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Home » Revisiting The Fifth Element (1997) in 2023 (Review)

Revisiting The Fifth Element (1997) in 2023 (Review)

This is a review and analysis of the 1997 movie “The Fifth Element”. With the upcoming release of Guardians of the Galaxy 3, it felt appropriate to revisit another silly, big-budget sci-fi adventure movie. The Fifth Element stars Bruce Willis and is directed by Luc Besson.

The Fifth Element Review

You might expect fewer options when selecting a movie about heroes racing to find ancient stones before a big villain can seize them. But surprisingly, you have more options than you’d think. One such option is The Fifth Element, a 1997 sci-fi movie set in the year 2263. The movie features a complex, but unapologetically camp, plot where multiple factions battle for control over the all-important element stones. The Fifth Element had a budget of $90 million. It was the most expensive European movie ever made at the time of its release.

The movie follows Bruce Willis’ Korben Dallas, a cab driver that finds himself sucked into a big adventure. He must team-up with Milla Jovovich’s Leeloo and an assortment of other personalities to stop the sinister Zorg. Zorg is portrayed by Gary Oldman, who chews scenery in an absolutely beautiful, villainous manner. As expected from a Willis movie, gunshots are fired; romances blossom and buildings are leapt out of.

However, what makes this movie special is the dedication to the world-building. There are so many interesting details in this movie and the world feels truly lived in. There’s an exciting scene set at an airport, which is jam-packed full of exciting ideas. There are an assortment of set-pieces based entirely around imaginative home gadgetries. This move oozes creativity and has the practical effects to make it into reality.

Has The Fifth Element aged well?

Older movies which look to the future are always fun to watch. It’s really humorous to see that people are still talking on big, bulky handset phones in the year 2263. This isn’t anything wrong with the movie, of course, but it’s fun to nit-pick these details.

For the most part, this movie has aged exceptionally well. The special effects hold up and the core themes of this movie feel timeless. The only thing that does feel slightly glaring is the treatment of Leeloo.

Leeloo is the female lead of the movie, but does end up feeling very side-lined. For most of the movie, it feels like her only job is to be objectified and sexualized by men. Her character is supposed to be the key to saving humanity, but she ends up mostly helpless for the majority of the movie. The only other prominent female character in the movie is Korben’s mother, who calls him constantly to nag him about something. Neither of these feel like particularly good representation for women.

Why don’t we make movies like this anymore?

The movie industry is so risk-averse nowadays, that this movie would never get made. Studios simply aren’t prepared to drop large amounts of money on a silly sci-fi concept, unless it has a franchise to back it up. We may get big budget sci-fi movies of varying quality, from The Tomorrow War ($200M) to Avatar ($237M), but it really does feel like we’ve lost the space opera. That is, unless it’s connected to the Stars War or Marvel universes.

I’m excited for the final entry in the Guardians trilogy, but it doesn’t quite scratch the world-building itch that this movie did for me. There’s just something so beautiful about creating a world in a movie and leaving it behind in said movie, in such a disposable fashion. That could be changing, however, with Zack Snyder’s Rebel Moon, later this year. Not a lot is known about the movie, though it notably did start life as a Star Wars movie. It will be interesting to see if Snyder is able to revive the space opera genre.

This was a review and analysis of the 1997 movie “The Fifth Element”. Did you enjoy this movie or did it go down like a bad cherry? Let us know in the comments below.

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