Cars of the film on display in Paris for the 20th anniversary
|The Fifth Element|
US theatrical release poster
|French||Le Cinquième Élément|
|Directed by||Luc Besson|
|Produced by||Patrice Ledoux|
|Story by||Luc Besson|
|Music by||Éric Serra|
|Edited by||Sylvie Landra|
|Distributed by||Gaumont Buena Vista International|
|Box office||$263.9 million|
The Fifth Element (French: Le Cinquième Élément) is a 1997 English-language French science fiction action film directed and co-written by Luc Besson. It stars Bruce Willis, Gary Oldman and Milla Jovovich. Primarily set in the 23rd century, the film's central plot involves the survival of planet Earth, which becomes the responsibility of Korben Dallas (Willis), a taxicab driver and former special forces major, after a young woman (Jovovich) falls into his cab. To accomplish this, Dallas joins forces with her to recover four mystical stones essential for the defence of Earth against the impending attack of a malevolent cosmic entity.
Besson started writing the story that became The Fifth Element when he was 16 years old; he was 38 when the film opened in cinemas. Besson wanted to shoot the film in France, but suitable facilities could not be found; filming took place instead in London and Mauritania. Comics artists Jean "Moebius" Giraud and Jean-Claude Mézières, whose books provided inspiration for parts of the film, were hired for production design. Costume design was by Jean-Paul Gaultier.
The Fifth Element received mainly positive reviews, although it tended to polarize critics. The film won in categories at the British Academy Film Awards, the César Awards, the Cannes Film Festival, and the Lumières Awards, but also received nominations at the Golden Raspberry and Stinkers Bad Movie Awards. The Fifith Element was a financial success, earning more than $263 million at the box office on a $90 million budget. At the time of its release it was the most expensive European film ever made, and remained the highest-grossing French film at the international box office until the release of The Intouchables in 2011.
In 1914, aliens known as Mondoshawans arrive at an ancient Egyptian temple to collect the only weapon capable of defeating a great evil that appears every 5,000 years. The weapon consists of four stones, containing the essences of the four classical elements, and a sarcophagus containing a Fifth Element in the form of a human, which combines the power of the other four into a divine light capable of defeating the evil. The Mondoshawans promise their human contact, a priest from a secret order, that they will come back with the weapon in time to stop the great evil when it returns.
In 2263,[b] the great evil appears in deep space in the form of a giant ball of black fire, and destroys an attacking Earth spaceship. The Mondoshawans' current contact on Earth, priest Vito Cornelius, informs the President of the Federated Territories about the history of the great evil and the weapon that can stop it. As the Mondoshawans return to Earth, they are ambushed by Mangalores, a race hired by the industrialist Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg, who has been directed by the great evil to acquire the element stones.
The Mondoshawans' spacecraft is destroyed, and the only "survivor" is a severed hand in a metal glove from the Fifth Element's sarcophagus that still contains some living cells. Human scientists take it to a New York City laboratory where they use it to reconstruct a powerful humanoid woman who takes the name Leeloo. Terrified of the unfamiliar surroundings, she breaks out of confinement and jumps off a high ledge, crashing into the flying taxicab of Korben Dallas, a former major in the special forces.
Dallas delivers Leeloo to Cornelius and his apprentice, David, and it is revealed that she is the Fifth Element. As Leeloo acclimates to Earth and prepares to seek out the element stones, Cornelius learns from her that the stones were not on the Mondoshawans' ship, but were entrusted to an alien opera singer, the diva Plavalaguna. Zorg kills many of the Mangalores for their failure to obtain the stones, but the survivors are determined to seize the artifacts in revenge. Learning from the Mondoshawans that the stones are in Plavalaguna's possession, General Munro, Dallas' former superior, recommissions Dallas and orders him to travel undercover to the planet Fhloston to meet Plavalaguna in a flying luxury hotel where she is performing a benefit concert; a radio contest awarding a Fhloston vacation, sponsored by flamboyant talk show host Ruby Rhod, is rigged to secure Dallas' passage. Dallas takes Leeloo with him after learning she and Cornelius are on the same mission he is. Meanwhile, Cornelius instructs David to prepare the temple designed to house the stones, then stows away on the spacecraft transporting Dallas, Leeloo, Rhod and his entourage to the cruise liner.
