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The Fifth Element is a 1997 science fantasy, action-comedy, techno thriller film directed by Luc Besson, starring Bruce Willis, Gary Oldman, Milla Jovovich, Ian Holm, and Chris Tucker. The production design for the film was developed by French comics creators Jean Giraud (Moebius) and Jean-Claude Mézières. The costume design was created by French fashion designer Jean-Paul Gaultier, who produced 954 costumes for use in the film.

Mostly set during the twenty-third century, the film's central plot involves the survival of humanity, which becomes the duty of a taxicab driver (and former special forces major) named Korben Dallas (Willis) when a young woman (Jovovich) falls into his taxicab. Upon learning of her significance, Korben must join efforts with the girl and a monk (Holm) to recover four mystical stones which are key to defending Earth from an impending attack of pure evil and destruction.

Largely set in a futuristic New York City, the film was a French production, with most of the principal photography filmed at Pinewood Studiosmarker in England. Some scenes were also shot on location in Mauritaniamarker. The concert scenes were filmed at the Royal Opera Housemarker, Covent Gardenmarker, except for the special effect shots that show the Planet Fhloston through the ship's portholes. The Fifth Element was shot in Super 35 mm film format. Many scenes contain visual effects, and nearly all of visual effects scenes are hard-matted.

Plot

The story's premise is that every five thousand years, in conjunction with a planetary alignment, a 'Great Evil' appears whose purpose is to destroy all life. In preparation for the next appearance in 2214, a group of aliens called the Mondoshawan (pronounced "Mon-do-SHEE-wan") arrive on Earth in 1914 at an ancient tomb that is being excavated, to extract the only weapon capable of defeating the Great Evil, a collection of four stones representing the Classical Elements and the eponymous Fifth Element that conjugates the other four into organic life. After taking the weapons -- claiming that they are not safe on Earth, as "war is coming" -- the Mondoshawans present a key to a priest and tell him to pass the information provoking their mission through future generations in preparation for the Evil's arrival.

In 2263, the Great Evil appears and destroys a Federated Army space battleship. When the Mondoshawans attempt to deliver the Elements back to Earth, they are ambushed by another alien race, the shape-shifting Mangalores who were recently devastated in a conflict with Earth. Federal scientists are able to recover a portion of the Fifth Element and use a reconstitution device to recreate it, whereupon it takes the form of an apparently human woman named "Leeloo" (Milla Jovovich) described as "the perfect being". Leeloo, terrified of her unfamiliar environs, escapes the scientists and arrives in the care of taxi driver Korben Dallas (Bruce Willis), a former major in the Federated Army's Special Forces. Dallas then delivers her to Priest Vito Cornelius (Ian Holm), the current holder of the Mondoshawans' knowledge and his apprentice, David (Charlie Creed-Miles). Dallas, Cornelius, and his acolyte David help Leeloo recover, though Dallas is forced out of Cornelius' apartment before learning her purpose. Cornelius learns from Leeloo that the four Elements were not carried by the Mondoshawans but instead entrusted to Diva Plavalaguna, a singer currently performing on a luxury space liner at Fhloston Paradise, and that Leeloo must recover the stones from her. Meanwhile, wealthy industrialist Jean-Baptiste Emmanuel Zorg (Gary Oldman) has attempted to gain the stones as urged by communication with the Great Evil. After learning that the Mangalores' attack on the Mondoshawans was unsuccessful in recovering the stones, Zorg betrays and kills them, whereupon the surviving Mangalores decide to seize their revenge and gain the stones for themselves.

General Munro (Brion James), Dallas's former superior officer, appears at Dallas's apartment and tells him that he has been recalled to the Army so he can travel to meet the Diva, because the annual Gemini Croquette Contest has been rigged to allow Dallas to win. The meeting is interrupted by the arrival of Cornelius and Leeloo. Dallas, learning of Leeloo's need, offers to help, but is knocked out by Cornelius, who steals his winning tickets and departs with Leeloo. Dallas accepts the job from Munro and travels to John F. Kennedy Interplanetary Airportmarker, intercepting Cornelius, David, and Leeloo before they board their flight, and escorts Leeloo. The Mangalores and Zorg's assistant are rebuffed by the ticketing agent when they try to pose as Dallas. Cornelius instructs David to prepare the temple and then sneaks aboard the passenger spaceplane before it leaves.

