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(Ultimate Edition)

THE FIFTH ELEMENT ($25) is one hell of a cool movie, a pure pulp science fiction action film that is brought off with a great deal of humor and a total sense of bravado. With a story that is not easily pigeonholed into any particular category writer/director Luc Besson took his inspiration for THE FIFTH ELEMENT from the comic book artwork of French artists Jean-Claude Mézières and Jean Giraud (AKA Moebius, who brought the world Heavy Metal magazine) to create a visually stunning take on the world of the future. Set several hundred years from now, the plot of THE FIFTH ELEMENT tells of an ancient evil that awakens every 5000 years, and the ultimate weapon created by aliens to combat the evil upon its return to Earth.

Bruce Willis stars in THE FIFTH ELEMENT as Major Korben Dallas, a retired military man now driving a cab in the futuristic megalopolis of New York City. When a beautiful, but completely unexpected fare literally drops out of the sky and into his cab, Korben Dallas finds himself with more than he bargained for, as he is recalled to active duty to help the lovely Leeloo (Milla Jovovich) fulfill her destiny and save the Earth from the oncoming evil. Of course, Korben Dallas quickly learns that saving the world is never a simple business, as he finds himself having to contend power mad industrialists, renegade priests, violent alien mercenaries and over the top radio personalities- all with their own agendas. The fine cast of THE FIFTH ELEMENT also features Gary Oldman, Ian Holm, Chris Tucker, Luke Perry, Brion James, Tom 'Tiny' Lister Jr., and John Neville.

Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment has made THE FIFTH ELEMENT available on DVD in a 2.35:1 widescreen presentation that has been enhanced for playback on 16:9 displays. This Ultimate Edition release of THE FIFTH ELEMENT is actually a Superbit release of the film along with a second disc of bonus materials. As expected, this Superbit presentation of THE FIFTH ELEMENT is outstanding on the video and audio fronts. The high bit rate provides the down converted high definition transfer every opportunity to shine. Image quality is truly excellent, with the picture appearing wonderfully crisp and fully detailed. Colors genuinely pop, with the fully saturated hues being rendered without noise of smearing. Black are pitch perfect, whites are clean and the contrast is silky smooth. Shadow detail is also excellent, and the picture produces a marvelous dimensional quality. The film elements used for the transfer display few blemishes and there is very little by way of a noticeable grain structure. The Superbit process keeps digital compression artifacts completely at bay.

For this Superbit release, THE FIFTH ELEMENT comes with 5.1 channel soundtracks in both the Dolby Digital and DTS varieties. Even it its first incarnation on DVD, THE FIFTH ELEMENT has been one of my favorite demonstration quality soundtracks. I’ve always considered this soundtrack to be rather amazing, with plenty of aggressively mixed sonic razzle-dazzle to befit this type of science fiction action movie. However it is the subtleties and shadings in the sound mix that make it a track to be reckoned with. Actually, my favorite sonic passage from the soundtrack is the sequence featuring the Diva’s rendition of the aria from Lucia di Lammermoor, which is inter-cut with Leeloo’s butt kicking brawl with a group of repugnant aliens that shows off the best of this soundtrack at both extremes.

As for the dialogue, it is crystal clear and fully intelligible, plus the bass it plenty deep and always ready to rumble. OK, the big question… the Superbit version certainly one-ups the original release of THE FIFTH ELEMENT by producing a stronger and even more engaging Dolby Digital track that is encoded at a higher bit rate. However, the real cherry on this sundae has to be the DTS track, which creates a more cohesive listening experience with more sonic warmth, than the standard bearer, even at the higher bit rate. Subtitles are provided on the DVD in English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Thai, Chinese, and Korean.

Breaking from the typical ultra sparse Superbit menus, a bit of full motion video and sound serve to enhance the DVD's interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to standard scene selection and set up features, as well as the supplemental materials, which have been spread across both discs of this set. Disc one features a trivia subtitle track containing factoids about the production. Moving on to disc two, one will find the remainder of the supplemental programming. Featuring over two hours of content, disc two has been broken down into the following sections: The Visual Element, The Digital Element, The Star Element, The Alien Element, The Fashion Element, The Diva & Poster Gallery.

The Visual Element includes various test of sets, plus an eighteen-minute featurette on the contributions of artists Jean-Claude Mézières and Jean Giraud. The Digital Element is a nine-minute program focusing the effects work of Digital Domain that brought the film’s futuristic world to life. The Star Element includes interviews with Bruce Willis, Milla Jovovich and Chris Tucker from the time of the film’s release, plus several Milla Jovovich screen tests. The Alien Element includes four featurettes and various test for the following aliens: Mohndosawahs, Mangalores, Picasso and Strikers. The Fashion Element includes a seven-minute featurette on the film’s costuming, as well as several wardrobe tests. The Diva is one of my favorite sections, as it features an interview with actress Maïwenn Le Besco, who portrayed on of the film most enigmatic characters, Diva Plavalaguna. Also featured in this section are makeup tests and the Diva’s complete performance of the aria in front of a green screen, which had been inter-cut with the fight sequence in the film. The Poster Gallery is exactly what you would expect. Bonus trailers for THE FORGOTTEN, LEON: THE PROFESSIONAL and MIRRORMASK close out disc two.

I love THE FIFTH ELEMENT; it is a really cool movie that I never tire of watching thanks to its clever mix sci-fi, action, humor and visual bravado. The Superbit presentation is truly excellent and the supplements make for a totally enjoyable package. If you are a fan of THE FIFTH ELEMENT, and don’t already own the previous Superbit edition, you will definitely want to add this disc to you collection. Even if you have the previous Superbit, the extra features are definitely worth checking out, and make it worth considering the upgrade. Either way, The Ultimate Edition of THE FIFTH ELEMENT is recommended.



The Fifth Element (Ultimate Edition) (1997)


DVD reviews are Copyright © 2005 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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