The Fifth Element
|The Fifth Element|
International release poster
|Directed by||Luc Besson|
|Produced by||Patrice Ledoux|
|Screenplay by||Luc Besson
Robert Mark Kamen
|Story by||Luc Besson|
|Music by||Éric Serra|
|Editing by||Sylvie Landra|
|Distributed by||Gaumont Film Company
Columbia Pictures (United States)
|Running time||126 minutes|
The Fifth Element (French: Le Cinquième Élément) is a 1997 English-language French science fiction film directed, co-written, and based on a story by Luc Besson. The film stars Bruce Willis, Gary Oldman, and Milla Jovovich. Mostly set during the twenty-third century, the film's central plot involves the survival of humanity, which becomes the duty of Korben Dallas (Willis), a taxicab driver and former special forces Major, when a young woman (Jovovich) falls into his taxicab. Upon learning about her significance, Dallas must join efforts with the girl to recover four mystical stones essential to defending Earth from an impending attack.
Besson started writing the story that would become The Fifth Element when he was 16 years old. It has been described as his "life-long pet project". Comic book writers Jean Giraud and Jean-Claude Mézières were hired for the films production design, and costume design was done by Jean-Paul Gaultier.
The Fifth Element received mainly positive reviews, though it tended to polarize critics. It has been called both the best and worst summer blockbuster of all time. The film was a financial success, earning over $263 million at the box office on a $90 million budget. It was the most expensive European film ever made at the time of its release, and it remains the most financially successful French film to this day.
In 1914, at the outbreak of World War I, extraterrestrials known as Mondoshawans arrive at an ancient Egyptian temple to collect from a secret chamber, for safekeeping, the only weapon capable of defeating a Great Evil that appears every five thousand years. The weapon consists of four stones, representing the four classical elements, and a sarcophagus that contains a Fifth Element in the form of a human, which combines the power of the other four elements into a "Divine Light". The Mondoshawans promise their human contact, a priest, they will return with the Elements in time to stop the Great Evil, but an accident forces them to give their key to the chamber to the priest and instruct him to pass it on to future generations until they return.
In the mid 23rd Century, the Great Evil appears in space in the form of a giant ball of black fire and destroys an Earth battleship. The current priest of the Mondoshawan key, Vito Cornelius (Ian Holm), informs President Lindberg (Tom Lister, Jr.) of the history of the Great Evil and the weapon that can stop it. As the Mondoshawans return to Earth, they are ambushed by the shape-shifting Mangalores, the remnants of an outlawed, warlike alien race hired by the industrialist Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg (Gary Oldman), who was himself hired by the Great Evil to dispose of the element stones. The Mondoshawan's spacecraft is destroyed and the only thing Earth scientists recover is the hand of the Fifth Element, which they use to create a humanoid woman, known as "Leeloo" (Milla Jovovich). Terrified of her unfamiliar surroundings, she escapes confinement and jumps off a ledge to land in the flying taxicab of Korben Dallas (Bruce Willis), a former major in the Special Forces.
Dallas delivers Leeloo to Cornelius and his apprentice, David (Charlie Creed-Miles), whereupon Cornelius learns that the four Element stones were entrusted to Diva Plavalaguna (Maïwenn Le Besco), an opera singer. Because the Mangalores failed to obtain the stones, Zorg kills them, but their compatriots attempt to obtain the Elements for themselves. Upon learning from the Mondoshawans that Plavalaguna has the stones, General Munro (Brion James), Dallas' former superior, re-enlists Dallas and orders him to travel undercover, as a rigged radio contest winner, to meet the Diva on a luxury cruise in space. The publicity of the contest attracts the Mangalores and Zorg to the space liner. Dallas takes Leeloo with him, while Cornelius instructs David to prepare the temple and stows away aboard the vessel.
The Diva is killed when the Mangalores attack and take over the ship, but Dallas retrieves the Elements from the Diva's body. He fights the Mangalores to liberate the ship, killing their leader. Zorg searches for the Elements; he finds a carrying case, assumes the elements are in it, and leaves behind a time bomb that causes the liner's occupants to evacuate. Zorg departs on his spacecraft but discovers the case to be empty, so he returns to search for the Elements. He deactivates the bomb, but a dying Mangalore activates his own bomb, destroying the ship and killing Zorg, while Dallas, Cornelius, Leeloo, and talk-show host Ruby Rhod (Chris Tucker) escape with the Elements aboard Zorg's spacecraft.
The four return to the weapon chamber at the Egyptian temple as the Great Evil approaches. The group arranges the stones; but Leeloo has become disenchanted with humanity after having come to witness the brutality of war and violence and refuses to release the Divine Light. Dallas confesses his love for Leeloo and kisses her. In response, Leeloo combines the power of the stones and releases the Divine Light, causing the Great Evil to become dormant as a new moon in Earth's orbit.
