I've found myself in one of those REVISIT ALL THE THINGS moods of late, so naturally my default for the that is the period of genre cinema that covered my teenage years – the nineties. There was a lot of junk released then, but there are a few classic that have really stood the test of time. I span The Fifth Element again last night and was astounded how well it holds up.
Visually it doesn't feel far removed from the current level of CGI and film making, the script it still wonderfully inventive, the cast are still uniformly excellent (even the squealing monstrosity of Chris Tucker's Ruby Rhod), and Luc Besson's direction helps it to look like absolutely nothing else that was being made at the time. The Fifth Element is a thing of beauty.
There's so much going on visually and plot-wise throughout its two hour running time that it's easy to forgive some of the less believable elements (as it were) of the script, such as Bruce Willis' Korben Dallas falling in love with Milla Jovovich's Leeloo seemingly over a period of hours. That aside, the script moves along at quite a pace, and remains engaging throughout.
One of the most incredible things about The Fifth Element isn't the groundbreaking effects, the costume design from Jean-Paul Gaultier or Gary Oldman's bizarre accent (which, in my opinion,wasn't bettered for weirdness until Tom Hardy played Bane in The Dark Knight Rises).
It's the innocence and wide-eyed naivety of Leoloo – and her subsequent transformation in the third act into the godlike weapon that saves humanity – which is captivating. Milla Jovovich managed to put across a truly alien quality to her, mixed with a childlike wonder and a nervous curiosity that was just electric to watch.
Bruce Willis gets his action scenes, Gary Oldman and Ian Holm out-act everyone and there are stunning set-pieces, but it's Milla that still stuns. The iconic opera scene, inter-cut with action scenes and exposition, remains beautiful even with the clear limitations of the practical make-up for the diva being so obvious during the close-ups. The practical effects on the Mangalores (the big alien mercenaries) look iffy here and there, but heck, modern effects still often look ropey.
Did revisiting The Fifth Element have the desired nostalgia effect? Pretty much, but I also found myself engrossed in it all over again. Luc Besson tried a big sci-fi concept piece again recently with the critical and commercial punching bag known as Valerian (everyone seems to say it looks amazing but the cast stink), but I don't think we'll ever see something so aesthetically gorgeous and strange as this again. I'm enjoying the nostalgia again.