Why isn’t Luc Besson a household name? The mind of this French auteur has been gracing our screens for over 30 years as a writer, producer and director - sometimes wearing all three hats at once. Luc has given us some of the most exhilarating, exciting and successful films and franchises in modern cinema, yet when one of his masterpieces hits the screen he’s usually credited as “From the makers of (insert awesome movie title here)”. His works are vast and varied, and while he undeniably specialises in action, he transformed the genre to mean it’s no longer just buff foreign men in dirty wife-beaters who can barely act shooting everyone in sight - don’t get me wrong, he still does that, but it’s in a much more nuanced and thrilling way. Besson’s films aren’t always for everyone; for critics, they’d praise the stellar ‘Leon: The Professional’ (1994). For fast-paced gear heads, it’s ‘The Transporter’ (2002). For the politically inclined it’s ‘The Lady’ (2011). And for those who enjoy watching a man with a particular set of skills it’s the ‘Taken’ series (2008-14). Yet undoubtedly the film that has made the biggest impact with its presence still being felt at Comic Cons, cosplay events and Saturday nights on the couch, it has to be ‘The Fifth Element’.
'THE FIFTH ELEMENT' TRAILER
This sci-fi extravaganza gave us practical effects and creatures, extraordinary designer costumes and a killer soundtrack, captivating characters and a world unlike any other. And just like his past films elevated the likes of Natalie Portman and Jason Statham, ‘The Fifth Element’ gave us Chris Tucker the loud-mouthed funny man and made Milla Jovovich a bonafide action star as well as his future wife/ex-wife - but that one is a story for another time.
In an industry where the computer and technology is king, dominating both animation and live-action, this refreshing quirky tale of a future with an evil deadline bucked the trend by using practical creatures. ‘The Fifth Element’ not only gave us a sea of androgynous characters in fabulous Jean-Paul Gaultier costumes but a galaxy of creatures featuring players in animatronic heads and bodysuits, a woman painted in blue, and robotic turtle/armadillo thingys. We’re talking real people in real costumes like the good old days, not tennis balls on sticks to be added in post and voiced by the latest “it” actor. Imagine R2D2 and C-3PO as computer generated characters. Boooooo! C-3PO had a black fabric belly with a couple wires hanging from it and it was awesome! And don’t even get me started on the current Ninja Turtle movies. I believe a part of any film’s authenticity loses a little something when actors are unable to really engage with a genuine environment or character. In this particular film that extra mile and special dose of creature-feature is especially noticeable, felt and made all the better during its climax when both Korbin and Leeloo are involved in large scale fight sequences with the Mangalores.
This sci-fi extravaganza gave us practical effects and creatures, extraordinary designer costumes and a killer soundtrack.
It doesn’t stop at production design. Besson’s imagination knows no bounds when he even invented his own language for the film. Yes, despite appearances, the gibberish Leeloo spits is actually a structured language, referred to as the Divine Language, that officially only he and Milla are able to speak, fluently - nerds who have watched the film over a thousand times and memorised the dialogue don’t count.
It’s seems appropriate that this year we celebrate ‘The Fifth Element’s’ 20th anniversary mere months away from the release of Besson’s next sci-fi epic ‘Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets’. Only time will tell if ‘Valerian’ reaches the same pop sci-fi cult classic status of ‘The Fifth Element’ - unlikely, but from the looks of things, it features grand designs and Besson’s signature cheeky wit, so count me in. I’m green. I’m super green.