Plot: What’s it about?
Korben Dallas (Bruce Willis) is a grizzled taxi driver with a checkered driving record, so he doesn’t seem like the hero type, to say the least. But when the fate of the world hangs in the balance, he ends up being the man behind the wheel. A massive threat is present and if it isn’t stopped, life as we know it could come to a brutal end. Every five thousand years, the force of Evil arises & tries to demolish all in its path and of course, it’s been about five thousand years since the last attack on the world. A man named Zorg (Gary Oldman) seeks to profit from the presence of Evil, even if that means allowing it to take over and risking the lives of millions of innocents. But a force has been created to battle the Evil, in the form of the gorgeous and talented Leeloo (Milla Jovovich), also known as the fifth element. And when she leaps from a skyscraper and crash into Korben Dallas’ taxi, he finds himself right in the middle of this epic struggle between good & evil. With the combined forces of Korben, Leeloo, and a mysterious priest (Ian Holm), can Zorg and the impending Evil be stopped, or will even they prove to be inadequate as saviours?
If ever a movie was ideal to be part of Columbia’s Superbit line, it has to be The Fifth Element. The original disc had no supplements and with this flick, you need all the audio power and visual sheen you can handle. This is one of the true modern visual masterpieces, with incredible sights to be soaked in, from costumes, to sets, to of course, digital special effects. A wealth of rich, complex eye candy and not repetitive in nature either, as the films takes through all sorts of locales and interesting situations. But is The Fifth Element all looks and no personality, as so many movies turn out to be these days? Yes and no. The story is nothing new, but the events and characters are infused with energy, which makes it all a pleasure to watch. I doubt you’ll marvel over plot twists or character development, but without a doubt, this is a very fun picture. Not as brainless as some of the sci/fi flicks out there, but this is no Citizen Kane, by any stretch of the imagination. So if you’re a fan of wild, futuristic adventures, The Fifth Element is one of the better modern examples. As this disc surpasses the previous one in terms of audio & video and neither disc offers supplements, it’s obvious that this Superbit edition is the one to own, hands down.
We’ve seen Bruce Willis tackle the hero role many times before, but he makes sure it all seems fresh here. As per usual, he isn’t the usual, traditional kind of hero, per se, but he manages the role without any real troubles. He starts off as gruff, but we can relate to him and when a damsel in distress arrives, he quickly switches to reluctant hero mode. I don’t think I’d say Willis showcases great acting skills in The Fifth Element, but he livens up the picture and nails his character, which is what counts, I think. At least he seems natural within the part and can deliver his lines in top form, as well as get some humorous chemistry with the other performers. Other films with Willis include Pulp Fiction, Die Hard with a Vengeance, Unbreakable, Armageddon, The Last Boy Scout, and The Whole Nine Yards. The cast also includes Milla Jovovich (The Million Dollar Hotel, Zoolander), Gary Oldman (Leon: The Professional, Air Force One), Chris Tucker (Rush Hour, Dead Presidents), and Ian Holm (Brazil, Time Bandits).
Video: How does it look?
The Fifth Element is presented in a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. The previous disc’s transfer was excellent and often used as a reference disc, but this edition surpasses it and then some. The improvements aren’t extreme, but if you do a side-by-side comparison, you’ll note some instant differences. The colors look bold and vivid as they did before, while black levels seem more refined, if only by a small amount. The main improvement here is in the detail level, where smaller touches seem more defined, like textures on clothes and pieces of machinery. I didn’t expect this transfer to be this much of an improvement over the previous one, which was superb, but Columbia’s Superbit approach has delivered as promised here.
Audio: How does it sound?
The audio on Columbia’s prior disc was also excellent, so I was unsure if the included Dolby Digital & DTS 5.1 tracks could offer much an improvement. I scanned both tracks and then compared them to the previous Dolby Digital 5.1 option, with a careful ear for differences, either for better or for worse. I found both tracks to be more immersive & refined than the original release, but the changes are by no means night & day. The surrounds are used all the time here, from the action driven scenes, to the terrific musical score, to even the more reserved, subtle sequences. In other words, the original track was near reference level for most folks and so are these, with some slight improvements to sweeten the deal, of course. I have to say the DTS has a small edge between the two options here, but in either case, the audio is fantastic and leaves little to be desired. This disc also includes subtitles in English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Chinese, and Thai.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This disc contains no bonus materials.