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Sunday, July 5, 2020

The 23rd century revisited

Flooding into the Barkley Village theater, moviegoers tightly packed themselves together to witness Luc Besson’s action packed and cartoonish sci-fi film, “The Fifth Element,” on the big screen for the first time in 20 years.

For me, “The Fifth Element” holds a special place among my list of guilty-pleasure movies. When I found out it was returning to the big screen for its 20th anniversary, I knew it’d be something I wanted to experience in theaters.

The first time I ever saw the film, I was probably 8 years old. At that time, the film served as one of the greatest sci-fi films of all time for me, rivaling even “Star Wars.” However, as you grow older, opinions change, and you look at things differently.

The storyline isn’t going to blow anyone away. It’s a typical action movie with some great gunfight and car chase sequences with a simple plot to save humanity from evil.

Bruce Willis is cast as Korben Dallas, a retired special forces major turned cab driver. His character mirrors a very similar persona to that of another one of Willis’s characters, John McClane from the “Die Hard” series. Like McClane, Dallas uses brute force and bullets to blast through villains and bend the rules in his favor, but trades the police car for a flying taxi.

While you won’t get super attached to the characters and their stories, the film will keep you hooked with its cleverly delivered one-liners. The humor can take away from some of the more tense moments, but they keep the film from taking itself too seriously.

Illustration by Shannon DeLurio

When it first debuted in 1997, “The Fifth Element” got mixed reviews from critics.

“A largely misfired European attempt to make an American-style sci-fi spectacular,” Todd McCarthy of Variety Magazine wrote. “‘The Fifth Element’ consists of a hodgepodge of elements that don’t comfortably coalesce.”

Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune provided a more positive review, writing that the film both “entertains and thrills,” while also having plenty of eye appeal.

It would seem, two decades later, these visuals are something moviegoers find to be one of the film’s best qualities. Alyssa and Jean-Marc Reinsma drove down from Canada to see the film after they found out it was playing at Barkley Village over Facebook.

“That’s the first time I’ve seen it,” Jean-Marc said. “The costumes were good and Bruce Willis as the action hero is awesome.”

Alyssa said she thought the theater would be best place to experience the movie.

The costumes are fairly eye-catching and humorous with odd fashions, from a bodysuit worn by one character with roses embroidered around the neck, to a strange plastic looking helmet worn by the movie’s villain. The costumes are anything but subtle.

The film overall is very clean in its appearance. The backdrops and locations don’t look fake or cheaply made, even if some of the graphics are slightly dated. Movie reviewer Roger Ebert said the film created sights so remarkable, they had to be seen.

The graphics may not stand the test of time, but they really show how far special effects have come in the last 20 years. While today it’s easy to see that the spaceships are animated and the futuristic New York City skyline was generated on a green screen, when “The Fifth Element” first came out, the film was praised on its technical prowess.

This was the first time Bellingham resident Cara Rasmussen got the chance to see the film in theaters. For her, the film is a great sci-fi story that is well paced.

“It’s one of my favorite movies,” Rasmussen said. “Anytime it’s on TV I have to stop and watch it.”

Regardless of whether the film is good or bad, it doesn’t really matter. What makes the film great is 20 years later, loyal fans, as well as some new ones, are willing to come and see it on the big screen. Is it “Star Wars,” or even something as impactful? No. It doesn’t have to be though, because it’s enjoyable.

If I had to rate the film, I’d give it 3.5 out of 5. One thing I take away from this, however, is no matter the rating, there’s a reason why nearly 60 people crammed into the theater on a Sunday night to see this film. They love it, and for them, getting to see it in theaters gives them a reason to love it even more.     

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