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The Fifth Element (Ultimate Edition)
DVD disk
01.15.2005 By: JoBlo
The Fifth Element (Ultimate Edition) order
Luc Besson

Bruce Willis
Milla Jovovich
Gary Oldman


star Printer-Friendly version
As originally written by director Luc Besson while in high school, this futuristic film features an unknown nasty entity approaching our planet, with plans to destroy it in less than 48 hours, with only the special help & powers of a "fifth element" able circumvent the catastrophe. As it turns out, the "fifth element" is a hottie girl, who likes to get naked in front of people, and doesn't speak much English. With time, she adjusts to our society, hooks up with a wise-cracking cab driver and attempts to retrieve the four other elements required to help stop this alien invasion. What ensues are lots of special effects, lots of patches of the color orange and actor Gary Oldman's accent...unleashed!!
Strange. I really don't remember this sci-fi flick being as "goofy" as it was today on DVD. In fact, I don't remember it sucking as much either. I remember seeing this film in theaters, enjoying its first hour and then believing its second half to suck-- primarily due to the inclusion of one very annoying character played by Chris Tucker and too much emphasis on some blue-alien-bitch who sings opera. Watching it again, I realize now that the film's first half isn't "all that" either, and that the second half does, in fact, still suck (and yes, again...primarily because of Tucker and said blue-alien-bitch). But enough about my memory, let me tell you what I liked and didn't like watching this film again this time around. Actually, I didn't really like much about the movie, other than the pretty cool special effects, which might've impressed me even more on the big screen back in the day, especially the hovering cabs and police cars jetting around the early futuristic city sequences. Jovovich was also fun to watch, as was Oldman and his hilariously over-the-top rendition of Foghorn Leghorn on acid. Other than that, some of the beast bad guys were well made, a couple of the gadgets were cool and the tip of the hat to BLADE RUNNER via the Asian delivery stand was neat...but that's about it.

What wasn't so good about the movie included its simplistic, and quite uninteresting, storyline, its overemphasis on humor, its horrible soundtrack, which seemed to take every un-science-fiction ditty and slap it into the mix, the lame-o attempt at a "love story" between Willis' character and the "Fifth Element" herself, the aforementioned second half of the picture, which for some reason, takes place on a super-colorful cruise ship that, again, has no place in such a movie, and the inclusion of idiotic characters like Ruby Rhod, who provides Jar-Jar Binks a decent run for his "I could ruin an entire movie by myself" money. The film's action sequences, of which there were very few, were also nothing stand-out, and neither were its opening 10-15 minutes, which had almost no zip or energy (and also included a cameo by Luke Perry!). Overall, I can't even imagine a hardcore sci-fi geek really getting into this flick, despite its cool special effects (ultimately wasted, since the story blows), or anyone else who wants to be thoroughly entertained, as not much about the movie really grabs you. I'm pretty sure there was an engaging story in there somewhere, but God knows director Luc Besson was too busy concentrating on a 5-minute alien-blue-bitch opera sequence in order to wrangle it in (surprise, surprise...Besson was once engaged to this actress in real-life, and has a kid with her). A disappointment.
Now while I truly didn’t enjoy the movie when I watched it on DVD this time around, I have to admit that this “Ultimate Edition” digital rendition of the flick, does pack a punch in terms of its extras. One thing that is still completely inexplicable and, at this point, quite baffling to me though, is the fact that the main man behind this film and THE PROFESSIONAL, Luc Besson, does not only not participate in any of the extras on this or the latter film, but isn’t even shown for a split second in any of the behind-the-scenes stuff! It feels like he formally asked not to be a part of his films’ special editions and if anyone knows why that might be, please email me about it, because I’m just amazed. That said, here’s the breakdown of what you will find on this 2-disc edition of THE FIFTH ELEMENT.

The Visual Element (18 minutes): This featurette focuses on the two French comic book artists, Jean Claude Mezieres and Moebius, who inspired, and ultimately worked with, writer/director Luc Besson, on the film’s overall production design. Being a fan of comic books, I was quite interested in this piece, especially since it really provided a nice background on each fellow and featured plenty of their original artwork and sketches for the film. This section also included a variety of the film “tests” generated for the actual movie featuring their designs.

The Digital Element (10 minutes): This featurette focuses on the actual computer imagery utilized in the film, particularly during its first hour, in the futuristic city of New York. We already know how most of this “green screen” stuff works nowadays, but it was still quite interesting to see how thoroughly the digital filmmakers had also re-created an entire city of New York in models on a soundstage. They ultimately combined computer imagery with the models and the actors to come up with the final shots in the movie. Pretty fun stuff to watch, especially if you were impressed by those shots…which I was.

