The Fifth Element
Other // PG-13 // $19.99 // June 5, 1997
Review by Aaron Beierle | posted June 28, 2000
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Graphical Version
The Movie:

Although "The 5th Element" has gained a fairly big group of fans and supporters in the couple of years since its release, I still find myself disliking the movie, if not completely. I won't argue that the film isn't a breathtaking looking one, with seamless and impressive visual effects, impressive costumes and action as well as great sets. But there's something about the nature of it as well as the story that just sinks the film for me each time I watch it.

Director Luc Besson has certainly done fine films before; "The Professional" is one that I consider good. "The Fifth Element" is all visuals, though - the story seems to be a second consideration to making the film look as stunning as possible. The story begins as introducing us to the evil that is headed towards Earth; it can only be stopped by the "5th Element", which turns out to be a girl who can't speak English named Leeloo(Milla Jovovich). She must be combined with the four other elements to stop the evil; but the only problem is, can she and her protectors get her to them?

Bruce Willis stars as Korbin Dallas, a taxi cab driver who just happens to run into Leeloo one day, and before he knows it, he's become involved in the mission as well. I suppose it's possible to just let yourself get into the look, tone and visuals, but I simply have a hard time doing that in this case - the film goes on too long in sequences and also, the goofy humor sometimes takes away rather than helps the film. That concept is illustrated in Ruby Rhod, a silly, shrill character played by the otherwise very funny Chris Tucker. A little of this character is way too much, and the film gives us way too much of him. Also on hand is Gary Oldman as the villian Zorg, a total cartoon of a character that's amusing at first, annoying as the film progresses.

I've gotten a little more used to the film after watching it a few times, but my complaints still stand. A visual thrill, "The 5th Element"'s story and pacing could have used some additional work.


VIDEO: Columbia/Tristar's transfer of "The 5th Element" was one of their first and still considered one of their best; their work here is simply breathtaking - the anamorphic transfer is remarkably sharp and consistent. In a movie like this where the visuals are breathtaking, the transfer does a fine job in bringing out every detail of the effects work. Colors practically pop off the screen; wonderfully saturated reds, yellows and practically all the colors of the rainbow look deep and rich on this image. Flesh tones are natural and black level is solid, as well.

There are some little problems here and there. A tiny bit of light shimmering is apparent on occasion, but it doesn't distract. There is no pixelation, and the print used is crystal clear - totally free of marks or scratches. This is outstanding work, and in terms of picture quality, definitely demonstration-worthy. There is a pan&scan edition on the flip-side.

SOUND: From the opening moments onward, it becomes obvious that director Besson wanted this film to be as much of a thrill in terms of audio as it is visually. Long regarded as one of the best sound demos, "The 5th Element" doesn't contain the most impressive sound I've ever heard, but it is outstanding in many aspects. There is frequent and very agressive use of the surrounds in many of the action scenes; a lot of creativity obviously went into the way that sound is presented in many of the more intense sequences, as well.

Otherwise, Eric Serra's score sounds excellent as well, with a very strong, deep presence that really thumps away wonderfully. Bass is very deep and very strong at times, as well. Dialogue is natural and nicely integrated. This is a very impressive soundtrack and although it's not the most remarkable I've ever heard, it's certainly very well done. The Diva scene is a particularly great one in terms of sound, as are the film's many explosive action scenes.

MENUS:: Unlike Tristar's early menus (which were pretty much just a series of buttons), this one does integrate some film-themed images, but remains pretty basic.

EXTRAS: Here is where the problem comes in. Director Luc Besson has stated that he does not want to be involved with additional features for "The 5th Element". While that seems to rule out a future special edition, it would be nice to at least have a re-issue with a commentary track from the effects crew, explaining how they created the major effects sequences in the film. For right now though, this is the only edition of the film on DVD that is out and will probably be out for a while. This disc includes nothing extra, not even a trailer.

Final Thoughts: I still think "The 5th Element" is a technically marvelous film that gets a little goofy in terms of story, but Tristar's DVD in outstanding in terms of quality, with top-notch audio/video. The only problem remains the complete lack of any extra features at all.

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