While boarding the flight, Dallas meets interstellar radio personality Ruby Rhod (Chris Tucker), who will be his escort for the trip under the terms of the contest. Upon arrival at Fhloston Paradise, Dallas is taken by Ruby to prepare for the show, while Leeloo waits near the Diva's quarters in order to retrieve the stones from her after her performance. The Diva's show is interrupted by the Mangalores, and the Diva is fatally shot in the stomach. Dallas learns from her dying words that the Diva has hidden the stones inside her body. After she dies, Dallas extracts them, giving them to Ruby to hold as Dallas defeats the Mangalores and saves the rest of the passengers and crew. Leeloo is able to defeat the Mangalores that attempted to ransack the Diva's quarters, but Zorg, having flown himself to Fhloston, shoots at Leeloo at the Diva's quarters, wounding her and forcing her to retreat. This allows him to take the case he believes contains the stones while starting a time bomb. The bomb is detected by the liner's security systems, and an emergency evacuation of its passengers commences. When Dallas goes to recover Leeloo, Zorg finds the case to be empty. Zorg re-enters the abandoned liner just as Dallas, Leeloo, Cornelius, and Ruby leave it on Zorg's ship. Zorg is able to stop his bomb; but one of the defeated Mangalores activate another bomb, killing Zorg and destroying the liner.

The four return to the temple on Earth as the Great Evil rushes towards the planet. There, Dallas finds Leeloo disillusioned and unwilling to perform her role, having observed that in spite of all efforts made on their behalf, humans seem compelled to destroy themselves. As the protagonists arrange the stones in the temple to form their weapon, they are briefly baffled by their ignorance of the weapon's operation, but David accidentally discovers that each stone is triggered by the presence of the Classical element to which it corresponds (water for the water stone, fire for fire, earth for earth, wind for wind). Dallas then convinces Leeloo to perform her role, embraces her, and kisses her. At this, Leeloo releases the weapon's "Divine Light", causing the Great Evil to become dormant as a new moon in Earth's orbit. Later, the President and General Munro go to the reconstitution lab to congratulate Dallas on his successful mission, but he and Leeloo are unavailable, despite the president's assertion that he is in a hurry. Viewers then see he and Leeloo are making love in the resurrection chamber.

Production

Script

As the film went into development in the early 1990s, Besson went on to create Léon starring Jean Reno, while comic book artist Jean-Claude Mézières, who had been hired as a conceptual designer for The Fifth Element, returned to illustrating The Circles of Power, the fifteenth volume in the Valérian and Laureline series. This particular volume featured a character named S'Traks who drives a flying taxicab through the congested air traffic of the vast metropolis on the planet Rubanis. Besson read the book and was inspired to change the character of Dallas to a taxicab driver who flies through a futuristic New York City. The protagonist of the film, Korben Dallas, and the antagonist, Zorg, never meet or communicate, although Zorg owns the taxi company that employs and subsequently fires Dallas as part of a one-million person layoff designed to slow economic growth at the request of the government.

The original name of the character Ruby Rhod was Loc Rhod. This name also appears in the novelization of the film.

Home release

The original home video release of The Fifth Element took place in North America on 10 December 1997, on VHS, LaserDisc and DVD. The original DVD was in its original 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen format, had English and Spanish audio and subtitling, and carried no special features.

The film was re-released in Sony's Superbit collection on 9 October 2001. The enhanced release, also pressed in its original 2.35:1 format, used a higher data rate for a better picture, and featured subtitling in six languages (English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Chinese and Thai) but only English audio and no special features.

A two-disc Ultimate Edition was released on 11 January 2005. Disc one contained the Superbit DVD with five languages of subtitles (all the Superbit subtitles except Thai) and added audio tracks in German and Swedish. The second disc provided special features, including deleted scenes and a production featurette, for the first time.

The first Blu-ray Disc release of the film occurred on 20 June 2006, and was widely criticized as having poor picture quality. Sony subsequently made a remastered Blu-ray version available, released on 17 July 2007. The feature set of the original Blu-ray release matches Disc 1 of the Ultimate Collection, while the Remastered version contains only English and French audio. Neither release carried special features.

