“Listen lady, I only speak two languages: English and bad English.”
— Korben Dallas, The Fifth Element
This year marks the 20th anniversary of The Fifth Element, a Luc Besson (Lucy, The Professional) directed sci-fi action-comedy, and while critical reception has never been entirely positive, one thing seems to be agreed upon: it’s an extremely memorable and unique piece of sci-fi cinema. For me, Besson’s 1997 release was one of those few I became obsessed with as a kid, the over-the-top characters, outfits, settings, and comic book feel all doing it for me.
The film follows Korben Dallas, played by Bruce Willis (doing his typical, new-world cowboy thing), who gets roped into saving the world. Milla Jovovich plays Leeloo, the film’s ass-kicking protagonist, imbuing her with enough heart to remain a referenced character 25 years later. Chris Tucker, having just started to become a household name, gives a bold performance as a larger-than-life radio talk show host, rocking leopard print onesies and a hairstyle that looks like the horn to a unicorn. Gary Oldman rocks a dense french name (Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg) and a thick southern accent as the film’s villain. The Fifth Element still film feels like a cartoon or comic book, never taking itself too seriously, embracing the odd and the unusual, and never apologizing for being a pretty bizarre bit of cinematic history. It’s a cult classic and will continue to find fans for years to come.
Here, composer Eric Serra (GoldenEye, Leon) blends together various music styles to create a unique, eclectic, and entertaining score. For a film that blends together various film genres (sci-fi, comedy, western), it fits quite aptly. You have moments blending orchestral arrangements with house music beats, you have tracks that work in industrial sounds with reggae/caribbean vibes, and there’s even a 15-minute operatic track that evolves into a techno dance jam for an amazing fight sequence. While it’s certainly ambitious, and good, listening to all these combinations can be quite jarring at times, especially outside the context of the film. For pure enjoyment, it can be a slight challenge, but if you’re a fan of the film — it should remain a joy.
I was shocked by how good this release sounded. White vinyl and mixed color vinyl are notorious for having more issues with surface noise, but this release sounds damn near perfect. There was only the smallest amount of pops and clicks, barely noticeable, even on a second play through.
Mondo selected artist Shan Jiang to create the artwork for this release. Sporting a beautiful cover design, it’s completed by a gatefold image that reflect various bits of imagery from the film. The front cover shows Leeloo in her memorable white and orange outfit, flying cars and skyscrapers above her. The inner gatefold features her looking out the window of an apartment building at the futuristic city below, while one of the film’s many aliens sits at a desk in the same room. When Luc Besson was first creating The Fifth Element, his vision was inspired by the now late french comic book artist Moebius, specifically of The Incal. Mobius was known for his crisp, precise, detailed line work, and his ability to create vast beautiful landscapes, locations that while looking futuristic, still felt ancient and warn. Besson would go on to actually hire Moebius to create storyboards for his film. Jiang beautifully incorporates some of Moebius’s style here with this release, as you can find a similar style of pen-work in the clouds on the front cover. Reviewed here is the regular edition release; this features two, 180-gram white with orange striped vinyl records, a reference to Leeloo’s bold, contrasting outfit. It’s a beautiful design that holds up to Mondo’s other releases.
You also get an OBI strip featuring a credit block for the release, and a nice little write-up on the front. The backside teases a future Magnolia release from Mondo. A Mondo sticker was included with the shipment.