Let's see, Good versus Evil, a
premise that always works, but
you need a plot to hook the audience. That's what this film lacks. It's probably a much better movie in French. It will be, I'm sure, much grittier. But we're dealing with the American, sanitized, version. The story was written by Luc Besson, a French Director, when he was sixteen years old. He decided, some twenty-two years later, to make this piece of adolescent fantasy into a $92m film.
The movie opens in Egypt, circa 1914, at an excavation sight. An archeologist is translating a wall of heiroglyphics. Luke Perry plays Billy (his name is only mentioned once so I may be wrong about this), who, apparently, is the archeologist's assistant, or illustrator, or something. It's never really defined. So, as the archeologist is busy translating, a space craft arrives and out pops a whole bunch of crab-like robotic creatures. They inform the priest who watches over the pyramid, and the goodies inside, that war, a war with the ultimate evil, is imminent so they must remove the goodies from the pyramid (imminent, by the way, equals three hundred years). The goodies are a set of stones, representing the four elements, earth, wind, fire, and water that, when combined with the fifth element, will become a perfect force for good. This fifth element is promised to appear when needed. They make the priest of the pyramid promise to guard the truth of the fifth element and to pass the information on to the next priest, and so on and so on until the the ultimate evil arrives.
It's now the year 2300, and we're in New York. Bruce Willis plays Korben Dallas, an ex-military fighter jock turned wired cab driver. We get a tour of a futuristic living space. If you ever wondered what it felt like to be cargo, here's your opportunity to find out. Korben heads off to work only to have The Fifth Element land in his cab. She is the beautiful Milla Jovovich. Her DNA is, according to one of the scientists in the movie, perfect. She speaks the language that was spoken before time was time, which causes some communication problems between Bruce and Milla, that are never really exploited. So the action begins, Bruce is induced to return to the military to fetch the stones, of course not without a nemisis. Enter Zog (Gary Oldman), an evil arms dealer, and his band of merry mercenaries, who are working with the ultimate evil to acquire the stones. The rest of the movie is good versus evil, pure and simple. They toss in a diva, an alien who is currently the guardian of the stones, a DJ that's some aberrant cross between Prince and Rupaul, and Cornelious, the priest who is the last in the line of guardian priests. As stated above there is no real plot, just a great deal of action.
In its defense, the movie is visually amazing. The New York cityscape of the future is terrifying. Besson's concept of what life in the future holds for us should be enough for us all to want to return to an agrarian society. There is though, no way to save this film. Bruce Willis, who can turn a drab script into entertainment with his glib, sarcastic one-liners may as well have stayed mute in this film. I kept waiting for one of the characters to become central and by the end of the film I was trying to figure out who the film was about, Bruce? or Milla?. All in all, if you're going to see this movie, take a fifth of your favorite element.