Cast

Major roles

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Minor roles

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The Divine Language

The "Divine Language" spoken in the film is a fictional language with only 400 words, invented by director Luc Besson and Milla Jovovich. Jovovich stated that she and Besson wrote letters to each other in the Divine Language as practice.

The first part of Leeloo's name, "Leeloominaï", means "precious stones", and the latter "Ekbat De Sebat" is an honorific that is never defined. No meaning is given for "Lekatariba" or "Lamina-Tchaï". "Leeloominaï" is the only word in her name that appears in Luc Besson's published dictionary. Other spellings of her name include "Leeloo mi naï", as well as "Leeloo Minai Lekatariba Lamin-atchai Ekbat Desebat", with "Lekarariba" being wrongly mistaken as the pronunciation of her "third" name. No formal declaration of the truth behind the spelling of Leeloo's name has ever come forth from Besson, but a post-production promotional poster of Leeloo leaping from a building is subtitled "Leeloominaï Lekatariba Lamina-Tchaï Ekbat De Sebat".

Trivia: Other Languages

In the scene where scared and excited Fifth Element bursts out telling the story of her chase, Milla Jovovich can clearly be heard saying "Gamad!", which is a Serbian phrase meaning "Bastards!" or, literally, "Lice!".

Soundtrack

Much of the film's score, composed by Éric Serra, shows an influence of Middle Eastern music, particularly Raï. The music used for the taxicab chase scene, titled "Alech Taadi" by Algerian performer Khaled, is excluded from the film soundtrack, but it is available on Khaled's album N'ssi N'ssi.

Plavalaguna (in Serbian: Plava Laguna, Blue Lagoon) performs on stage.
In Plavalaguna's performance, the music and the vocalization abruptly shift from a classicalto a popstyle. This striking change is cross-cut with scenes of Leeloo's fight with the Mangalores in Plavalaguna's chamber, and the fight choreography is set to the music. In this sequence, the music is both diegeticand extra-diegetic, as the music is audible to the characters in the theater, but used as a dramatic score for the fight scene. This relationship between sound and image creates an unusual cinematic effect.

The Diva Dance opera performance featured music from Gaetano Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor"Il dolce suono", the mad sceneof Act III, Scene I, and was sung by Albanian sopranoInva Mula-Tchako, while the role of Plavalaguna was played by French actress Maïwenn Le Besco.Part One (titled Lucia di Lammermoor) and Part Two (titled The Diva Dance) of this piece are included as separate tracks on The Fifth Elementsoundtrack, but are sequenced to create the effect of the entire performance seen in the film. The end of Part One blends into the beginning of Part Two, creating a smooth transition between the two tracks.

Two versions of The Fifth Elementscore have been produced. In addition to the version released commercially, there is a two-disc set titled "The Fifth Element: The Complete Score", that was available exclusively as a promotional piece. The first disc in the set contains 46 tracks and the second contains 31 tracks. The tracks are sequenced in parallel to the film's narrative; although the set includes extended and alternate versions, as well as music used only in previews, and recordings not used in the final film. Tracks 5 through 31 on the second disc are the same tracks selected for commercial release. How many copies of the complete score are in circulation is not known.

