(Air Date: 5/7/97)
The new film, "The Fifth Element," has had the hype machine on full blast for some time. To be sure, it has a lot going for it: Director Luc Besson, who brought us "La Femme Nikita" and "The Professional;" special effects by Mark Stetson and the crew at Digital Domain, and a big star in Bruce Willis.
Willis plays Korben Dallas, a New York City cab driver in the 23rd century. The fare of his life just literally falls into his lap, and he becomes a player in a cosmic battle between good and evil. Oh, and he's also a retired major from the Special Forces, a helpful background to have if you're chosen to save the world.
You see, every 5000 years, a great convergence happens and evil gets a chance to consume all life. But Earth is given a weapon against this great evil, and that is the Fifth Element.
There's an eclectic cast: Ian Holm is the priest who holds most of the answers. Milla Jovovich is the perfect physical specimen who is sent by an alien race to activate the anti-evil weapon. Gary Oldman is Zorg, the businessman who aids the ultimate evil.
The production design by Dan Weir is suitably otherworldly, and the cinematography by Thierry Arbogast is breathtaking. The effects are well-integrated and add a great deal to the fantastic 23rd century vision that Besson creates.
So what could possibly go wrong with a film like this? For starters, the story is just too thin for a 127-minute film. The pacing is all wrong, and it would have been much tighter with 20 more minutes left on the cutting room floor. For another thing, the cheesiness factor is way too high. It wouldn't be so bad if only Gary Oldman got to go over the top; he's made a pretty good living off of that so far. But Chris Tucker, as a 23rd century radio DJ, is just completely superfluous, and worse yet, he's not funny either.
It's not a total loss; there are several amazing scenes, Willis actually does a decent job as Dallas, and Besson can pump up the action sequences with the best of them. It's worth seeing on the big screen. Just don't go in expecting anything more than eye candy.
Copyright 1997 Alex Lau
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