When the Superbit line of standard definition DVDs came out, one of
the first titles to be released was The Fifth Element. This
was a good choice since the film is filled with very interesting visuals
and boasts an intricate and aurally impressive soundtrack that takes full
advantage of the full soundstage. After the good reception the Superbit
version of this film received, it doesn't come as a huge surprise that
Sony has decided to include this film in its first wave of Blu-Ray high
definition video discs. What is surprising is that the disc isn't
the stunning reference quality release that it should have been.
With a soft, flat image and chronic spots on the master, and almost no
extras, this disc is fairly disappointing and is an opportunity that Sony
This movie has been released in three other editions, but in case you
missed those here's a brief recap of the movie:
Every 5000 years a malevolent evil attacks the Earth, its only goal
is to kill all living things. Luckily there is a weapon that will
beat this invader, a fifth element, which when mixed with the other four
(wind, earth, air, and fire) create a super weapon. The secret to
this weapon has been passed down generation after generation through a
series of Egyptian priests who guard the weapon itself. In 1914 however,
the aliens who gave mankind this weapon took it back to use it in an interstellar
war, promising to return it before the evil arrived again, 300 years hence.
Fast forward 300 years and the evil force, a ball of fire 12,000 miles
in diameter, has appeared. It's heading towards Earth and nothing
can stop it. To make matters worse, the fifth element's ship was
destroyed as it was heading towards Earth. Luckily the living weapon
was able to be saved. The weapon, naturally in the form of a hot
woman named Leeloo (Milla Jovovich), escapes from military custody and
quite literally falls into the hands of cabbie Korben Dallas (Bruce Willis).
The four stones that it takes to activate the weapon, being escorted by
a courier via a different route, are still needed though. Unfortunately
these stones are being hunted by the military, a priest (Ian Holm), a rich
psychopath (Gary Oldman), and a squad of irate alien mercenaries.
It's up to Korben to aid the helpless and naive Leeloo in recovering the
stones before anyone else can get to them, and before all life is exterminated
from the Earth.
While this isn't the greatest movie to ever be filmed, it is a lot of
fun. Director Luc Besson (La Femme Nikita, Leon the Professional)
creates an action film that is light-hearted and filled with some wonderful
visuals. The world of the future, as Besson sees it, is filled with
bright colors and unusual fashions. A creative and imaginative world
that really makes the film a joy to watch.
The acting is also very good. Willis plays the same kick-ass-and-take-names
character that he played in the Die Hard films, and he does it very
well. He brings a sense of humor and irreverence to the film that
the movie really revels in. Milla Jovovich is also perfectly cast.
She exudes sexuality in the film with a minimal outfit and orange hair,
but she's also innocent, naive but can take care of herself when she needs
As for the plot, well, that's not the film's strong point. This
is a good example of where style triumphs over substance to make a fun
and enjoyable film.
With the bright colors and fun visuals, this should be the standout
disc from the first wave of Blu-Ray discs to be released. Unfortunately,
this wasn't the case. When the movie starts and the Columbia logo
is on the screen, the first things that catch the viewer's attention are
the spots on the master. Unfortunately this doesn't stop when the
movie itself begins. Though they are infrequent, there are spots
through the entire film. I was floored by this. You'd think
that Sony would have tried to release a reference quality disc for this
first wave of Blu-Ray discs. Apparently not.
The Superbit release of Fifth Element looked pretty good, and maybe
I'm expecting too much, but I wanted the Blu-Ray disc to look significantly
better. (If it doesn't, what's the point of upgrading to this
new format?) I'd love to report that this film was drop dead gorgeous
but, like the other Blu-Ray discs that I've seen, I can't. It just
didn't look that much better than the SD DVD especially if you have an
up-converting player. Aside from the spots and marks on the master,
the transfer was a bit on the soft side. It didn't have the crispness
that we've come to associate with HD video. Things didn't pop out
like they should. Instead they tended to lie on the screen making
the movie appear flat.
On the positive side, the myriad of strong colors that infuse this film
are bright and solid. The blues are particularly strong being full
and deep. Happily, there isn't any color bleeding even with large
areas of red, a color that seems more likely to this defect. The
colors blend from one shade to another in a nice manner too.
While this disc does look good at first glance, it doesn't have the
quality that a high profile film like this one should have. This
image just doesn't wow the viewer like other HD content does, which is
This disc comes with an uncompressed PCM audio track, as well as DD
5.1 tracks in English and French. I had always hoped that the new
HD formats would give viewers more choices in the way they view films,
but so far that hasn't been the case. The Terminator Blu-Ray release
does away with the original mono soundtrack, and this disc doesn't have
the DTS track that was featured on the Superbit and Ultimate editions of
Okay, besides that gripe, how does it sound? Very good actually.
The PCM soundtrack is very full and clear and really reproduces the audio
well. The Diva's song sounds rich and textured, and the sound effects
during the battle scenes really surround the viewer and puts them in the
middle of the action. The high audio quality is particularly nice
since this film makes such good use of the soundstage. Once the action
is over, the movie doesn't fall back to stereo sound the way many movies
do. The whole room is filled with sound for the entire film, making
this an excellent soundtrack.
*sigh* Once again the Blu-Ray discs doesn't even port over the extras
that are available on SD DVD discs, not to mention having exclusive content.
The Ultimate Edition of The Fifth Element had two hours worth of
behind-the-scenes featurettes in addition screen tests and other clips.
All of that is missing. The only extra that is included on this disc
is a pop-up trivia track that relates some trivia about the movie.
I was disappointed that Sony didn't put a bit more effort into this
release. The Fifth Element could have been the reference disc
that everyone pulled out when they wanted to impress their friends, but
it really isn't. Appearing soft and two dimensional as well as having
defects on the master, this Blu-Ray disc is a bit of a disappointment.
While the movie is fun and worth catching, it would be better to just rent