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5 Reasons I Love The Fifth Element

November 3, 2009

1. Design
The movie looks great. It’s dominated by colors–each set has its dominant color, which permeates the scene. The shots are carefully balanced but not static. Even though the movie is almost 15 years old, the effects work doesn’t look that dated. Sure, some of the rubber masks are obvious, but even they have the Henson charm. Most of the CG work is unobtrusive and, while looking slightly dated, it fits into the cartoony aspects of the world the film creates. The costume design is great, too! It looks clearly futuristic in an almost impractical way that most other movies set in the future (Star Wars and Trek, for instance) don’t even attempt. Plus there is the object design in the film. Jean Girard (Moebius) was one of the main artists for the film. He has a long history of doing great art that gets involved in film–from designs for Alien and TRON to classic comics that inspired movies like Blade Runner.

2. Story
The Fifth Element is a space opera. It’s an action-adventure. It’s a thriller. It’s a comedy. It’s a drama. It’s well thought out, pretty unpredictable and definitely doesn’t take itself too seriously. It shows, not tells. It gives each character enough depth to make them interesting but not more than they need. At the same time, it’s not clearly delineated into Autobots and Decepticons–while it’s pretty simple to tell which side a person is on, it’s not black and white. Motivations are gray and not everything is explained (and it doesn’t need to be). We know that there is some history and some crazy things happening, but we never have to sit through a massive block of exposition.

3. Action
Flying car chases. Explosions. Kung-fu. Gun battles. Explosions. Pretty ladies. Aliens. Robots. Military might. Did I mention all the explosions?

4. Humor
Unlike so many science fiction films out, this one purposely avoids taking itself seriously. Sure there’s some talk about the end of the world and the body count is relatively high, but it’s done with a cartoon smirk that flushes any serious repercussions out with the refuse. Chris Tucker acts as the main comic relief, with his fast-talking, famous-but-cowardly radio host, but every character, even the antagonist, deliver their performance with a wink of humor that makes the whole thing so much easier to swallow and more enjoyable.

5. It’s a Comic Book!
The movie looks great, it’s story is fun and pulpy and doesn’t take itself seriously, it has great set pieces, and it doesn’t expect too much from it’s viewers. It’s not some jingoistic action rah-rah flick, but it’s a more subtle look-at-this-isn’t-this-cool adventure. Plus, the colors! The acting! are both so stylized that this movie oozes comic book sensibilities, second only to Tank Girl in terms of frenetic madness.

Highly recommended.

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