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The Fifth Element (1997)
Rated PG13

Starring: Bruce Willis, Gary Oldman, and Milla Jovovich

Rating:
***
out of
*****

The Fifth Element recently opened to rather boffo box-office. I assume that the re-release of the Star Wars trilogy hasn't quite whet the sci-fi appetites of the movie-going public. Personally, I think that's a good thing especially if it means that more movies like The Fifth Element are waiting in the wings. It is by no means a great movie but it is very unique compared to some of the recent sci-fi sludge I've seen lately.

The story is a somewhat convoluted mess involving an ultimate evil that approaches Earth every 5000 years. Only one person, a priest (Ian Holm), possesses the knowledge that can save the planet from being engulfed in a giant fiery ball of devastation.

That knowledge was passed on to him as the result of a discovery made in the opening scene of the movie. An archelogical expedition to Egypt in 1914 discovers the four elemental stones that can be used, along with a fifth element, to ward off the evil that appears every 5000 years. These stones were stored on Earth until the expedition found them. The keepers of the stones, an alien race called the Mondoshawan, decide that they should be moved to a safer place for the next 300 years. At that time, evil will emerge again and the Mondoshawan will return with the stones and the fifth element to help the Earth to fight back.

Flash forward 300 years and the Mondoshawan ship that is carrying the stones has been ambushed by another alien race called the Mangalore. The Mangalore have been hired by a ruthless gun smuggler named Zorg (Gary Oldman) to retrieve the stones which he plans to use for his own gain. However, Zorg finds that the box thought to contain the stones is empty and that the Mondoshawan ship carried only the location of the stones.

Although there were no survivors of the attack on the Mondoshawan ship, a single piece of wreckage provides enough Mondoshawan DNA to make a clone which can lead to the location of the stones. That clone, named Leeloo (Milla Jovovich), escapes a government lab and enlists the help of down-on-his-luck cabbie Korben Dallas (Bruce Willis) to get to the stones and use them to save the world. Only Zorg and the Mangalore stand in their way.

The story is a bit confusing to explain but not so hard to follow as the movie unfolds. The film itself contains some breathtaking visuals and concepts courtesy of Luc Besson's imagination and the special effects wizardry of Digital Domain. It never takes itself too seriously and that results in what amounts to a roller coaster ride through the 127 minute running time. I found myself laughing out loud at some of the funnier bits of the movie; most involving the character of Rudy Rhod (Chris Tucker), a DJ of the 23rd Century.

The ideas are great and the film looks good but the only real weakness to The Fifth Element is that it runs out of gas as it approaches the end. The situations involving a futuristic vacation resort, where all of the main characters converge, almost makes the ending a bit of an anti-climax by stealing energy from the remaining parts of the movie.

Star Wars this is not, but it is one of the freshest sci-fi movies to come along in quite awhile.

Trivia: Luc Besson, who wrote and directed The Fifth Element, has worked with Gary Oldman before. They worked together on The Professional. (Source: The Internet Movie Database)

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