Features Film

SECOND LOOK: The Fifth Element

Written by Alex Reale

Seriously? How has nobody on this site revisited The Fifth Element yet? This movie is great, and not just in a campy sci-fi space action kind-of way.

Okay, maybe it IS nothing more than a sci-fi space action film, but it’s still awesome, dammit! Who would’ve thought that a film featuring Milla Jovovich wearing an orange wig and Chris Tucker being a flamboyant radio personality would end up becoming a such a cult classic? I decided to re-watch The Fifth Element this week for nostalgia’s sake, and I’m happy to say that it still has that same magic as it did when I first watched it back in the 90s. But what exactly makes it so good? (spoilers ahead!)

The Fifth Element takes place mostly in the future, but the first few minutes are set in the early 1900s. A group of aliens comes to Earth to collect four stones and a sarcophagus from an Egyptian temple. The aliens claim that these items make up a weapon capable of destroying a great evil that appears every 5,000 years. The stones each represent the classical elements (earth, water, wind, and fire), and the sarcophagus contains the “fifth” element in human form. The aliens promise that they will return to Earth with the weapon just in time to stop the next great evil.

Flash-forward to 2263. As the benevolent aliens are returning to Earth, they are shot down by other evil aliens called Mangalores, who have been hired by Jean Baptiste Emanuel Zorg (Gary Oldman). Earth’s scientists scavenge the downed spacecraft and recover the severed hand of the Fifth Element. They use the hand and some fancy future science to rebuild the being’s full body. Apparently, the Fifth Element is an attractive yet lethal young woman with orange hair named Leeloo (Milla Jovovich). Leeloo escapes the lab and dives out the window, landing in the one taxicab in New York City that happens to be driven by a former special forces major, who is named Korben Dallas (Bruce Willis).

The film consists of Korben and Leeloo attempting to get to the Egyptian temple so that they can stop the great evil. Along the way, they are joined by the priest Vito Cornelius (Ian Holm), his apprentice David (Charlie Creed-Miles), and the eccentric and loud radio/TV personality Ruby Rhod (Chris Tucker). Meanwhile, the Mangalores and Zorg are trying to retrieve the Fifth Element and the four stones (which weren’t found in the destroyed spacecraft).

There are so many things to love about this movie. For one, the futuristic setting is amazing. It’s just what you’d expect from a 90s envisioning of what the future would look like. We’ve got flying cars, automatic cleaning robots, hyper-speed airplanes, and everything in between. Even the music sounds futuristic. I don’t know why I never downloaded the soundtrack yet, but I know what I’m doing after finishing this review.

The film really picks up with an intense action scene about three-quarters of the way through. The Mangalores take over an intergalactic cruise ship and start rounding up guests. Korben Dallas grabs a gun and makes his way across the ship, taking out aliens left and right with no mercy. There’s also a kick-ass fight scene where Leeloo fights a horde of Mangalores single-handedly to the tune of a sick rock opera.

One of the greatest moments in the film is when the Mangalores have the pilots and Vito Cornelius held hostage in a small room. Korben claims that these types of aliens don’t fight without their leader, so he tells the Mangalores that he’s willing to negotiate with whoever is in charge. He walks in and fires one shot right into the leader’s head, and then asks if anyone else would like to negotiate. I still get chills whenever I watch that scene.

Gary Oldman’s Zorg is classified as the main villain of the film, but it’s a little odd that he never once interacts with Korben. They literally share no screen time or say one word to each other. The only connection they have is that Zorg owns the taxi company that employs (and later fires) Korben. That’s it. There’s a moment toward the climax where Korben leaves a room just as Zorg enters, but that’s about as close as you’ll get to seeing these two share any scenes. It doesn’t detract from the film at all; it’s just another interesting tidbit.

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Zorg is… unique. I can’t quite put my finger on it. There’s just something about him that intrigues me. It could just be that weird headpiece that holds his hair in place. Or that awesome gun he sells to the Mangalores that is capable of shooting darts, nets, rockets, flames, ice, and much more. He’s just an enticing villain. I really do wish we got to see Zorg and Korben face off at some point. I would’ve loved a fist-fight, or even a scene where Korben just looks Zorg in the eye and tells him to “F*ck off”. Give us SOMETHING.

At the end of the film, Korben and co. reach the temple, but Leeloo is on the brink of dying after having been nearly shot to death by Zorg. The gang sets up the four stones (which they recovered from the stomach of a rock opera diva – yeah, you read that right) and ponders on how to “activate” them. By sheer luck, they discover that each one is triggered by its associated element. The earth stone requires earth, the wind stone wind, and so on. There’s a brief moment of tension where Korben has just one match left to ignite the fire stone, and even though I know the outcome, I STILL hold my breath during this scene, as if one gasp could snuff out the flame.

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After the stones have been triggered, Korben asks Leeloo what else needs to be done since she’s the Fifth Element. However, we learn that love is actually the REAL Fifth Element (it’s a bit cheesy, but what do you expect?). The two share a passionate kiss, which allows them to save the world. Then they all lived happily ever after.

Kinda.

One thing that I noticed when I re-watched the film this week was that there is a slight scientific problem regarding the “defeated evil”. The villainous “great evil” takes the form of a giant fireball hurtling through space. After it’s defeated, it becomes a dormant rock just hanging out in space, not too far from Earth. Won’t this affect our planet? Our current moon controls the tides and seasons, so won’t the new satellite cause some major issues? I’m not an expert, so I’m sure there’s some explanation, but it was worth noting upon my recent viewing.

I remember The Fifth Element being the movie that made me fall in love with Milla Jovovich (then again, this was the first movie of hers I ever saw). There were moments where she was cute, moments where she was sexy, moments where she was bad-ass, and moments where she was downright frightening. Leeloo is such an awesome character that I’m surprised we never got a spin-off based around her. It’s probably because the film was produced back in the 90s when Hollywood wasn’t reboot/prequel/spin-off crazy like it is today. If Milla finishes up with the Resident Evil films sometime soon, I’d love to see her reprise the role of Leeloo in some form.

The Fifth Element is just so damn good. The music, the setting, the action – all of it comes together for an entertaining 90s sci-fi film. You’d be hard-pressed to find a similar film nowadays that even comes close to this movie’s quality. You know what they say: they just don’t make them like they used to.

Do you consider The Fifth Element a classic? What’s your favorite part of the film? Let us know what you think in the comments or on Twitter!

About the author

Alex Reale

From a young age, Alex knew he was destined to be a writer. He also harbored a deep infatuation with superheroes and comics. Luckily, he was able to combine these two passions through his role with A Place to Hang Your Cape, where he works as Junior Sidekick and Social Media Hero.

When he’s not writing for AP2HYC or working full-time as a content manager for a small business website, Alex is diligently at work on other creative projects including a fantasy novel collection and an independent comic series.

You can find Alex's first book, Dodger's Doorway, on Amazon!