Given the very nature of sci-fi films and their reliance on special effects, they tend to date easily. Along with Blade Runner and Alien, Luc Besson’s seminal sci-fi actioner The Fifth Element has only got better with time. Groundbreaking, breathtaking and earthshaking, here are five reasons why it’s a FIVE STAR FILM.
1. Ruby Rhod
Bzzz. BZZZZ. And so forth. Chris Tucker’s portrayal of the flamboyant, androgynous and OTT radio host of the future Ruby Rhod is a scene stealer. Surrounded by Oscar-nominated special affects and a supporting cast of cray cray aliens, no one is more colourful than Rhode (which is saying something given the colour of Leeloo’s hair). Endlessly quotable and ridiculous to the point of joy, Ruby is a character so awesome that George Lucas tried to copy him in his Star Wars prequels – albeit unsuccessfully – with Jar Jar Binks. Green? Supergreen.
Wow to the power of WOW adequately sums up The Fifth Element’s costume design. The magnificent and sometimes mind-boggling creations were designed by French fashion legend Jean-Paul Gaultier who managed to encapsulate Besson’s vision perfectly. Bold was the key ingredient as he integrated razor sharp cuts, eye-popping colours, pulpy fabrics and gravity-defying outfits (how exactly does Leeloo’s white number stay in place?). Gaultier was so on the money with his high-end futuristic fashion that over a decade later the world’s top pop stars look like extras from the film – I’m talking to you Lady Gaga, Nicki Minaj and Rihanna.
3. This dance
What starts out as enthralling scene both visually and musically turns into something else entirely. The Diva’s spine-tingling performance takes one of the oldest art forms and makes it contemporary. Most surprisingly, in the last third she manages to do something no one thought possible: make opera cool.
Warning: as dramatic and memorable as her dance is, DO NOT try and bust it out at a party. People will have no idea what you’re doing and trying to explain it will only makes matters worse. Trust me.
Besson’s long-time collaborator Eric Serra developed his industrial punk score from La Femme Nikita quite beautifully for The Fifth Element’s finished product. Epic and cinematic, he composed something that was both cutting edge and timeless. J’adore that dirty, dirty grind.
‘Vision’ is really a way to say ‘everything’ in this instance. From the score and the fashion, to the effects and environmental themes, Luc Besson’s vision is flawless. The devil was in the details with the same attention and innovation paid to microwave meals of the future (chicken!) as there was an entire cityscape of flying cars. It had a hint of the familiar with its clear Blade Runner influences, but it was also something entirely new. The unique world Besson created in 1997 – a startling fact when you look at just how little the film has dated – has been imitated numerous times since. Yet the imitators can never beat the originator.
Maria Lewis - follow Maria on Twitter here: @moviemazz