Le Cinquième élément [The Fifth Element] (1997)

(In theaters, May 1997) Big, colourful, loud European science-fantasy comic book brought to live-action. It’s probably the best movie ever in its particular sub-genre. Whether you’ll like it or not is an entirely different matter. It’s not good, it’s only occasionally smart, it’s even insulting given the amount of highly-talented artists assembled by this movie. But it’s a blast. A wacky sense of humour helps, as well as a fondness for unsubtle not-quite-mature shtick. Tremendous debate has occurred on the newsgroups and elsewhere concerning T5E, but this reviewer had more fun there than at his last previous movies. The polarization of opinion over the DJ Ruby Rhod character is especially intriguing. There are a lot of things going on screen, so don’t doze. (As if you could!) Great music, good performances by Willis and Jovonovitch (the last being too thin to be “perfect”, though), some stupendous editing and a definitely French attitude. Just don’t gag over the plot, costumes and finale. It’s worth seeing on the big screen.

(Second viewing, On TV, January 2000) While watching this film again doesn’t pack the same wild rush of first approach, it still highlights the good editing, nice direction and wacky humor that are the strengths of this French SF comic book made live-action. Sure, the humor is a bit juvenile, and the imagined future too weird to fully believe. But who cares? Fast pacing, unique gadgets and an overall sense of fun missing from most current SF films make this one a treat.

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