Plavalaguna is killed when the Mangalores attack the hotel during her concert, but Dallas succeeds in retrieving the stones from the dying diva. During his struggle with the Mangalores, he kills their leader, rendering the remaining Mangalores unwilling to continue fighting. Meanwhile, Zorg arrives, shooting and seriously wounding Leeloo before taking a carrying case that he presumes contains the stones back to his spacecraft. He leaves behind a time bomb that forces the hotel's occupants to evacuate. Discovering the case to be empty, Zorg returns to the hotel and deactivates his bomb, but a dying Mangalore sets off his own device, destroying the hotel and killing Zorg. Dallas, Cornelius, Leeloo and Rhod escape with the stones aboard Zorg's spacecraft.
As the great evil approaches Earth, the four join up with David at the temple. They arrange the stones and activate them with their corresponding elements, but having witnessed and studied so much violence, Leeloo has become disenchanted with humanity and refuses to cooperate. Dallas declares his love for Leeloo and kisses her. In response, Leeloo combines the power of the stones and releases the divine light onto the great evil, destroying its power and stopping it. She and Dallas are hailed as heroes and, as dignitaries wait to greet them, the two embrace passionately in a recovery chamber.
In an interview Besson stated The Fifth Element was not a "big theme movie", although the film's theme was an important one. He wanted viewers to reach the point where Leeloo states "What's the use of saving life when you see what you do with it?", and agree with her. Jay P. Telotte, writing in the book Science Fiction Film, credited the film with exploring the theme of political corruption.
An article by Brian Ott and Eric Aoki in the feminist journal Women's Studies in Communication considered gender to be one of the film's main themes. The authors accused the film of erasing women from the introductory scenes, noting that Leeloo's reconstruction marked only the second appearance of a female in the film's first 20 minutes; the other is an androgynous, mostly speechless presidential aide. When females appear in the film, they do so as passive objects, such as the sexualised flight and McDonald's attendants; or stripped of their femininity, such as the "butch" Major Iceborg. Stefan Brandt, in the book Subverting Masculinity, also said that the film "echoes stereotypical beliefs about gender" of all females in the film, including Leeloo, who he thought only left her passive role in the film during her fight with the Mangalores. With the exception of Tiny Lister's portrayal of the President, all males in the film were considered to be as unmanly as possible in various ways, such as Ruby Rhod's effeminacy, Vito Cornelius's clumsy form of speech, and General Munro's stupidity; their purpose was to make Korben's masculinity appear "god-like" by comparison.
In the book The Films of Luc Besson, Susan Hayward considered The Fifth Element to be a classic story of a man "making his break from the tribe, proving his manhood, over-throwing the malevolent forces and killing the chief, finally to reap the rewards of security and marriage". Korben's journey, however, is under threat not only from the Mangalores and Zorg, but also from Leeloo, who relents and helps him only at the last minute, accepting his declaration of love. The love story within The Fifth Element was considered to be one of the main narratives in the film, and it faces the same deadline as the main storyline. Hayward also considered the issue of environmental damage, in so far as waste and pollution are visible throughout the film. Whereas science fiction films often show a world wherein some new technology or threat either surpasses or fails humanity, The Films of Luc Besson included The Fifth Element amongst the minority of science fiction films that "hold up a mirror" and show humankind as responsible. The film was said to be skeptical of capitalist consumerism, in so far as the gadgets in Zorg's office make an unhealthy obsession of his lust for technology. The tension between technology and man is treated as a problem requiring a final resolution.
As a teenager, Besson envisioned the world of The Fifth Element in an attempt to alleviate boredom. He began writing the script when he was 16, though it was not released in cinemas until he was 38. The original storyline was set in the year 2300, and was about a "nobody" named Zaltman Bleros (later renamed Korben Dallas) who wins a trip to the Club Med resort on the planet Fhloston Paradise. There he meets Leeloo, a "sand-girl" who has the "beauty of youth" despite being over 2,000 years old. Besson continued to work on the storyline for years; by the time his documentary film Atlantis was released in 1991 he had a 400-page script. Nicolas Seydoux and Patrice Ledoux from Gaumont were the first people to take on the project. In November 1991, while looking for actors for the film, Besson met French comics creators Jean Giraud and Jean-Claude Mézières and recruited them for the film's production design. Giraud and Mézières's comics were a major source of inspiration for Besson's futuristic New York City. Mézières wrote the book The Circles of Power, which contains a character named S'Traks, who drives a flying taxicab through the congested air traffic of the vast metropolis on the planet Rubanis. Mézières showed images of the flying taxi to Besson, who was inspired to change the background of Korben Dallas from a worker in a rocket-ship factory to that of a taxi driver who flies his cab around a Rubanis-inspired futuristic New York City. Five other artists were hired for the project, and Jean-Paul Gaultier was hired to design the costumes. The team spent a year creating over 8,000 drawings, during which time Besson approached both Bruce Willis and Mel Gibson for the lead role. Willis expressed interest, though he was reluctant to take on the role as the film was considered risky after his previous two films, Hudson Hawk and Billy Bathgate, had been received poorly; Gibson eventually turned down the role. While the team impressed film companies with their designs, they struggled to find one willing to take on the budget of almost $100 million. In December 1992 production stopped without any prior warning, and the team disbanded.
