Guilty Pleasures: The Fifth Element (1997)

Luc Besson’s The Fifth Element from the summer of 1997 begins in Egypt circa 1914 with “Beverly Hills 90210” star Luke Perry being involved in an alien invasion. Everything gets more bizarre from there on…

This is not your everyday summer blockbuster and that’s an understatement. By 1997, director Besson had the clout to basically make whatever picture he wanted. And that’s precisely what he did here. After 1991’s La Femme Nikita and 1994’s Leon: The Professional, French auteur Besson was a hot Hollywood commodity. This led to The Fifth Element, a story he reportedly constructed when he was a teenager and got to make some twenty years later. The picture indeed feels like it was constructed by someone not yet of adult age. It may not always make a whole lot of sense and it has frequent tone shifts… you know, like an impatient teenager was writing it. On the flip side, Element is simply a tremendous amount of fun, contains a lot of well-placed humor, and is a visual feast for the eyes. The Fifth Element is evidence of what happens when a teenager’s fantasy flick is given a $90 million dollar budget.

The story primarily takes place in the year 2214, where the fate of planet Earth hangs in the balance. A beautiful woman Leeloo (Milla Jovovich, who’s terrific here) comes to Earth and is seen a necessary figure in order to save the planet’s impending doom. It all has to do with four mythical stones that must be obtained in connection with a mysterious “fifth element” (get it?) to ensure civilization’s survival.

Caught up in the middle of it all is taxi cab driver Corbin Dallas (Bruce Willis) who forms a connection with Leeloo and goes along with her on the journey. And yet… there’s so much more.

There’s Gary Oldman hamming it up fantastically as a demented industrialist and weapons dealer.


There’s Chris Tucker as a flamboyant talk show host, doing some sort of demented impression of Prince and perhaps Dennis Rodman.


There’s a weird looking blue alien singing opera and then techno music (you gotta see that one for yourself). Oh, heck, here you go:

The pic is also a triumph of bizarre costumes all designed by the world famous Jean-Paul Gaultier, who coincidentally designs the cologne I normally wear.

And truth be told… it’s all entertaining as hell. Guilty pleasure entertaining? Absolutely. If you haven’t seen The Fifth Element or if it’s been a while, I recommend a look just to behold what Besson was able to get away with in a major studio picture.

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