Welcome to the Three R's where I will revisit, review and riff on movies I kinda, sorta vaguely remember to see if I would still recommend them. Today I'm giving the Three R's treatment to Luc Besson's 1997 bizarre action/comedy The Fifth Element. The movie that springboarded Milla Jovovich into a career of jump kicking things in the face. It also springboarded Bruce Willis into the next 15 years playing the same fucking character he has played since Die Hard.
From what I remember, I enjoyed the movie despite it's silliness. This is getting into personal preference, but it takes a rare action movie to please me without at least a modicum of self awareness and humour. It's a silly genre (that lends itself well to riffing, hence my predilection for it here) and The Fifth Element delivers in that regard.
So, as per usual, if you want to go in fresh, watch the movie first and then come back and see what I have to say. From here on, there be spoilers up ahead. I've decided to dispense with the time codes, because it was too much of a paid having to stop and check the time for every punchline.
- This opening really gives me a hankering to watch "Spaceballs". I'll put it on my list o future movies to cover here.
-Ah Luke Perry...from universal heartthrob to...I don't know. I've got nothing. Who would have guessed that the Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie would be the apex of his film career? That's another one I'll have to watch.
-Old bearded guy in a hooded brown robe and white tunic? Did they raid George Lucas' closet? I shall call him Obi-Not-Kenobi. It's a really obvious rip-off though.
-Obi-Not Kenobi is Luke Perry's dad. That's almost as believable as Ryan Gosling turning into James Garner in "The Notebook".
-Fun fact: Sir Alec Guinness, who played Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars hated being in the film and only took the part to pay off his gambling debts.
-Obi-Not is trying to poison an archeologist who has found some hieroglyphics detailing how to defeat a great evil or something. I'm already lost and it's only the first five minutes. That's generally not a good sign.
-The archaeologist (who I have a feeling won't live long enough to get a fun nickname) stubbornly refuses to die. Tweed must have attempted poisoning detection powers. No wonder there are so many hipsters around these days.
-The spaceship that descends hovers over the temple looks like something out of Flash Gordon.
-Ok, I definitely did not remember the giant robots (who resemble turtles more than I remember) having big blue lights on their bulging crotches. Would they still be codpieces, even if they don't have...cods? That's bothersome on so many levels.
-The archaeologist asks the robots "A...are you German?" I'm having trouble deciding if that brilliant or really stupid writing.
-Head Robo Turtle says war is coming and the Stones are not safe on Earth anymore. I guess somebody had better find the Stones and give them some shelter.
-Archaeologist is either dead now or narcoleptic. Totally called it. Tweed is no match for alien robot mind bullets.
-"Take the stones." Head Robo Turtle ordering his subordinates around like some kind of beast of burden.
-Obi-Not promises to get the keys into the right hands after Luke Perry proves to be a gigantic putz and shoots the giant alien Robo Turtles that can kill with their minds. So I guess he is just is just a pretty face huh? He seals them into the chamber that had the Stones in it because they're Robo Turtles so they can't run fast. Now the Robo Turtles can't get no satisfaction.
-Tiny "Zeus" Lister is the President in this movie. He must have beaten Hulk Hogan in the primaries.
-You know, "the Maroon Berets" just doesn't have the same ring to it.
-Ian "Bilbo" Holm is here talking about evil. Somethin strangely familiar about that.
-Tiny Lister is ordering military strikes. I had a nightmare that went this way once.
-The futuristic technology has only the finest in Atari graphical displays. That's what happens when Zeus is your President.
-Oh hi Bruce Willis. I'll be your reviewer today. Will you be trying something new or can I just assume you want the usual?
-John McClean in space it is. Cigarette dangling from his lips? Check. Recently divorced? Check. Down on his luck? Check. Droll one liners? Check. Like to read french poetry? Get the f*** out right now!
-Man, this guy lives in a total dump. He's almost like a pig...in SPAAAAAAAAACE!
