Film Stuff

Day 5: The Fifth Element (1997)

Nope, I’ve never seen this before. I was too much of a Trekkie in the mid-90s to even contemplate any other form of sci-fi. More fool me. Although I do admit to a modicum of joy yesterday when someone linked to a Twitter exchange between William Shatner and a serving astronaut:

So, anyway, The Fifth ElementIt’s all a bit mad, really, isn’t it? From a fairly sedate Stargate-ish beginning in early 20th century Egypt (with the bloke from The Vicar of Dibley), it suddenly transmogrifies into a bizarre, futuristic world with fascistic undertones and a nice line in tight leather shorts. Bruce Willis is a blue-collar taxi-driver whose license points are threatening to overcome his mother’s self-pitying phone calls as the routine bane of his life. Into his cab crashes Leeloo (Milla Jovovich), a woman fleeing from the authorities and unable to communicate in any recognisable language. But we can see that her orange hair matches his orange vest, so we know she’s come to the right place.

The pair go searching for answers from Ian Holm’s venerable priest, who reveals that Leeloo is the supreme being, the “fifth element” after air, fire, earth and water, who has returned to Earth to save mankind from destruction. No pressure, then. The only thing that’s missing is four stones representing the other four elements, which need to be in place if there is to be any hope of salvation. It’s a pretty handy “unobtainium”-type MacGuffin that takes them on a pleasure cruise pursued by all manner of bad guys, led by Gary Oldman’s Hitler-coiffed meglomaniac.

This is great fun. Visually stunning, it fore-shadows the futuristic worlds of films like The Matrix and Minority Report with ingenious ideas about corporate monopoly and over-crowded city-scapes. Bruce Willis is on top form as the workaday cabbie who moonlights as a government agent. It’s also good to see Ian Holm having fun as the hands-on priest who combines spirituality with practicality. And Chris Tucker is just mad.

I’ve seen him appearing on “Most annoying character in film” lists, without ever seeing the basis for it. Now that I have, well, it kind of fits. It elevates (or lowers – however you choose to see it) the film into supreme camp kitsch. He’s like something out of Zoolander (a film which, incidentally, also starred Milla Jovovich), which is no bad thing. Combined with Bruce Willis and his deadpan reaction, the result is mad, garish, and frequently hilarious.

I’m sorry I missed this film at the time, but glad I had the chance to pick up on it now.

What I would have seen (if Netflix had the range): Nada – Netflix came up trumps with this one.

Anagram: (The Fifth Element)
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