Earth scientists assure President Lindberg that the Great Evil is dead. Korben and Leeloo are brought in by scientists and placed together in a healing tank to recuperate. When the President arrives and demands to see them one of the scientists informs him that "they need ... five more minutes", as Korben and Leeloo have begun consummating their love.
- Bruce Willis as Korben Dallas
- Milla Jovovich as Leeloo (Leeloominaï Lekatariba Lamina-Tchaï Ekbat De Sebat)
- Gary Oldman as Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg
- Ian Holm as Father Vito Cornelius
- Chris Tucker as Ruby Rhod
- Charlie Creed-Miles as David
- Brion James as General Munro
- Tricky as Right Arm
- Clifton Lloyd Bryan as Aknot
- Tom Lister, Jr. as President Lindberg
- Christopher Fairbank as Professor Mactilburgh
- Lee Evans as Fog
- John Bluthal as Professor Massimo Pacoli
- Luke Perry as Billy Masterson
- John Bennett as Priest
- Kim Chan as Mr. Kim
- John Neville as General Staedert
- Al Matthews as General Tudor
- Maïwenn Le Besco as Diva Plavalaguna
Besson started writing the script for The Fifth Element when he was 16 years old; he was 38 when the film opened in cinemas. Besson envisioned the entire world of The Fifth Element as a teenager to escape boredom. He states he was waiting to build a reputation for himself as a filmmaker before he commenced production of the film, so that he would be able to make it with creative control.
Besson met Bruce Willis a few years before production started and talked about the project, though he later decided to instead search for a relatively unknown young actor for the role of Korban, so as to spend less on actors and more on sets, costumes and special effects. Willis approached Besson expressing he was still interested in the film, and after Besson explained the issue, Willis responded "You know, Luc, if I like it, we will find a way." Willis made a deal with the production team for the role, a move which greatly pleased Besson. A casting call of 8,000 went out for the character Leeloo, and Besson chose Milla Jovovich from the 200-300 applicants he met in person.
Milla has this physical thing, she can be from the past or the future. She can be an Egyptian or a Roman. She can be Nefertiti and she can be from outer space. That was one thing I liked physically about her.—Luc Besson
Besson was in a relationship with Maïwenn Le Besco, who played the role of Diva Plavalaguna, for 6 years when filming commenced; however, he left her for Jovovich during filming. Jovovich and Besson were later married though they divorced in 1999.
The film was a French production, and was the most expensive European film ever made at the time of its release. Investors were reportedly uninterested in financing the film when pre-production first commenced in the early 90s. Investor interest only came after Besson made the successful 1994 film, Léon: The Professional, having suspended pre-production of The Fifth Element to make the film.
The Fifth Element was shot in Super 35 mm film format. Most of the principal photography was filmed at Pinewood Studios in England. Some scenes were also shot on location in Mauritania. The concert scenes were filmed at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, except for the special effect shots that show the Planet Fhloston through the ship's portholes. Nearly all of the visual effects scenes were hard-matted with the aid of Computer-generated imagery. The production design for the film was developed by French comics creators Jean Giraud and Jean-Claude Mézières. Mézières wrote the book The Circles of Power, which features 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 Dallas character to a taxicab driver who flies through a futuristic New York City. The costume design was created by French fashion designer Jean-Paul Gaultier.
The original name of the character Ruby Rhod was Loc Rhod. The name appears in both the original script and in the novelization of the film.
The "Divine Language" spoken in the film is a fictional language with only 400 words, invented by Besson and Jovovich. Jovovich stated that she and Besson wrote letters to each other in the Divine Language as practice.
|The Fifth Element: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack|
|Soundtrack album by various artists|
|Released||6 May 1997|
The films score was composed by Éric Serra. Released as an album under Virgin Records, it peaked at No. 99 on the Billboard 200. 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.
The Diva Dance opera performance featured music from Gaetano Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor: "Il dolce suono", the mad scene of Act III, Scene 2, and was sung by Albanian soprano Inva Mula, 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 Element soundtrack, 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.