-McClean in Space, has a twitchy drug addict come to his door. The guy appears to be wearing a either a solar panel or a cookie sheet on his head. Based on what I've seen of this movie so far, I'm leaning towards the cookie sheet.
-It was actually a photograph of an empty hallway to put over the eyehole, which makes him a slightly smarter crackhead than Rob Ford (TOPICAL!).
-Ian Holm gives more exposition about the big evil that's going to destroy us all if the stones aren't found. It sounds like time is not on their side.
-I forgot the baddies look like melting Yoda puppets. I can hear George Lucas bellowing "Dammit Besson, stay out of my warehouse!" again.
-Gary Oldman is dressed like he's about to attend a post apocalyptic pride march. He has a weird haircut that is shaved all except for one little swatch (mohawk style) that he pulls up through a plastic head mold and flopped over the other side. I have the feeling it'll be a strong contender for the Skrillex Award for dumbest haircut, which I just made up and I'll be giving out at the conclusion of this review. Zorg is also the first nominee for the Lady Gaga Award for strangest costume can our pseudo southern, half helmet wearing baddie make a clean sweep? Stay tuned to find out.
-Gah! The people all have glow in the dark green eyes under black lighting. I was not prepared for that.
-Dumb haircut #2. A guy has what looks to be a game console headset that wraps around the back of his noggin. He has shaved a swath all the way around the back of his head to house this headset. Competition is heating up in this category already.
-They found a "survivor" hand somewhere (I'm too lazy to go back and try to make sense of the exposition) and they're going to reanimate it.
-Once again, you would think technology that was advanced enough to resurrect a dead human being from a severed hand would have something more advanced than Space Invaders graphics.
-I would transcribe some of the sci-fi mumbo jumbo here. But I think if I tried, my fingers would rebel and try to claw out my frontal lobe. All I'll say is the words "slightly greasy atoms" have made me feel dirty to retype.
-They remove the shield and low and behold a naked Milla Jovovich. Also beginning her movie trend of being introduced to the audience by waking up naked in a strange place with no memory of how she got there. Kind of like Charlie Sheen starts each day.
-Considering Milla's costume basically amounts to the clothing equivalent of medical gauze, I'm gonna have to nominate her for a GAGA Award. Little strips of white cloth cover her fun parts. Oh right..."thermal bandages". Suddenly, Luc Besson's "greasy atoms" are looking more perverted by the second.
-Milla's freaking out as if she just woke up naked in a giant glass tube wearing gauze for clothing. I don't want to think of how many disturbing fetishes were launched the day this came out.
-Milla punches through the unbreakable glass and knocks out the dude taunting her. His fault though. He tapped on the glass. DO NOT TAP ON THE GLASS!
-Milla lands in Bruce Willis' (Korbin Dallas) cab. She starts speaking in a language he can't understand. The jokes here are too easy (even for me) so I'll just move on.
-All joking aside. There's a reason beyond Milla's costume that this movie made her a star. She's instantly likable and sympathetic.
-Bruce gets a little rapey trying to kiss Milla while she's unconscious. She puts a gun to his head and he realizes that's not a good idea. The things we missed when we were kids huh?
-Milla's name is Leeloo. I remember loving how she said "Chee-kan! Good!" Still funny after all these years.
-We finally get a look at Zorg. He's ditched the Liberace jacket, but now has added a stiff collar that goes up past his ears. Still Gaga.
-Zorg demonstrates his new gun for the melting Yoda dogs. They give him a case which was supposed to contain the stones but it is empty. I guess Zorg can't always get what he wants.
-Zorg's henchemen are wearing shiny blue skull caps. Worth a mention, but not Gaga worthy.
-Gary Oldman seems to be having a lot of fun. Doesn't hold a candle to his performance as Drexl in True Romance though.
-The stones were given to an alien singer named Pavalaguna by the Robo Turtles (who are the guardians of the stones apparently). So I guess they're going to have to find a way to get to the Honky Tonk Woman and go to her Emotional Rescue. (Is this running joke wearing thin? I feel like I'm beating dead Wild Horses here.)
