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The Fifth Element(1997)
Set in the 23rd century, New York cab driver Korben Dallas didn't mean to be a hero, but he just picked up the kind of fare that only comes along every five thousand years: A perfect beauty, a perfect being, a perfect weapon. Now, together, they must save the world.
For more about The Fifth Element and the The Fifth Element Blu-ray release, see the The Fifth Element Blu-ray Review published by Ben Williams on August 5, 2007 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Starring: Bruce Willis, Milla Jovovich, Ian Holm, Gary Oldman, Chris Tucker, Luke Perry
Director: Luc Besson
» See full cast & crew
The Fifth Element Blu-ray Review
Sony makes good on an early Blu-ray misstep.
Reviewed by Ben Williams, August 5, 2007
Let's set the way-back machine to roughly one year ago, shall we? The fledgling Blu-ray format was enduring a very rocky start; the first Blu-ray player to hit the market was rife with problems and the initial batch of Blu-ray software was less than impressive. One title in particular was the target of the majority of the vitriolic disgust aimed at these lackluster releases: The Fifth Element. This flawed Blu-ray release was wrought with problems that ranged from poor source material, to numerous compression and encoding issues. Here we are a year later, and Sony has corrected these mistakes and re-released the title with a new whiz-bang transfer while offering a free upgrade program for all owners of the previous problematic version. Is this updated release a big enough improvement to erase the bad taste left by the first release?
In a word, absolutely.
For those of you not familiar with the film itself, The Fifth Element is a bizarre, singular science fiction film that was the life-long pet project of filmmaker Luc Bessson. Besson's hero is Korben Dallas (Bruce Willis), a former soldier who is reluctantly recruited into a half-baked attempt at protecting the Earth from an alien attack while kicking ass and taking names along the way. On the edge of our solar system, a mysterious entity has joined forces with the evil Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg (Gary Oldman), a corrupt industrialist who sounds eerily like Ross Perot, in a plot to destroy the planet. Only the mysterious Fifth Element can save the Earth from impending doom. Dallas will have to team up with an eccentric cast of characters including Leeloo (Milla Jovovich), a nonsense-talking runaway with a secretive past, and Ruby Rhod (Chris Tucker), an effeminate, hyperactive, intergalactic talk-show host who never shuts up.
The Fifth Element is seriously strange, but it is also an extremely enjoyable science fiction flick. Chris Tucker's Ruby Rhod, either the funniest sidekick in science fiction history or the most annoying, prances around shrieking like a stuck pig for the majority of the film. He dresses like a figure skater, has hair shaped like a tube sticking out of his forehead and wears more Lipstick than J.Lo; thus ensuring that he remains one of the more normal characters in the film. Don't get me started on the strange collection of oddities present in the film's stunning opera house scene that takes place on an intergalactic cruise ship. This was also Milla Jovovich's breakout role; she proves to be a capable and inventive actress. It's a shame that she hasn't built on her fantastic performance in The Fifth Element and parlayed that into roles that have played to her considerable talents, rather than being content with roles in video game adaptations. Oh well, at the very least, The Fifth Element stands as a remarkable achievement in imaginative filmmaking; unafraid of simply being blissfully fun.
The Fifth Element Blu-ray, Video Quality
The big question regarding this newly remastered release of The Fifth Elementremains: is the picture quality an improvement over the previous, substandard release? Indeed it is; every problem present in the previous release has been corrected; the disc delivers a pristine image that pops off of the screen with amazing depth and stunning imagery. From start to finish, video quality remains consistent while featuring rock-solid black levels, outstanding fine detail and color fidelity that is lush and warm while still highlighting the film's unique visual style. Grain inherent in the theatrical presentation has been expertly reproduced, giving the movie a truly film-like image. From the opening scenes within an Egyptian tomb to the space battles and urban cityscapes, this transfer's meticulous attention to detail renders every scene flawlessly.
In The Fifth Element's opening scenes, scores of hieroglyphics are depicted in great detail on the walls of an ancient temple; fine edges in the engravings are clearly defined, without relying on artificial edge enhancement. The early space scenes also offer a glimpse into the improvements found throughout this disc; black levels are noticeably deeper and never wander into the blue-gray levels of the previous version. While this new transfer uses the AVC compression codec over the Mpeg-2 compression of its predecessor, the quality of the master is what has brought the greatest improvement to this release. All studios currently producing high definition material should look to this latest release of The Fifth Element as the primary example of the importance of mastering to Blu-ray from a pristine source. The Fifth Element is finally the demo disc that videophiles have been waiting for.
The Fifth Element Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The audio side of The Fifth Element has also undergone a number of slight changes with this release. In addition to the stellar PCM track contained on the previous version, listeners have been given the option of utilizing a new Dolby TrueHD soundtrack. Both tracks are presented in 5.1 and feature 16-bit encodes. In theory, these tracks should sound the same, but the reality of the situation is somewhat different. For whatever reason, I found the PCM track to be much more robust and natural. There is a slight variance in volume between the two tracks, with the TrueHD track being slightly softer. Once volume corrections have been made, the PCM track was still superior in many ways to Dolby's new audio format. In addition to the aforementioned richness and intensity of the PCM track, I also found dialog to be a bit more crisp and the entire soundstage more enveloping with PCM. I have no idea why this might be the case, and it remains to be seen on future releases whether this disparity shows up again.
In the case of The Fifth Element, I maintain that sticking with PCM will render the best audio results. It should also be noted that Dolby's notorious Dialog Normalization is not active on Sony Blu-ray releases, so this would not account for the slight differences in the two soundtracks. Both tracks do provide amazing low frequency effects and a visceral improvement over standard Dolby Digital. The Fifth Element comes highly recommended.
The Fifth Element Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Apparently, the folks at Sony decided to max out the video and audio on this re-release of The Fifth Element. What that leaves us with for supplements is a very basic subtitle-based trivia track. While this track can be enjoyed without taking too much away from the video presentation, I found it to be pretty pointless. I certainly have no problem with skipping all extras in favor of the best audio and video possible, but surely there had to be room on the disc to include something other than this run-of-the-mill trivia track.
The Fifth Element Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
The Fifth Element has long been a disappointment for Blu-ray supporters. What should have been a showcase title for the format had somehow found its way to the format with a second rate transfer. Fortunately, this has now been remedied and The Fifth Element can safely take its place amongst the best titles available on the Blu-ray format. The new video re-master is nothing short of exceptional as all the wrongs of the previous version have been righted. On the audio side, we are again treated to the wonders of uncompressed PCM sound. Dolby's's current experiment with TrueHD hasn't quite matched the power and grace of PCM, but it will be interesting to see how this might change in the future. All in all, this newly remastered version of The Fifth Element is a must own!
The Fifth Element: Other Editions
Blu-ray bundles with The Fifth Element (2 bundles)
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The Fifth Element Blu-ray, News and Updates
• The Fifth Element Exchange Program - June 14, 2007
When Blu-ray first launched, there were great expectations for the titles released. That was especially true for 'The Fifth Element', which had been a home theater enthusiast favorite on DVD. Unfortunately, the results were less than stellar, but Sony is ...
• The Fifth Element Remastered for July 17th - May 15, 2007
What was to be a huge kick-start for the Blu-ray format when it was launched last year unfortunately never materialized in whole. 'The Fifth Element' is often described as demo material for A/V enthusiasts who like to showcase its unique visual style and ...
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