Track listing

All tracks composed by Éric Serraunless indicated otherwise.
  1. "Little Light of Love" – 4:50
  2. "Mondoshawan" – 4:01
  3. "Timecrash" – 1:49
  4. "Korben Dallas" – 1:43
  5. "Koolen" – 0:55
  6. "Akta" – 1:51
  7. "Leeloo" – 4:56
  8. "Five Millenia Later" – 3:13
  9. "Plavalaguna" – 1:47
  10. "Ruby Rap" (Serra/Luc Besson/Robert Kamen) – 1:55
  11. "Heat" (Serra/Sebastien Cortella) – 2:54
  12. "Badaboom" – 1:12
  13. "Mangalores" – 1:06
  14. "Il dolce suono" from the 3rd act of Lucia di Lammermoor (Gaetano Donizetti/Salvadore Cammarano) – 3:10
Actor Role
Bruce Willis Korben Dallas
Gary Oldman Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg
Ian Holm Father Vito Cornelius
Milla Jovovich Leeloo (Leeloominaï Lekatariba Lamina-Tchaï Ekbat De Sebat)
Chris Tucker Ruby Rhod
Actor Role
Charlie Creed-Miles David
Brion James General Munro
Tricky Right Arm
Clifton Lloyd Bryan Aknot
Tom Lister, Jr. President Lindberg
Maïwenn Le Besco Plavalaguna
Christopher Fairbank Professor Mactilburgh
Lee Evans Fog
John Bluthal Professor Pacoli
Luke Perry Billy
John Bennett Priest
Kim Chan Mr. Kim
John Neville General Staedert
Al Matthews General Tudor
Julie T. Wallace Major Iceborg
Sibyl Buck Zorg's Secretary
Mathieu Kassovitz Robber
Stacey McKenzie VIP Stewardess
Nicole Merry VIP Stewardess
Ève Salvail Tawdry Girl
Mac McDonald Flying Cop
Sonita Henry President's Aide
Lenny McLean Police Chief
Eddie Ellwood Roy von Bacon
  • "The Diva Dance" – 1:31
  • Performed by Inva Mulla Tchako
  • "Leeloominai" – 1:41
  • "A Bomb in the Hotel" – 2:14
  • "Mina Hinoo" – 0:54
  • "No Cash No Trash" – 1:04
  • "Radiowaves" – 2:32
  • "Human Nature" – 2:03
  • "Pictures of War" – 1:19
  • "Lakta Ligunai" – 4:14
  • "Protect Life" (Serra/Cortella) – 2:33
  • "Little Light of Love" (end titles version) – 3:29
  • Performed by RXRA
  • "Aknot! Wot?" (bonus track) (Serra/Besson/Kamen) – 3:35


Reception

The Fifth Element was generally well received by critics, with a 71% approval rating on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes. The film was selected as the opening film for the 1997 Cannes Film Festival and became a major box office success, grossing over $263 million USD, more than three times its budget of $80 million USD. 76% of the receipts for The Fifth Element were from markets outside of the United States. The film is often cited as a cult classic.

The Fifth Element was nominated for an Academy Award in 1998 in the Best Effects, Sound Effects Editing category, losing to Titanic, but it won the BAFTA Award for Best Special Visual Effects. It was nominated for seven César awards and won three for Best Director, Best Cinematography, and Best Production Design.

Visual Effects Society voted the visual effects of The Fifth Element to be the 50th most influential of all time.

Spin-offs

A video game adaptation based on the movie was also created by Activision for the PlayStation game console and PC. It was generally met with bad reviews and considered a failure, though this is not unusual for movie-based games. A second racing game titled New York Race was also released in 2001.

There was also a novel adaptation by Terry Bisson and published by HarperPrism.

References

Notes

  1. Roger Ebert's review [1]
  2. Interview included in the bonus feature "The Adventure and Discovery of a Film: The Story of the Fifth Element" on the DVD release of The Fifth Element (Ultimate Edition).
  3. The Fifth Element Movie Reviews, Pictures - Rotten Tomatoes
  4. The Fifth Element « Buttercups and Ravenwood
  5. The Fifth Element : Forbidden Planet International , Your Online Entertainment Superstore!
  6. http://www.alteregocomics.com/store/customer/product.php?productid=4588&cat=0&page=1
  7. VES 50: The Most Influential Visual Effects Films of All Time Press release from VES
  8. The Fifth Element for PlayStation game review at Gamespot
  9. The Fifth Element game review at IGN
  10. NYR: New York Race - The Fifth Element for Game Boy Color
  11. The fifth element : a novel [WorldCat.org]
  12. TB Biblio RTF
  13. Terry Bisson, The Fifth Element: A Novel (Harpercollins, 1997).


Bibliography

  • Besson, Luc. (1997) The story of The fifth element: the adventure and discovery of a film, London: Titan. ISBN 1-85286-863-5
  • Bizony, Piers. (2001) Digital Domain: the leading edge of visual effects, London: Aurum. ISBN 1-85410-707-0
  • Hanson, Matt. (2005) "The Fifth Element", in Building sci-fi moviescapes: the science behind the fiction, Burlington, Massachusetts: Focal Press, pp. 60–66. ISBN 0-240-80772-3.


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