Besson went on to direct the commercially successful film Léon: The Professional, which was released in September 1994. While shooting and releasing Leon, he continued to work on the script for The Fifth Element, shortening it and reducing the film's budget to $90 million before attempting to find a studio willing to produce it. Columbia Pictures, who had a partnership in Leon, agreed to finance the film. By this time Besson had decided to go with a lesser-known lead actor in order to save on production costs. Besson was in Barry Josephson's office when Willis called regarding a different film. Besson asked to speak to Willis "just to say hello", and told him that The Fifth Element was finally going ahead, explaining the decision to go with a less-expensive actor. After a short silence, Willis stated "If I like the film, we can always come to an arrangement"; he agreed to take on the role after reading the script. Production commenced in early August 1995. Besson traveled to various places for casting, including Paris, London and Rome. He hired Gary Oldman (who had starred in Léon) for the role of Zorg, describing Oldman as "one of the top five actors in the world." For the character Leeloo, Besson chose Milla Jovovich from the 200 to 300 applicants he met in person. The "Divine Language" spoken by Leeloo is a fictional language with only 400 words, invented by Besson. Jovovich and Besson held conversations and wrote letters to each other in the language as practice. Besson was married to Maïwenn Le Besco, who played the role of Diva Plavalaguna, when filming commenced; however, he left her for Jovovich during filming. Jovovich and Besson later married, but divorced in 1999.
Wishing to shoot the film in France, Besson could not find suitable facilities and "with a heavy heart" filmed in London. It was primarily filmed at Pinewood Studios on seven soundstages including the 007 Stage. Construction of sets began in October 1995. The opera scene was filmed at the Royal Opera House. Scenes depicted as being in Egypt were filmed in Mauritania; the first shoot, a background shot of the desert, occurred there on 5 January 1996. Filming with actors began in late January, and was completed 21 weeks later. Willis finished filming on 16 May, while Oldman only commenced filming the following week; the protagonist (Korben) and antagonist (Zorg) never actually share any screen time. Despite being filmed in London, The Fifth Element was a French production, and went on to become the costliest European film ever made at the time. The buildings in New York were derived from both metabolist-inspired masses of modular apartments from the 1960s, and the futuristic designs of architect Antonio Sant'Elia in the 1910s. Besson demanded that most of the action shots take place in broad daylight, as he was reportedly tired of the dark spaceship corridors and dimly lit planets common in science fiction films, and wanted a brighter "cheerfully crazy" look as opposed to a gloomy realistic one. Gaultier designed every one of the 900 costumes worn by extras in the Fhloston Paradise scenes, and checked each costume every morning. His designs, described as "intellectually transgressive", were said to challenge sexuality and gender norms. A single jacket he designed for the film cost $5,000.
The original name of the character Ruby Rhod was Loc Rhod. The name appears in both the original script and in the novelisation of the film. Speculation has been raised that the name change was a play on information in the periodic table. Rubidium is the first of the period 5 elements, and exactly halfway along that row is the element rhodium. Taking the first half of each element yields "Rubi Rhod". Others have speculated his name is a play on his gender bending personality; having a feminine first name and phallic surname.
Three different teams handled the three different types of special effects used in the film. Nick Allder was placed in charge of mechanical and pyrotechnical effects, Nick Dudman was placed in charge of 'creature' effects and Mark Stetson headed the visual effects team. Visual effects company Digital Domain was hired, and Karen Goulekas was given the role of digital effects supervisor. Alias, Autodesk Softimage, Arete, Side Effect's Prisms, RenderMan, as well as in-house software, were used by Digital Domain to create effects. Some individual shots used a combination of live action, scale models, computer-generated imagery and particle systems. The lanes of traffic in the scenes in New York City were created with particle systems:
We had maybe 80 cityscape shots with CG cars hurtling around, and you couldn't animate them all by hand because there were just too many of them in each scene ... When the cars turned a corner, the velocity changes were automatic, so the animator didn't have to worry about that. They just planned the moves in a very blocky way, and the mathematics smoothed out the rest.
