tek's rating: ½

The Fifth Element (PG-13)
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This came out in 1997. I don't remember whether I first saw it in the late 90s or early 00s, but in any event I'm writing this review after seeing the movie on DVD in 2015. I can't help thinking I must have seen it more than once prior to that, but upon watching it this time, there was a lot that I didn't specifically remember. And while I always remembered it being weird, it's actually, if possible, weirder than I remembered. And I love it more than I remembered, because honestly... this is exactly what I want the future to be like. Or at least, it's what the chaotic side of my brain wants the future to be like. Because holy crap, is this movie cray-cray. It's like a hodgepodge of all the craziest parts of humanity (or at least the crazy parts that aren't horrible). And that's awesome.

Anyway, it starts in 1914, in Egypt, which I definitely didn't remember. There's a temple that has been discovered by an archaeologist, who tries to decipher some ancient writing, which has to do with five elements, and evil, and a weapon to defeat evil, and whatnot. But this is a secret that's already known to a priest (who seems more accurately like a monk), who is a servant of some aliens called the Mondoshawans. The temple has been used to protect four stones that represent the main four elements (earth, fire, air, water), but the aliens have decided it's no longer safe to keep the stones on Earth, so they take them away. And the priest promises to continue passing on the knowledge of all this through the generations, which presumably his order has been doing for many generations past.

Flash forward 300 years, and the evil that the writing spoke of is returning to Earth, to destroy all life. An Earth ship fires on this evil (which is like some kind of dark sun, or something), but that does no good. There's a priest named Vito Cornelius, who knows what's actually going on, and he tries to warn the President of Earth, but he's too late. (I can't help thinking that if he'd known roughly when the evil was going to return, he should have said something a lot sooner than this, but whatevs. Then again, Wikipedia mentions a year that's rather different from 300 years, so maybe the estimate was rougher than I thought.) Anyway, a Mondoshawan ship tries to deliver the five elements to Earth (so that they may be assembled in the temple to defeat the evil), but the Mondoshawans get attacked by some other aliens called Mangalores, who are working for a human named Zorg (Gary Oldman). He wanted the four stones, but at first it's unclear why. But the Earth forces do manage to recover something from the destroyed Mondoshawan ship, a fragment of DNA that scientists reconstitute into a "perfect supreme being." Which turns out to be a woman, whose name we later learn is Leeloo (Milla Jovovich). She escapes from the scientific facility, and is chased by police, finally crashing into a flying cab driven by Korben Dallas (Bruce Willis), a former space fighter pilot.

Leeloo doesn't speak English, but she does manage to convey the name Vito Cornelius, so Korben takes her to him. She begins studying human history and picks up some English. Meanwhile... the military recruits Korben for a mission to retrieve the four stones, which hadn't been on the destroyed ship, after all. The stones had actually been entrusted to an alien opera singer, who was performing on a resort ship orbiting some other planet. And there's a contest for two free tickets to get to that planet, which the military arranges for Korben to win. So he takes Leeloo there, but there are a bunch of other people who want to pretend to be him in order to get on the ship that's going there. (Honestly, I never understood why so many different factions had to do that. I can imagine interstellar travel being prohibitively expensive, but the majority of factions presumably had the means to get there without using tickets won in a contest. The military certainly should have been able to send Korben themselves, except that they wanted it to be a stealth mission, so I can understand not using their own ships. And it's understandable that Cornelius wouldn't be able to get off the planet. But I would think Zorg and the Mangalores shouldn't have had any need of scamming a damn contest. But again I say whatevs.) Anyway. The contest that Korben "won" was from some kind of entertainment show hosted by a guy named Ruby Rhod (Chris Tucker), who is basically the most flamboyant person ever. So Korben has to spend a lot of time with him, as much as he'd rather not. And he has to find the stones. And he has to help Leeloo (who is the fifth element) in her mission to save the world. And he has to convince her that the world is worth saving. (I like that that's not a given, because it's something I often have doubts about. Although I do think the way he convinced her was much too simple and clichéd, but then again, time was very much of the essence, so I'll let it slide.)

Of course the world is eventually saved. But that's not really what matters, IMHO. What matters is how crazy the movie is. Um... I do want to mention that probably the main thing I always remembered was the song performed by the alien diva, which is pretty freaking awesome. But everything else... is awesome, too. (If there's one problematic thing about the movie, it's that Leeloo was born sexy yesterday, but I can overlook that.) The movie is all kind of garish, but... that's why I love it. It's weird, because there's sort of... so much I tend not to like about humanity, and it's taken to redonkulous extremes in this movie, which makes me realize I do like those things, after all. At least in theory. For example, Ruby... I think I probably found him kind of annoying, before. But this time, not as much. He just seems so representative of humanity's enjoyment of what I'd normally see as abnormality, and yet... I've never really been a big fan of "normal." So I don't quite understand why there are kinds of abnormality I'd normally find unappealing. And... really, nothing in this movie is actually "normal." When I watched it this time, I just felt this sort of "let your freak flag fly" vibe, about most of the characters, every aspect of the story and of the culture in which the story takes place. It just kind of felt like the dream, to me... the dream of a world where not only is abnormality fully accepted, but where there's actually no such thing as "normal." Or rather, abnormality is normal. And garish is beautiful. Awesome.

Seriously, though, beautiful is still beautiful, too. The opera... wow. Just, wow. So much wow.


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