-Mos Def plays Zorg's top henchman. Interesting because this movie reminds me a lot of the art style of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. He doesn't have a towel here though. Seems odd.
-They have cell phones that last for 1000 years in this movie? Now I know it's science fiction.
-The Maroon Berets (lead by the guy Leeloo knocked out for knocking on the glass) show up and tell Korbin McClean he has to go to Fhlosten Paradise to hear Pavawhatchacallher's performance. Yeah I know I'm not getting any of these names right. It's like a Dr. Suess phone book in this movie.
-Korbin hides Leeloo in the shower while the police (dressed in bulky angular costumes entirely impractical for police work...Gaga nominee!)
-When Leeloo disrobes after getting hosed down in the shower, Bruce and Bilbo turn around to avert their eyes. Bruce has apparently learned respect for women...while they are awake.
-And Chris Tucker is here to give us all a headache. He plays annoying tv personality Ruby Rhod. He is a double nominee for Gaga and Skrillex Awards in this movie. He's wearing an open chested Jaguar print jumpsuit. His hair is bleach blonde with a cylindrical protrusion at the front.
-Now he's singing Lionel Ritchie making Nicole Ritchie the second most embarrassing thing he's ever been linked to.
-I'm also nominating Chris Tucker for the Chris Tucker Award for most annoying presence in a movie. There will be no other nominees. He will win the award even in movies he is not in.
-Tucker's trio of yes men are kind of funny. One of them has half his head shaved right down the middle. Half Skrillex nomination.
-Apparently it's not Mos Def in this movie. It's an english musician named Tricky. The resemblance is pretty uncanny. He's lived up to his name. He tries to check in for the flight as Korbin Dallas but the lady behind the counter says Dallas has already checked in and just lowers through the floor behind the glass and a big security turret comes up from the floor pointing guns at him. This didn't happen to the two white people who were clearly Yoda Dogs in disguise earlier. Apparently some things don't change in the future.
-The flight attendants are dressed like flight attendants from a 60's porno.
-One of the flight attendants is getting freaky with Chris Tucker. I'm all kinds of uneasy with this.
-Airplanes are apparently powered in the future by radioactive material. At least we know where the glow in the dark eyes come from.
-Zorg blows up Mos Tricky for failing him and gets a call from Mr. Shadow. I don't recall who or what this is. Zorg bleeds from the forehead.
-Apparently Fhlosten Paradise is like Hawaii...in SPAAAAAAAACE!
-Korbin and Leeloo get lei'd and check into their hotel room.
-Lee Evans (Tucker/Norm in There's Something About Mary) is a purser showing the blue alien lady singer (dressed in a burka) to her room.
-Chris Tucker has changed into a new getup. This one is a black suit with a giant collar with roses on it. Hard to believe, but this is actually an improvement. His hair is like Crazy Eyes Suzanne from Orange is the New Black but with bugger tufts on top. I have a feeling this awards cerimony is going to be a clean sweep.
-"The Diva" (apparently the movie doesn't even want to take the time to say her actual name) performs. She is a blue skinned alien with tendrils coming out of her. I don't want to think about the fetishes that were created by this scene.
-She sings to Bruce Willas but her seductive charms have no effect on him. If he were William Shatner he'd be half way onto the stage with his pants around his ankles by this point.
-Milla kicks the every lovin’ snot out of the Yoda Dogs. If they are going to go through with an all female Expendables (which has been discussed) she had better be in the cast. She whoops seven shades of Yoda Dog shit out of these guys in a fun scene intercut with the Diva singing an up-beat aria (while Yoda Dogs just get beat-up).
-Zorg brings in the Big F'n Gun to take down Leeloo as the Diva takes a bullet to the stomach. Worst theater experience since Abe Lincoln.
-"The stones are in me." Joke too easy, moving on.
-The stones are in the Diva's stomach. How did they get there? Did she swallow them. They're the size of liter cola bottles.
