Not surprisingly, I like The Fifth Element. Whenever I am channel surfing, if it is on, I watch. It is one of those movies that is called a cult classic. As there are any number of Trekkers or Star Wars fans that will drive some dollars to any space movie, it is not surprising it gets a lot of viewings. But, this movie attracts people that are decidedly not Trekkers. Folks that run away from the likes of Aliens or Blade Runner will sit and watch this movie over and over.
My experience is that anyone that sits for the first 5 minutes sits for the whole movie.
Why? Some would point to Milla Jovovich (Leeloo) and her introductory scene which features titillating partial nudity, and much wriggling about. Others would say Bruce Willis (Korben Dallas) is just watchable. And it is hard to ignore the larger than life portrayal of Ruby Rhod (can you say innuendo?) by Chris Tucker. But the opening scene in the Egyptian desert really captures the imagination, and the abrupt switch from 1914 Egypt to a confrontation with Evil by a battle cruiser out amongst the Gas Giants of our solar system just hooks you. Strap in, for you are along for the ride.
Along the way the movie presents vistas and vignettes that leave lasting impressions. One scene, which appears ludicrous at start is ultimately mesmerizing. The Diva Plavalaguna is the worst sort of alien in plastic garb I’ve ever seen, complete with superfluous tentacles or sinewy ropes or god knows what protruding from her head. My initial impression was, “this is silly.” Then she starts her show. It is a haunting interlude. The last thing I would have thought I would be writing about that scene when it started was that it was beautiful. It is beautifully mesmerizing.
This is done with light and sound and just good cinematography. I would never have expected to look forward to this part of the movie, but it has a grandeur that grabs your imagination.
So, this movie has all this cool stuff: Alien races, drama, mythos, interesting characters, cool visuals and special effects; and it is basically a comedy. No wonder it is so watchable. But as I said earlier, people that you would not expect to like this movie have watched it numerous times. Why?
The movie succeeds attracting such a wide audience because it is about Life and Love, Good and Evil. You know, the stuff of great movies. But is is presented in this comic book style. One may not think comic books can be subtle, but the messages here are deftly presented in an understated manner. When the movie is over, you are left with a strangely positive feeling.
This is an interestingly life affirming movie. The basic presentation of Evil here is as a blight that destroys life. Life and Love, however, smother Evil. In a scene between the priest Vito Cornelius and Zorg, the amoral self absorbed villain of the movie, Zorg attemtps to convince Cornelius that destruction creates life. That Chaos is Good. He breaks a glass and lots of automated widgets spring into action to clean up the mess. Zorg presents this as a Good. He is in reality merely rationalizing his own self serving beliefs, and the priest knows this is a lie.
Zorg then chokes on a cherry and the priest demonstrates that Good is to be found in life giving service to your fellow man. Destruction does not create life. Life overcomes Destruction.
The relationship between Leeloo and Korben illuminates this message. Leeloo is the Fifth Element, the force that stops Evil. In conjunction with Earth, Air, Fire and Water, she becomes the ultimate weapon. Yet at the final moment, when it is time to fire the weapon, the firing pin is missing. The spark is gone from the flint. The weapon will not fire.
Earth, Air, Fire and Water are not alive. From ancient times these four things were thought to be elemental, foundational. From these things, all the Universe is made. But, what good is a Universe full of nothing but Earth, Air, Fire and Water? Lifeless matter must of needs be animated by something. By something more than just elements or chaos. There is a spiritual component. There is a Fifth Element.
Leeloo is alive. A living spiritual existence. A Being. Leeloo needs help from others. To become a life giving force that prevents Death, Leeloo needs Love. Very basically, very essentially, when she is loved by Korben, Life issues forth.
The Fifth Element is Love.