The Star Element (~ 20 minutes): This section focuses on 3 of the film’s lead actors in small featurettes of their own, including Bruce Willis (4 minutes), Milla Jovovich (12 minutes) and Chris Tucker (4 minutes). The most interesting of the lot was definitely the Jovovich piece, and not just because they featured her naked again but because, despite the film being her 5th appearance in a motion picture, was also her first ‘big break”, at the tender age of 19. Each featurette features a sitdown with the actor in question discussing their role and the film, overall. Jovovich’s piece also featured about 10 minutes of her “screen tests” for the movie, in which she looks an awful lot like Darryl Hannah’s character from BLADE RUNNER (they decided to axe the black eye make-up for the final product). Tucker’s featurette is also fun to watch because he comes across as one really “green” dude who didn’t really know what was going on when he did the movie, but had fun and did his best anyway. Willis is Willis.

The Alien Element (~ 20 minutes): If you liked any of the alien creatures in the movie, this is a section you will definitely want to check out, especially if you’re interested in seeing one “brand” of alien that was produced for the film, and shot, but ultimately never made the final cut (the “Strikers”). This section is broken down into 4 sub-pieces including a 10-minute focus on the Modoshawans, which were those bigass creatures from the beginning of the movie, which certainly looked cool, but must’ve been one of the worst designed beings ever created, moving about 1 inch per second and having no real movement or agility. It was interesting to see how they got actors into those things though.

The second piece focused on the Mangalores, which were those beast creatures, who were actually pretty cool-looking in the film, but dumb as posts. Picasso is the third piece of the puzzle here, and he’s Gary Oldman’s goofy-looking “pet” in the movie. Finally, the last section focused on the Strikers, who were these long-limbed garbage-striking aliens who were supposed to be featured in the film’s airport sequence, but were ultimately cut out of the movie (not sure why). This section was pretty interesting overall, especially since it re-iterated how much hard work it takes just to create a basic movement or facial expression on one of these things. Each of these sections also included “screen tests” and outtakes from the film of the respective aliens.

The Fashion Element (7 minutes): Just as its title would suggest, this featurette focuses on all of the funky costumes from the movie, which when placed together in such a tight piece, really give you a sense of how “out there” many of them were. Jean-Paul Gauthier, the man behind the magic (or the horror, depending on whether you think his fashions were innovative and avante-garde or pretentious and crappy), discusses his ideas, sketches and collaborative methods on the project. Seems like a pretty gay guy....happy, that is.

The Diva (16 minutes): One might argue that anything more than 1 minute spent on this “mysterious woman” is a minute too long, while others might argue that 16 minutes spent on this “enigmatic character” are 16 minutes too long, and I’ll go on record as agreeing with both of those statements. I’m not sure why anybody thought either this character or this featurette was so “integral” to this sci-fi flick, but needless to say, I wasn’t a fan of this lady in the movie, and was bored stupid during this interview with the woman who portrayed her in the film, some one-word actress named Maiwenn, who was apparently engaged to writer/director Luc Besson at the time. Natch! My favorite part of the interview is when she tells us how “disappointed” she was at how little of her character was ultimately featured in the film. To make up for it, they feature the entire 5-minute uncut sequence here. Bugh. Skip this shit.

Fact Track: I always like these things, and much like for the Deluxe Edition of Besson's THE PROFESSIONAL, this DVD's got a very thorough and consistent text-based trivia track that runs at the bottom of your screen, as you watch the movie. Everything from this being Milla Jovovich's 5th film (get it, she's also the 5th element?), to the mugger in one of the film's early scenes being played by French actor/director Mathieu Kassovitz (he played AMELIE's boyfriend and recently directed GOTHIKA), to the film costing $90 million, the most expensive film produced outside of Hollywood at that time.

Granted, I was really hoping that this movie would come through for me in a much bigger way on the digital medium, but unfortunately, it really wasn’t all that good to begin with, and with time, it doesn’t seem to have aged all that gracefully either (especially since its effects were the best thing about it, back in the day, and most of them, are pretty commonplace now). That said, the film does have a cult following among many and if you’re one of those people, you’ll surely appreciate this double-disc which despite completely ignoring the film’s writer/director, Luc Besson, for reasons still unknown to me, does pack enough extras to satisfy anyone looking for detailed info about the film’s production and background. Rent it first to see if you really like the film though…it doesn’t hold up all that well.
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