Would that I could come home with a Fhloston Paradise t shirt as a souvenir. I remember seeing this film in the theater back in 1997 and thinking how god awful it was. This was before I began my career as an amateur film critic and had not really been exposed to the true depths that Hollywood can sink to (cough cough Jack and Jill cough cough). Since those happy days I have been exposed to enough bad cinema that I long to hold on to a movie only as bad as this one like a drowning man clinging to a piece of driftwood.
The strange thing, however, is that even before I started doing all the reviews the Fifth Element did this weird mental shift in my brain from horrible sci fi space opera to campy nostalgic hilarity. I don't think it was a sudden shift but rather a slow migration over time. All I know is the last two times I watched it I enjoyed the hell out of it.
It's a weird phenomenon and bears some examination. It's not really a shift in my liking of the actors. I was already a Bruce Willis fan from Die Hard nine years before and will always appreciate anyone as hot as Milla Jovovich, especially when she is wearing thermal wraps. It might be I have developed an appreciation for Luc Besson, although that is with a suspicious question mark as I have found he tends to either run hot or cold. For every Professional, Taken, and Transporter he has done he has also done a Colombiana, Crimson Rivers 2: Angels of the Apocalypse, or Lockout. His filmography reads like that of two different people: one a very talented and original filmmaker and another an insane hack with a penchant for screenplays that actually cause brain damage.
Actually, what I think is happening is that as Hollywood retreats further and further into the safe, reboot shelter like a turtle retreating into it's mediocre shell and continues to pump out the same garbage over and over again I am more and more appreciating innovative new ideas and stories. Film companies are terrified of anything that even resembles originality, and thus will only create films that they absolutely know they will make money one (and yet, ironically, still manage to fail with alarming regularity). You can't say the Fifth Element is derivative of any other movies (you can say it is derivative of about a half dozen sci fi books I have read, but let's not dig into it too deep) and in it's own way was was groundbreakingly original. Honestly, just the idea of humans interacting on an equal level with aliens is something that has resided in the Star Trek court for most of the sci fi film history. Aliens are supposed to be either all good or all bad, not really mercenaries or lounge singers trying to make a living.
I think I really also like the crossing of the dystopic/futuristic societies. That kind of thing always looks cool to me. Most future movies either paint a Star Trek-esque all positive life or a Terminator-esque post-apocalyptic hell. I don't think either of these really take human nature into account, which is to muddle through and kind of live in between the two extremes.
Anyway, Fifth Element is now one of my favorites and always worth watching. The funny thing is when I was flipping through the catalog for the company that prints these t-shirts I stopped cold when I spotted this gem. I said "You have Fifth Element t-shirts!!!" to which the sales rep said "Yeah. Not sure what that's even about. Do you think they will sell?" At that point I had to restrain myself from punching him in the face for being so stupid and almost poked a hole in the table with my pen writing the order.
September 4th, 2012
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