Luc Besson is famed for his "Cinéma du Look" style, epitomised by gorgeous visuals and sometimes criticised as a triumph of style over substance. The Fifth Element is no exception and, if you enjoyed Besson's The Big Blue, you are sure to appreciate the wonderful eye-candy on offer in The Fifth Element. At the time of its production this was by far the most expensive movie ever made outside of Hollywood - and it shows.
It all kicks off with a nicely atmospheric scene in 1914 with Egyptologists examining mysterious hieroglyphics, when their studies are suddenly interrupted by the appearance of an impressively massive spaceship and the kind of OTT Jean-Paul Gaultier-styled aliens that the producers of Doctor Who would probably reject with hoots of derision! And that sets the tone for the remaining two hours of this quirky movie; some stunning visuals, some self-parodying humour, some breakneck action and lots and lots of extreme campiness! The main source of inspiration for The Fifth Element was old French sci-fi comic strips, but the careful viewer will spot the occasional influence of the likes of Blade Runner, 2001, Total Recall, Alien and Star Wars. There's a pretty strong cast. Bruce Willis, as the reluctant hero, plays it surprisingly straight but puts in a commendable performance, whereas Gary Oldman makes an outrageously boo-hiss villain. Milo Jovovitch looks quite stunning in a masking tape bikini and is suitably other-worldly and Ian Holm has a strong supporting role. Nice cameo from Lee Evans too!
So far so good. If you sense there's a 'but' coming, you'd be right. Some scenes dragged on a bit - particularly with the irritating Ruby Rhod (Chris Tucker) and, overall, it struck me as a tad too whimsical and lightweight for its own good. In terms of eye-candy, The Fifth Element can compete with the best of them, but there really didn't feel like there was much substance behind the fluff.
The Blu-ray presentation is generally good, with a little grain in certain scenes, but mostly sharp images and vivid colours. Surround sound is used to good effect too.
Overall, worth a look, if you can at least partly disengage your brain, just go with the flow and remember that this isn't meant to be profound sci-fi and probably has more in common with Red Dwarf than with say 2001 or Blade Runner!