All music composed by Éric Serra, except where noted.
|1.||"Little Light of Love"||4:50|
|8.||"Five Millenia Later"||3:13|
|10.||"Ruby Rap" (Lyrics performed by Chris Tucker and Bruce Wilis)||Éric Serra (music) Luc Besson and Robert Kamen (Lyrics)||1:55|
|11.||"Heat"||Éric Serra and Sebastien Cortella||2:54|
|14.||"Lucia di Lammermoor" (Performed by Inva Mula and the London Symphony Orchestra)||Gaetano Donizetti and Salvadore Cammarano||3:10|
|15.||"The Diva Dance"||1:31|
|17.||"A Bomb in the Hotel"||2:14|
|24.||"Protect Life"||Éric Serra and Sebastien Cortella||2:33|
|25.||"Little Light of Love (end titles version)" (Performed by RXRA)||3:29|
|26.||"Aknot! Wot?" (Bonus track)||Éric Serra (Music) Luc Besson and Robert Kamen (Lyrics)||3:35|
Initial screening 
The film premiered at the 1997 Cannes Film Festival, where it was selected as the opening film. Gaumont built an area for the screening that was over 100,000 square feet. Guests were given a "Fifth Element" Swatch, which served as their ticket for entry. The event featured a futuristic ballet, a fashion show by Jean-Paul Gaultier, and fireworks. Gaumont spent between $1 million and $3 million on the event, "set[ting] a new standard for Cannes extravaganzas".
Box office 
The film debuted at No. 1 in the US, earning $17 million on its opening weekend. It went on to become a major box office success, grossing over US$263 million, almost three times its budget of US$90 million. 76% of the receipts for The Fifth Element were from markets outside of the United States. It was the 9th highest-grossing film of the year worldwide. In Germany the film was awarded the Goldene Leinwand, a sales certification award for selling more than 3 million tickets at the box office, and also a Bogey Award in Silver, which certifies 2 million people viewing a film within twenty days. It went on to become the most financially successful French film ever made. As of 2011 it was still considered to be France's most successful exported film.
Critical reaction and legacy 
The Fifth Element holds a "fresh" 71% approval rating at Rotten Tomatoes based on 56 reviews, with the consensus, "Visually inventive and gleefully over the top, Luc Besson's The Fifth Element is a fantastic piece of pop sci-fi that never takes itself too seriously." It has a weighted score of 52/100 at Metacritic based on 22 professional reviews.
The Fifth Element polarized critics on release. Kevin Thomas of the Los Angeles Times described the film as an "elaborate, even campy sci-fi extravaganza, which is nearly as hard to follow as last year's Mission: Impossible." He concluded that The Fifth Element was "a lot warmer, more fun and boasts some of the most sophisticated, witty production and costume design you could ever hope to see." On film review show At the Movies, both Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel gave the film a 'thumbs up'; in his own review for the Chicago Sun-Times, Ebert gave the film 3 stars out of 4, calling it "One of the great goofy movies", and concluding, "I would not have missed seeing this film, and I recommend it for its richness of imagery. But at 127 minutes, which seems a reasonable length, it plays long." The film was, however, subject to a number of harsh reviews which expressed disapproval of its overblown style. Todd McCarthy of Variety wrote, "A largely misfired European attempt to make an American-style sci-fi spectacular, The Fifth Element consists of a hodgepodge of elements that don't comfortably coalesce." David Edelstein of Slate was even more critical, saying, "It may or may not be the worst movie ever made, but it is one of the most unhinged." Chris Tucker's performance as Ruby Rhod also polarized critics. He was praised in the Los Angeles Times and in Time, who called him "the summer's most outrageous special effect", though Josh Winning of Total Film singled out his performance as the low point of the film, ranking it as No. 20 on his 2011 list, "50 Performances That Ruined Movies".
Mixed opinion of the film continues to date. It has been described in various publications as a science fiction cult classic, however, it has also been regarded as one of the genre's worst films. Film critic Mark Kermode reported that The Fifth Element was one of the most divisive films among his readers, being regarded as one of the best and worst summer blockbusters of all time. Kermode recalled his own experience, "I remember very clearly being in Cannes when The Fifth Element was first played, and it really divided the audience." Stephen Cass of Discover ranked the film the third-best science fiction movie on subscription service Hulu, writing, "People seem to either like or loathe The Fifth Element... Lavish visuals and entertaining performances from Bruce Willis, Milla Jovovich, and Gary Oldman make this movie worth watching." In some circles the film has gained a "so-bad-it's-good" status; Meredith Woerner of io9 listed The Fifth Element as one of "The 20 Best Worst Science Fiction Movies Of All Time". The Visual Effects Society voted The Fifth Element among the 50 most influential visual effects films of all time.
Alejandro Jodorowsky and Jean Giraud sued Luc Besson after the film was released, claiming The Fifth Element had plagiarized their comic The Incal. Giraud sued for 13.1 million euros for unfair competition, 9 million euros in damages and interest and for 2-5% of the net operating revenues of the film. Jodorowsky sued for 700,000 euros. The case was dismissed in 2004 on the grounds that only "tiny fragments" of Giraud's artwork had been used and also due to the fact that Giraud had been hired by Besson to work on the film before the allegations were made.