-Crazy Eyes Chris Tucker continues to be annoying.
-When I was younger, I refused to believe someone as ear piercingly annoying as Ruby Rhod would ever get on television. Now he'd fit right in with the Kardashians. How times change.
-A literal ticking clock just got added to the plot. The "bomb detectors" only go off at a comedically appropriate time. Reminds me of one of my favourite "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" moments when Roger snd Eddie are cuffed together. Roger slips out of the handcuffs while Eddie is trying to saw them off with a hacksaw. When Eddie accuses him of being able to take his hand out of the cuff this whole time Roger says "No, only when it was funny!"
-Zorg gets blown up by the dying Yoda Dogs "for the honour". I prefer to think they're just tired of his shit.
-Leeloo is the Fifth Element, to the surprise of nobody.
-Leeloo space Googles "WAR" in what is actually a very moving scene showing her reaction as a torrent of horrible images floods past.
-They get to the temple and there are four alters to place the stones on.
-The stones are put on the respective alters but nothing happens. Our heroes will have to figure out how to solve this Jigsaw Puzzle.
-Bilbo's sidekick says it's hopeless and we almost hear him sigh and he activates the wind stone with some Ventilator Blues. Little by little they give the stones a Start Me Up using the respective elements.
-Bruce uses his hands as a loving cup and drops a little dirty work on the Earth stone. Gravity gets the Rocks Off but it's enough to activate the stone.
-Bilbo is a fool to cry as he is out of tears, but is able to make the rain fall down by mopping some sweat from his brow. We have some sympathy for the drag queen as Ruby Rhod doesn't have anything to Hang Fire with. Bruce has a single match and is able to play with fire.
-In order to activate Leeloo, Bruce restores her faith in humanity by telling her he loves her. He activates the final stone by telling her I Wanna Be Your Man. (I think I've finally run out of Rolling Stones references)
-We end with President Zeus wanting to congratulate Korbin and Leeloo, but they're busy boning in the glass tube thingie.
And thus ends this descent into madness.
Final Thoughts and Recommendation
Overall, I still really liked this movie. It's flaws have become more glaring over time (Chris Tucker's ear shredding performance is a thousand times more annoying to grown up me) but there's a lot to appreciate here. The movie has a very 1960's sci-fi feel to its look and that works in its favour I would say. This was Milla Jovovich's break out performance and it's easy to see why. Beyond being nice to look at, she manages to make Leeloo a sympathetic and endearing character that I found myself rooting for all the way. She also kicks about 300 metric tonnes of ass as an action heroine so it's no surprise that was the direction her career took her.
I gave Bruce Willis a lot of crap for essentially playing the same character for the past 30+ years. When it works though, it really works and this is one of his better sneering one linery performances.
It's certainly not a flawless movie. The plot is a convoluted mish-mash of pseudo scientific bullpie and dangling plot threads. We never learn what the actual threat to the existence of everything is, or who the Shadow man was that made Zorg bleed from his scalp. There's enigmatic, and then there's "just created to incite the plot" and this certainly steps into the second category.
And Chris Tucker...
It's no surprise, Mr. Tucker makes a clean sweep of the awards in this one. He takes home the Lady Gaga award for worst costume (the leopard print onsie a particular low point) and the Skrillex Award for worst haircut. He creates possibly the most annoying so called comic relief I have ever witnessed. Chris Tucker has done work in the past that I enjoyed, but this is just a misfire in every sense of the word. It was only due to my own sense of journalistic integrity that I didn't just mute his scenes of skip them.
He also gets the Chris Tucker Award for most annoying movie performance ever.
All that being said, I would ultimately recommend this movie. It's a very imaginative work and it doesn't take itself too seriously. Besson's definitely a fimmaker with a distinct irreverant style and that is on display here in full force. Just, try to resist the urge to throw a socket wrench through your tv during the last 30 minutes.
Until next time...Goodbye Ruby Tuesday! It's All Over Now