Amongst the scale models used for filming were the buildings seen in New York City. Dozens of apartment blocks and 25 skyscrapers, some 20 feet (6.1 m) high, were constructed in 1/24 scale. It took a team of 80 workers five months to build all the models. The windows of the buildings were cited by the team as one of the most time-consuming tasks, along with details behind the windows, such as furniture, blinds, lightboxes and tiny pieces of flat artwork. Virtual sets built within digital environments were created to enhance the use of miniatures. Motion control cameras moved throughout the scale sets, and the data they collected was exported to track and generate the CG animation and particle systems. Other techniques used included digital matte paintings for backgrounds and the NURBS mathematical model for certain animations, including the sequence in which Leeloo's body is reconstructed.
Cars of the film on display in Paris for the 20th anniversary
The Fifth Element is one of Besson's films which have been described as "intrinsically musical"; some kind of music is playing during about 90 percent of the film. The score was composed by Éric Serra. He relies heavily on the use of orchestral textures, such as the oboe and strings heard as the surgeons prepare to regenerate Leeloo, and the pizzicato as she is reconstructed. Serra also used many exotic influences, such as the Stalinist fanfare heard before the spaceport sequence, the reggae piece played in preparation for the flight, and the hula music that greets the passengers as they arrive in Fhloston. More conventional scoring techniques are present in the leitmotif that first appears when professor Pacoli mentions the fifth element, the militaristic snares as the warship prepares to attack the dark planet, and the Mahlerian funereal piece heard when Leeloo learns about war. The music used for the taxicab chase scene, titled "Alech Taadi" by Algerian performer Khaled, is excluded from the film soundtrack, but is available on Khaled's album N'ssi N'ssi.
The Diva Dance opera performance used music from Gaetano Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor: "Il dolce suono", the mad scene of Act III, Scene 2. It is one of the few pieces of music in the film that is diegetic. It was sung by Albanian soprano Inva Mula, while the role of Plavalaguna was played by French actress Maïwenn Le Besco. Part One (titled "Lucia di Lammermoor") and Part Two (titled "The Diva Dance") of this piece are included as separate tracks on The Fifth Element soundtrack, but are sequenced to create the effect of the entire performance seen in the film. The end of Part One blends into the beginning of Part Two, creating a smooth transition between the two tracks.
Released as an album under Virgin Records, the soundtrack peaked at No. 99 on the Billboard 200. More than 200,000 copies of the lengthy soundtrack were sold in France alone. Rodney Batdorf of AllMusic gave the album three out of five stars, stating it was "diverse and accomplished, and it is just as effective outside of the film as it is within it." A review from Filmtracks.com also awarded the album three out of five stars.
The film premiered on 7 May 1997 at the 1997 Cannes Film Festival, where it was selected as the opening film. Gaumont built an area for the screening that was over 100,000 square feet (9,300 m2). Guests were given a "Fifth Element" Swatch, which was used as their ticket for entry. The event included a futuristic ballet, a fashion show by Jean-Paul Gaultier, and fireworks. Gaumont spent between US $1 million and $3 million on the event, a record at the time.
The film debuted at number 1 in the US, earning $17 million on its opening weekend. It went on to become a box-office success, grossing over $263 million, almost three times its budget of $90 million. Seventy-six percent of the receipts for The Fifth Element were from markets outside the United States, and it was the ninth-highest-grossing film of the year worldwide. It was the most successful film at the box office in France in 1997, with more than 7.69 million seeing the film. In Germany the film was awarded the Goldene Leinwand, a sales certification award for selling more than three million tickets at the box office. The Fifth Element went on to become the highest grossing French film at the foreign box-office, a record it held for 16 years until the release of The Intouchables in 2011.
The Fifth Element polarised critics on release. Kevin Thomas of the Los Angeles Times described the film as an "elaborate, even campy sci-fi extravaganza, which is nearly as hard to follow as last year's Mission: Impossible." He concluded that The Fifth Element was "a lot warmer, more fun and boasts some of the most sophisticated, witty production and costume design you could ever hope to see." On film review show At the Movies, both Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel gave the film a "thumbs up"; in his own review for the Chicago Sun-Times, Ebert gave the film 3 stars out of 4, calling it "One of the great goofy movies", and concluding, "I would not have missed seeing this film, and I recommend it for its richness of imagery. But at 127 minutes, which seems a reasonable length, it plays long."