Rumors after the film's release reported a sequel, tentatively titled Mr. Shadow, in development. In 2011 Besson stated a sequel was never planned, and he has no desire to make one.
The Fifth Element was nominated for Best Sound Editing at the 70th Academy Awards, and for Best Sound Editing at the 1998 Golden Reel Awards, but lost to Titanic in both cases. It won the BAFTA Award for Best Special Visual Effects, and the Prix Lumière award for Best Director. It was nominated for seven César awards and won three for Best Director, Best Cinematography, and Best Production Design. It was nominated for Film of the Year at the 1997 European Film Awards. It was also nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, and for the Satellite Award for Best Visual Effects. Thierry Arbogast was awarded the Technical Grand Prize at the 1997 Cannes Film Festival for his work on both The Fifth Element and She's So Lovely. The film received four Saturn Award nominations: Best Science Fiction Film, Best Costume, Best Special Effects, and Best Supporting Actress for Milla Jovovich. Jovovich's fight against the Mangalores was nominated for the MTV Movie Award for Best Fight, and she was also nominated for Best Actress - Newcomer at the Blockbuster Entertainment Awards.
|1998||Academy Awards||Best Sound Editing||The Fifth Element||Nominated|
|1998||Blockbuster Entertainment Awards||Best Actress - Newcomer||Milla Jovovich||Nominated|
|1997||British Academy of Film and Television Arts||Best Special Visual Effects||Mark A. Mangini||Won|
|1997||Cannes Film Festival||Technical Grand Prize||Thierry Arbogast||Won|
|1998||César Award||Best Cinematography||Thierry Arbogast||Won|
|Best Director||Luc Besson||Won|
|Best Production Design||Dan Weil||Won|
|Best Costume Design||Jean-Paul Gaultier||Nominated|
|Best Editing||Sylvie Landra||Nominated|
|Best Film||Luc Besson||Nominated|
|Best Music Written for a Film||Eric Serra||Nominated|
|Best Sound||Daniel Brisseau||Nominated|
|1997||European Film Awards||Film of the Year||Patrice Ledoux||Nominated|
|1998||Golden Raspberry Awards||Worst Supporting Actress||Milla Jovovich||Nominated|
|Worst New Star||Chris Tucker||Nominated|
|1998||Golden Reel Awards||Best Sound Editing||Sound editing team||Nominated|
|1998||Hugo Awards||Best Dramatic Presentation||The Fifth Element||Nominated|
|1998||MTV Movie Awards||Best Fight||Milla Jovovich vs. Aliens||Nominated|
|1997||Prix Lumière||Best Director||Luc Besson||Won|
|1998||Satellite Award||Best Visual Effects||Mark Stetson||Nominated|
|1998||Saturn Award||Best Science Fiction Film||The Fifth Element||Nominated|
|Best Costumes||Jean-Paul Gaultier||Nominated|
|Best Special Effects||Special effects team||Nominated|
|Best Supporting Actress||Milla Jovovich||Nominated|
Home media 
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 2.39:1 anamorphic widescreen format, had English and Spanish audio and subtitling, and carried no special features.
The film was released in Sony's Superbit format on 9 October 2001. In their review, IGN gave the DVD release 9 out of 10, but noting the enhanced quality of the Superbit format, awarded the Superbit version a perfect score. The Superbit release was presented in anamorphic widescreen 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.
An "Ultimate Edition" DVD was released on 11 January 2005. The edition contained two discs. The first contained the Superbit quality version of the film along with subtitles in the same six languages. The only difference between the Superbit version and the Ultimate Edition disc one is the addition of a "fact track", which when turned on displays trivia about the film, cast and crew as the film plays. The second disc provides various special features, focusing on visual production, special effects, fasion in the film, featurettes and interviews with Willis, Jovovich and Tucker, featurettes on the four different alien races in the film, and a featurette on Diva Plavalaguna. The Ultimate Edition was praised for its special features.
The first Blu-ray Disc release of the film occurred on 20 June 2006. It was widely criticized as having poor picture quality by Blu-ray standards, and was also criticized for its lack of special features. In what has been called an "an extremely rare move", Sony responded to complaints by making a remastered Blu-ray version available, released on 17 July 2007, and also offered a replacement exchange program for customers unhappy with the original Blu-ray release. Blu-ray.com stated the remastered version "absolutely" made up for the lacklustre initial release, praising its high video and audio quality, yet still criticising its lack of special features.
Related media 
A video game adaptation of the same name was created by Activision for the PlayStation game console and PC in 1998. It was generally met with negative reviews. One reviewer commented "Take Tomb Raider, add in Leeloo Multipass and boring puzzles, and you've got Fifth Element." A racing game based on the film, New York Race, was released in 2001.
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- Official website
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- The Fifth Element at AllRovi
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