PictureFor a number of years The Fifth Element has been admired, in its Superbit guise, for housing a classy image. But as with most Superbits, the added DTS soundtrack and improved image quality has meant that a single disc release would most likely be missing any extras - no audio commentary, no documentaries... nothing by way of supplemental features. But a number of DeLuxe Superbits have been released - The Patriot and Hollow Man to name but two. And now it's time for The Fifth Element to receive similar treatment, but with the DeLuxe moniker dropped in favour of the more impressive sounding - Ultimate Edition. But be honest now; would some two hours of extras added to a rehash of the same old movie be enough to part you from your hard earned? Nope, nor me! However, this DeLuxe to Ultimate change is more than just a name swap. You see here we have a new, super duper, Remastered in High Definition logo... but the cynic in me is always wary of such things, so with baited breath I placed the new offering into my DVD player, and hoped almost beyond hope that this wasn't just another marketing ploy to part us from our DVD money budgets.
I quickly put away my cynic's spectacles - this new Ultimate release shows an impressively detailed image... improving on the previous Superbit incarnation. Interestingly, the small amounts of print damage that are apparent make comparisons between the two releases relatively easy, with this new release showing the nicks and scratches more clearly than ever before! Skin pores and beard follicles are easily made out and the almost 3-D looking quality combined with the fantastic imagery, Luc Besson's artistic flair and the rich, deep colours make for a truly vibrant image. A small amount of edge enhancement along with the aforementioned minor print damage means that The Fifth Element: Ultimate Edition just misses out on reference quality. I wonder, will all Superbits get the Ultimate Superbit treatment?
SoundAs with its picture, The Fifth Element is renowned for its audio quality. However, a careful comparison between the two Superbit releases showed that the two discs share the same audio mix, and as before it's the DTS track that nudges it as far as overall dynamics are concerned. As early as 04mins. 36secs. into the movie, as the archaeologist says, “... water, fire, earth, air; around a fifth one - a fifth element.” - a subtle, yet noticeable difference between the two formats is discernable. The Dolby track is louder and has been subjected to 4% Dialnorm, but the DTS offering has more “substance” to it - the word “... element” echoes a tad more around the interior of the Pyramid. Again, at 06mins. 22secs., immediately after the priest utters the words “They're here”, we're treated to a short burst of subwoofer rumble as the alien ship lands, and it is in DTS mode that my giant beanbag felt the onslaught of deep, powerful tones, which seemed a little lacking in the Dolby track. And again at the very beginning of chapter four, as the “evil planet” is fired upon - flicking between the two formats showed the Dolby offering to be almost withdrawn in comparison to the bone shaking effect of its DTS counterpart. So it continues throughout the movie, and whilst the Dolby track is certainly no slouch I would choose the DTS option every time for demo purposes.
ExtrasThe only extra on disc one is the Fact Track feature, which displays interesting facts about the movie in real time as you watch the film. It also deactivates all subtitles.
Supplemental features on disc two are a strange hotchpotch of documentaries, outtakes and interviews. Most interesting to me were the interviews with ex-Mrs. Besson, Mila Jovovich and ex-fiancee to Luc Besson, Diva Plavalaguna (Maïwenn Le Besco).
The numerous Ms. Jovovich silent screen tests all seem a little samey, and the interviews with Bruce Willis and Chris Tucker both come across as a little strained and unflowing. Luc Besson is prominent by his absence, and I would very much like to hear a Besson/Willis/Jovovich audio commentary - but I guess I have about as much chance of that as seeing Ms. Jovovich becoming President of the United States.
All in all, these extras leave a little to be desired, especially given the film's status. Disappointing.
VerdictAnybody interested in image and sound quality will surely want The Fifth Element: Ultimate Edition in their collection. I know I do.
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