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THE FIFTH ELEMENT- Ultimate Edition

DVD Review by David Blackwell

DETAILS: 126 minutes, fact track, visual and idigital element featurettes, Star Element, Alien Element, Fashion Element, The Diva, Poster Gallery, Previews

STUDIO: Columbia/SPHE/Gaumont

RELEASE DATE: 1-10-2005

ANALYSIS: Director Luc Besson had a vision for a sci-fi movie when he was a teenager. Influenced by French comic books, he wrote a 400 page screenplay which he rewrote it years later for a movie that became THE FIFTH ELEMENT. He struggled to get it financed in the early 1990s and then he went away to make the successful LEON aka THE PROFESSIONAL. Now he had the power to get THE FIFTH ELEMENT off the ground.

He cast Bruce Willis as cab driver Korben Dallas in the 24th century. An unexpected fare drops into Korben's air taxi in the form of a beautiful woman named Leeloo (Milla Jovovich who Luc Besson marrying 7 months after the movie opened followed by a divorce two years after that). Leeloo is the perfect woman that is the fifth element in an ultimate weapon to stop an evil planetoid from destroying all life on Earth. In league with the evil planetoid (aka Mr. Shadow) is evil businessman Zorg (Gary Oldman) who has the mission to retrieve four stones which are vital to the good guys. Priest Vito Cornelius (Ian Holm) has been waiting for Leeloo to come to Earth. The military drafts Korben back into service to get the four stones from an alien opera singer at Falston Paradise, so that he can save the universe.

It is an understatement to say how much visual goodness from sets to costumes to effects that are in each frame of THE FIFTH ELEMENT. A cocktail of action, humor, drama, and romance are mixed together to form one of the most interesting science fiction movies of the 1990s. This is the last great movie that Luc Besson directed before going headlong into producing movies after directing a Joan of Arc movie (which starred then wife Milla Jovovich). Rumors have been abound about a sequel called Mr. Shadow, but I think it is more likely for a sequel to LEON to get off the ground.

VIDEO/AUDIO: THE FIFTH ELEMENT is presented in 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen. The Superbit transfer is amazing. Colors are warm and bright. Blacks are good. Image sharpness is great. Some of the featurettes on disc two are in 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen.

You can hear the movie in English 5.1 Dolby Digital or English DTS with the option of English, French, Portuguese, Spanish, Chinese, or Thai subtitles. Dialogue comes through clear as a bell. Sound effects are distinct while the music packs a big bang. The featurettes on disc two (and the fact track on disc one) have the option of Spanish or Portuguese subtitles.

SPECIAL FEATURES: Disc One has a fact track option you can select to turn on and it will display facts while you watch the movie. You get some production tidbits and some related facts.

Disc two has a treasure trove of extras (which would have been even better if director Luc Besson believed in doing DVD extras). Over two hours of featurettes, screen tests, and outtakes are included. All screen tests and outtakes have no audio (except for The Diva outtakes which have audio).

THE VISUAL ELEMENT talks about the two French comic book artists, Jean Claude Mezieres (who was a cowboy in Montana for 1 1/2 years back in the 1950s) and Jean Giraud aka Moebius, that Luc Besson brought in to work with the production design team to nail down the visual look fo the movie. Plenty of production sketches are shown including some alternate concepts of sets/ships and characters in the movie. Separate from the featurette are tests for seven of the movie's sets. It's amazing how big some of the sets look without many people in them (the airport set tests do show the crew wandering about.

THE DIGITAL ELEMENT is a 10 minute featurette that focuses on the visual effects work that Digital Domain did for the movie with plenty of green screen footage to boot (which isn't in the best condition as you see scratches like with the other tests and outtakes on disc 2).

THE STAR ELEMENT has featurettes on the three main actors: Bruce Willis, Milla Jovovich, and Chris Tucker. Milla talks about how she was tested for the role, the problems with her hair falling out due to improper bleaching of her roots which lead to her wearing a wig for the rest of the movie shoot, and the language devised for Leeloo. As an extra treat, there are four screen tests of Milla as Luc tries to nail down the look and movement of Leeloo.

THE FASHION ELEMENT interviews Jean Paul Gaultier as he talks about doing the costume design for the movie. You're also treated to a test of the Korben Dallas costume and three Leeloo costume tests.

THE ALIEN ELEMENT focuses on the four different aliens in the movie (three since one got cut out of the movie). Each of them except for Zorg's useless pet, Picasso (who only gets a featurette) has their own featurette and screen tests /outtakes. It was interesting seeing test footage of the Mondoshawan costume as it was being designed and made. They got tall people to play them while body builders (and bouncers) played the ugly and yet dangerous Mangalores. However, the Strikers ended up on the cutting room floor and only rehearsal footage of them still exists.

THE DIVA is a featurette that features the first interview with actress Maiwenn talking about playing Diva Plavalaguna. She did the role because the model that was originally going to do the part did a disappearing act. Maiwenn is disappointed that her opera performance got edited, but you can see the uncut performance at the end of the featurette. Also included separately are Opera House outtakes and a green screen outtake done on a soundstage.

Rounding out the disc two extras is a poster gallery of 25 different FIFTH ELEMENT posters from around the world and previews for THE FORGOTTEN (in 5.1 DD), LEON: THE PROFESSIONAL, and MIRRORMASK

FINAL ANALYSIS: THE FIFTH ELEMENT- Ultimate Edition is a two disc set with fantastic extras and a good transfer for the movie itself. I wish the LEON: THE PROFESSIONAL Deluxe Edition had great extras like this and the transfer to match THE FIFTH ELEMENT. If you want to see behind the scenes of this fun sci-fi movie, buy this DVD.  If you only owned the regular edition of the movie, buy this one for the much improved picture quality.

this DVD Review is (c)1-25-2005 David Blackwell and cannot be reprinted without permission. Send all comments to lord_pragmagtic@hotmail.com and look for additional content (and site updates) at http://www.livejournal.com/users/enterlinemedia