The film was, however, subject to a number of harsh reviews that expressed disapproval of its overblown style. Todd McCarthy of Variety wrote, "A largely misfired European attempt to make an American-style sci-fi spectacular, The Fifth Element consists of a hodgepodge of elements that don't comfortably coalesce." David Edelstein of Slate was even more critical, saying, "It may or may not be the worst movie ever made, but it is one of the most unhinged."
Chris Tucker's performance as Ruby Rhod also polarised critics. He was praised in the Los Angeles Times and in Time; the latter called him "the summer's most outrageous special effect." Josh Winning of Total Film, however, singled out Tucker's performance as the low point of the film, ranking it as No. 20 on his 2011 list, "50 Performances That Ruined Movies".
The Fifth Element holds a 71% approval rating at Rotten Tomatoes, based on 65 reviews, with an average score of 6.37/10. The site's consensus reads: "Visually inventive and gleefully over the top, Luc Besson's The Fifth Element is a fantastic piece of pop sci-fi that never takes itself too seriously." It has a weighted score of 52/100 at Metacritic, based on 22 professional reviews, indicating "mixed or average" reviews. Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B" on an A+ to F scale.
The film has been described by CBS News, Rotten Tomatoes, and ComingSoon.com as a science fiction cult classic. However film critic Mark Kermode reported that The Fifth Element was one of the most divisive films among his readers, regarded as both the best and the worst summer blockbuster of all time. Kermode recalled his own experience: "I remember very clearly being in Cannes when [The] Fifth Element was first played, and it really divided the audience." Stephen Cass of Discover ranked the film the third-best science fiction film on subscription service Hulu, writing, "People seem to either like or loathe The Fifth Element ... Lavish visuals and entertaining performances from Bruce Willis, Milla Jovovich, and Gary Oldman make this movie worth watching." In some circles the film has gained a "so-bad-it's-good" status; Meredith Woerner of io9 listed The Fifth Element as one of "The 20 Best Worst Science Fiction Movies of All Time". In 2007 the Visual Effects Society placed The Fifth Element at No. 50, tied with Darby O'Gill and the Little People, on their list of the 50 most influential visual effects films of all time. In 2014, Time Out listed the film at No. 42 on their "100 best sci-fi movies" list.
Willis spoke favourably of the film in a 1999 interview, concluding "it was a real fun movie to make." Tucker and Jovovich also spoke favourably of both their experiences making the film and working with Besson in interviews on the Ultimate Edition DVD; Jovovich described Besson as "the first really amazing director I had worked with". Asked in a 2014 interview if he liked the film, Gary Oldman stated, "Oh no. I can't bear it." He had explained in 2011: "It was me singing for my supper because Luc had come in and partly financed [my film] Nil by Mouth."
Alejandro Jodorowsky and Jean Giraud sued Besson after the film was released, claiming The Fifth Element had plagiarised their comic The Incal. Giraud sued for 13.1 million euros for unfair competition, 9 million euros in damages and interest and two to five percent of the net operating revenues of the film. Jodorowsky sued for 700,000 euros. The case was dismissed in 2004 on the grounds that only "tiny fragments" of the comic had been used and also because Giraud had been hired by Besson to work on the film before the allegations were made.
A novel adaptation of The Fifth Element, written by Terry Bisson, was published by HarperPrism in 1997. There were rumors after the film's release that it would be followed by a sequel, tentatively titled Mr. Shadow. In 2011, Besson stated that a sequel was never planned, and that he has no desire to make one.
A video game adaptation of The Fifth Element was created by Activision for the PlayStation game console and PC in 1998. The PlayStation version was generally met with negative reviews, though the PC version was better received. Lauren Fielder from GameSpot called the PlayStation version "quite possibly the worst game I've ever played." Doug Perry from IGN commented: "Take Tomb Raider, add in Leeloo Multipass and boring puzzles, and you've got Fifth Element." A racing game based on the film, New York Race, was released in 2001. Eurogamer gave the game 6 out of 10, concluding: "New York Race is a fun little arcade racer which oozes style, but it's something you'll grow tired of extremely quickly and as such remains fun only in short bursts."
