Luc Besson's sci-fi spectacular gets a 4K remaster and Dolby Atmos
Since its release in 1997, The Fifth Element has been a favourite amongst AV enthusiasts.Luc Besson's crazy sci-fi epic has graced countless AV demos. So much so that the film itself has simply become a series of set pieces such as Leeloo jumping off the ledge, Korban being chased through the skyscrapers of a future New York or the alien opera singer's performance aboard the space liner. Watching it again after all these years the strengths and weaknesses of The Fifth Element become very apparent. The film retains its sense of campy fun, whilst the design is certainly unique with it pop-culture sensibilities. The entire project is awash with Gallic flair, making it a strange mix of the familiar and the bizarre.Bruce Willis makes for a decent action lead, back in the day when he still gave a damn, whilst Milla Jovovich delivers a blistering performance in her first big role. Although Chris Tucker remains incredibly annoying, the rest of the eclectic cast are interesting with Gary Oldman hamming it up in great style. The effects are still quite impressive in some scenes, although in others they have dated quite badly. Where the film really falls down is in terms of the overtly silly story, which Besson apparently conceived whilst at school. It certainly feels like The Fifth Element was written by a juvenile and is ultimately its biggest failing.
Picture QualityThis Region A locked Blu-ray release of The Fifth Element is presented in 1080/24p using the AVC codec and the film's original 2.40:1 aspect ratio. The film was originally shot on Super35 back in 1997 and this new release is based on a 4K master from the original camera negative. Sony Pictures have presumably created this new 4K master for a future Ultra HD Blu-ray release but in the tradition of 'Superbit' DVDs and 'Mastered in 4K' Blu-rays, the studio wants to squeeze one last regular Blu-ray release out of the title. Not that the film really needed another release, it's been available at least three times on DVD and this is its third time on Blu-ray. In fact The Fifth Element ranks as one of the films with the most releases on the most formats, so it's surprising that it wasn't amongst Sony's first slate of Ultra HD Blu-ray titles.
The film has graced countless AV demos and with its new transfer will doubtless grace a few more.
Since it has been available so many times before, the question becomes do I need another copy of The Fifth Element. Well the picture quality on previous releases has been variable, perhaps not delivering quite the perfection that fans wanted from such an AV favourite. Well that's certainly not the case with this release and thanks to the new 4K master this is the best that the film has looked on Blu-ray. We had the previous Blu-ray available for a direct comparison and this new release reveals slightly more detail whilst also retaining a healthy layer of grain which is appropriate for a film shot of Super35. The primary colours pop, whilst the flesh tones appear natural and the black level and dynamic range are excellent. The transfer is clean and free of any digital artefacts or unwanted processing. There was a hint of black crush in a couple of scenes and the ageing effects are more obvious at times but, overall this is probably the best that the film will ever look on Blu-ray.
Sound QualityThe Fifth Element was originally released with a Dolby Digital and an SDDS soundtrack during its theatrical run back in 1997, so this new Region A locked Blu-ray release boasts an entirely new Dolby Atmos soundtrack. The new Atmos mix has obviously been created for a future Ultra HD Blu-ray release because, to Sony's credit, they appear to be offering native 4K and Dolby Atmos soundtracks whenever possible on their new UHD Blu-ray releases. We reviewed this latest release of The Fifth Element on Blu-ray using a full 7.2.4 Dolby Atmos configuration with overhead speakers.
The new Dolby Atmos soundtrack is as great as the eye-popping visuals.
The Fifth Element has always had a great soundtrack but this new Dolby Atmos mix takes the film to new heights, with a hugely enjoyable immersive experience. The sound designers have taken a well-conceived soundtrack and used the object-based nature of Dolby Atmos and the available overhead channels to create a mix that compliments the eye-popping visuals. The planet-hopping sci-fi action is wonderfully rendered in immersive audio with plenty of directional effects, flyovers, explosions and gunfire. The impressive score is carefully woven through the mix and the use of bass is well executed to give key scenes greater impact. The entire soundtrack retains plenty of clarity and detail, whilst dialogue is always clear even amongst all the space-age mayhem. This is a great example of how to remix an already excellent soundtrack into Dolby Atmos and this fact alone makes buying this re-issue worthwhile.
ExtrasAlthough The Fifth Element doesn't include any newly created extras for this latest Region A locked Blu-ray release, it does at least include all the extras from all the previous releases, albeit in standard definition:
The Visual Element (18:25)
The Visual Element Extras (06:13) - Pyramid Test, Cornelius’ Apartment Test, Corgi’s Office Test, Airport Tests, Fhloston Lobby Test, Fhloston Corridor Test and Fhloston Bedroom Test
The Star Element: Bruce Willis (04:18)
The Star Element: Milla Jovovich (12:47)
The Star Element: Milla Jovovich Extras (12:01) - Screen Test 1, Screen Test 2, Screen Test 3 and Screen Test 4
The Star Element: Chris Tucker (04:17)
The Alien Element: Mondoshawans (08:13)
The Alien Element: Monodshawans Extras (03:23) - Screen Test 1, Screen Test 2, Screen Test 3, Battle Outtake 1 and Battle Outtake 2
The Alien Element: Mangalores (09:47)
The Alien Element: Mangalores Extras (02:11) - Head Test and Battle Outtake
The Alien Element: Picasso (04:16)
The Alien Element: Strikers (03:04)
The Alien Element: Strikers Extras (01:32) - Striker Test 1, Striker Test 2, Striker Test 3 and Striker Test 4
The Fashion Element (07:46)
The Fashion Element Extras (05:16) - Korban Dallas Test, Leeloo Test 1, Leeloo Test 2 and Leeloo Test 3
The Diva (16:15)
The Digital Element (09:48)
Imagining 'The Fifth Element' (05:14)
The Elements of Style (05:13)
Blu-ray VerdictIt has been almost twenty years since Luc Besson's campy sci-fi epic arrived on our cinema screens and it has been a favourite with AV enthusiasts ever since. Watching The Fifth Element again now, the film's strengths and weaknesses are all the more apparent. It remains fun, with an eclectic cast and some very interesting sets and costumes. Some of the effects still hold up very well, whilst others have rather aged over the last two decades. However what really lets the film down is a silly screenplay that is more juvenile than original.
The new disc is demo-quality but you might want to wait for the inevitable UHD Blu-ray release.
Despite the fact that The Fifth Element has already been released multiple times on numerous formats, there are plenty of reasons to buy this new Blu-ray. Obviously you'll need to be able to play Region A discs but assuming you can, this new release has a fantastic, demo-worthy picture. The Dolby Atmos soundtrack is a great example of what can be done with an already very good audio mix, really adding the enjoyment of the film. The extras have all been released before but it's good to get them in one place and they cover the production in quite a bit of detail. The result is a great Blu-ray release and the only question is do you buy The Fifth Element again or wait for the inevitable Ultra HD Blu-ray release, which thankfully won't be regionally coded.
You can buy The Fifth Element on Blu-ray here
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