mila Jovovich). The problem? The incarnations of the usual four elements are missing. Futuristic taxi-driver Korben Dallas (a gruff Bruce Willis basically reprising his John McClane role from the Die Hard series) gets caught up in the adventure when Leeloo, the mystery fifth element, crashes through the roof of his taxi.
Korben starts off as a simple driver with some admittedly amazing driving skills, and over the course of the film he turns into a killing machine who cracks jokes during a fight. Willis ends up carrying a lot of the movie purely through his one-liners.
The antagonist, Zorg, is played by acting veteran Gary Oldman. Made up of nothing more than a collection of villain stereotypes, Zorg is nonetheless a very funny and intriguing villain with a hilarious accent and entertaining little speeches. It’s disappointing that he never meets Korben in the film, depriving us of an actual showdown.
The plot of the film wanders here and there sometimes, which can be annoying – but when a movie looks this good, you end up not caring. My advice? Sit back, relax, and simply take in an amazing looking film.