The Fifth Element was nominated for Best Sound Editing at the 70th Academy Awards, and for Best Sound Editing at the 1998 Golden Reel Awards, but lost to Titanic in both cases. It won the BAFTA Award for Best Special Visual Effects, and the Lumières Award for Best Director. It was nominated for seven César awards, winning three: Best Director, Best Cinematography and Best Production Design. It was nominated for Film of the Year at the 1997 European Film Awards, as well as the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, and the Satellite Award for Best Visual Effects. Thierry Arbogast was awarded the Technical Grand Prize at the 1997 Cannes Film Festival for his work on both The Fifth Element and She's So Lovely. The film received four Saturn Award nominations: Best Science Fiction Film, Best Costume, Best Special Effects, and Best Supporting Actress for Milla Jovovich. Jovovich's fight against the Mangalores was nominated for the MTV Movie Award for Best Fight, and the actress was also nominated for Best Actress – Newcomer at the Blockbuster Entertainment Awards.
Conversely, Jovovich received a Golden Raspberry nomination for Worst Supporting Actress, and Chris Tucker was nominated for Worst New Star for his performances in both The Fifth Element and Money Talks. The film also received four nominations at the 1997 Stinkers Bad Movie Awards: Worst Picture, Worst Director, Worst Supporting Actor for Tucker and Worst Supporting Actress for Jovovich.
|1998||Academy Awards||Best Sound Editing||Mark Mangini||Nominated|
|1998||Blockbuster Entertainment Awards||Best Actress – Newcomer||Milla Jovovich||Nominated|
|1997||British Academy of Film and Television Arts||Best Special Visual Effects||Mark Mangini||Won|
|1997||Cannes Film Festival||Technical Grand Prize||Thierry Arbogast||Won|
|1998||César Award||Best Cinematography||Thierry Arbogast||Won|
|Best Director||Luc Besson||Won|
|Best Production Design||Dan Weil||Won|
|Best Costume Design||Jean-Paul Gaultier||Nominated|
|Best Editing||Sylvie Landra||Nominated|
|Best Film||Luc Besson||Nominated|
|Best Music Written for a Film||Éric Serra||Nominated|
|Best Sound||Daniel Brisseau||Nominated|
|1997||European Film Awards||Film of the Year||Patrice Ledoux||Nominated|
|1998||Golden Raspberry Awards||Worst Supporting Actress||Milla Jovovich||Nominated|
|Worst New Star||Chris Tucker||Nominated|
|1998||Golden Reel Awards||Best Sound Editing||Mark Mangini||Nominated|
|1998||Hugo Awards||Best Dramatic Presentation||The Fifth Element||Nominated|
|1997||Lumières Award||Best Director||Luc Besson||Won|
|1998||MTV Movie Awards||Best Fight||Milla Jovovich vs. Aliens||Nominated|
|1998||Satellite Award||Best Visual Effects||Mark Stetson||Nominated|
|1998||Saturn Award||Best Science Fiction Film||The Fifth Element||Nominated|
|Best Costumes||Jean-Paul Gaultier||Nominated|
|Best Special Effects||Special effects team||Nominated|
|Best Supporting Actress||Milla Jovovich||Nominated|
|1997||Stinkers Bad Movie Awards||Worst Picture||The Fifth Element||Nominated|
|Worst Director||Luc Besson||Nominated|
|Worst Supporting Actor||Chris Tucker||Nominated|
|Worst Supporting Actress||Milla Jovovich||Nominated|
The original home video release of The Fifth Element took place in North America on 10 December 1997, on VHS, LaserDisc, and DVD. The original DVD presented the film in its original 2.39:1 anamorphic widescreen format though carried no special features. The film was released in Sony's Superbit format in October 2001. In his review, Conrad Jeremy from IGN gave the picture quality of the original DVD release 9 out of 10, though awarded the Superbit version a perfect score for picture quality. Overall the Superbit version was given 8 out of 10; the final score was brought down by the version's complete lack of special features.
An "Ultimate Edition" set of two DVDs was released on 11 January 2005. The only difference between the Superbit version and the Ultimate Edition disc one is the addition of a "fact track", which when turned on displays trivia about the film, cast and crew as the film plays. The second disc provides various special features, focusing on visual production, special effects, fashion in the film, featurettes and interviews with Willis, Jovovich, and Tucker, as well as featurettes on the four different alien races in the film and Diva Plavalaguna. Ian Jane of DVD Talk praised the Ultimate Edition for its special features.
The first Blu-ray release of the film on 20 June 2006 was criticised as having poor picture quality by Blu-ray standards, and for its lack of special features. In what has been called "an extremely rare move" Sony responded to complaints by making a remastered Blu-ray version available, released on 17 July 2007, and also offered a replacement exchange program for customers unhappy with the original Blu-ray release. Ben Williams from Blu-ray.com stated the remastered version "absolutely" made up for the substandard initial release and praised its high video and audio quality; however, he criticised the continued lack of special features.
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