TWO STARS - WEAK
Unlike Hal, Denny’s love for science fiction is usually enough for a positive rating on a film of that genre. But even Denny had trouble with “The Fifth Element.”
It’s not that good doesn’t win. It does. In blatant agreement with Christianity, the film proclaims “evil cannot be fought with evil, but only with love.” And it declares that the highest concern is “for life.” And it demonstrates a willingness of the persons fighting for good to die to save others.
But the film is such a poorly developed study of any of those issues that it is lost in its cartoon style. We neither come to care about the characters as persons or see ourselves in them. Instead, we are expected to set aside any depth of thought or soul and climb on board their raucous ride.
Failing to explore the human issues of which science fiction usually excels, the film also fails in its science. Rather than exploring new concepts of the laws of nature and the interactive power of those laws, the film focuses more on weapons and schemes than playing with scientific concepts.
The welding together of myth and science, which had the beginnings of a fascinating story line, begins in 1914 with the exploration by an archaeologist of an ancient Egyptian temple. In deciphering the symbols, the scientist discovers what the temple’s priest has long known: There is an abominable evil coming in 300 years which can only be stopped by the joining of the four elements of earth, wind, fire and water to a fifth and central element, which powerfully unites them.
When metallic angel-like aliens come and take the elements for safekeeping, the stage is set for the eventual battle of 2214 A.D.
It is here that the story falters. The future is portrayed in such a complex cacophony of sights and sounds that it is more distracting than engaging.
The axis of the story revolves around the regenerated person, Leeloo (Milla Jovovich), who arrives with the angelic-aliens. Having been attacked by ghoulish creatures who are the hired killers of the villain of the story, Zorg (Gary Oldman), there are only a few of her living cells left intact, which are then cloned by government scientists.
Leeloo’s genetic structure is discovered to be human, but in a completely “perfect” and “complex” way. She is proclaimed by the priest of the temple to be the “divine being.”
Since the film uses such a garish and cartoonish style, it is unclear whether this designation is meant to be taken seriously as a Christ-figure who comes to give her life to save humanity, or whether she is a blasphemous figure whose provocative appearance and historical ignorance trivialize her.
Assuming the artists creating the film were simply playing with spiritual images and did not mean to be disrespectful, the film presents an interesting battle between good and evil. The symbolism is, in fact, thought provoking.
Evil, to have its full power, must have devious human accomplices, just as good, to defeat evil, must have courageous human warriors.
Evil is symbolically presented in the film as a planet of darkness, which is coming to earth to destroy all of life. But for it to be victorious, a human must keep good from “coming together” with the “four elements of creation” and the “fifth element” of God.
The evil accomplice is Zorg. Though we never fully understand what he is getting out of his role since the “evil” which is coming will destroy all of life and therefore, would destroy him as well, he sells out humanity.
This is most often the experience of life, people who engage in evil’s practices not only destroy others but themselves as well.
In contrast, the fighters for good must risk their lives in order to bring everything in creation together in a community of loving power.
In the choice of the film to use sexual feelings between Korben Dallas (Bruce Willis) and the “divine being” as a definition of love, the message of the film is hopelessly demeaned. If the “divine being” had, in fact, sacrificed her life to save humanity in a self-less act of love, the message could have had some merit and reflected the real power of love which truly conquers evil.