Fifth Element, The (Blu-ray) (1997)

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Science Fiction Menu Animation & Audio
On-Screen Information Track-Trivia
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1997
Running Time 125:54
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Luc Besson
Studio
Distributor

Sony Pictures Home Entertain
Starring Bruce Willis
Gary Oldman
Ian Holm
Milla Jovovich
Chris Tucker
Luke Perry
Brion James
Tommy 'Tiny' Lister
Lee Evans
Charlie Creed-Miles
Tricky
John Neville
John Bluthal
Case Amaray Variant
RPI ? Music Eric Serra


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1
English Linear PCM 48/24 5.1
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking Yes, to quit is my goal.
Annoying Product Placement Yes, fast food, soft drinks.
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Every five thousand years, an evil entity of a planetary scale tears through space to terrorize Earth. A race of highly advanced, mechanized aliens, the Mondoshawans, have been assisting Earthlings each time evil approaches, via a weapon hidden in the ancient Egyptian Pyramids. When World War II nears, the Mondoshawans pop by Earth and confiscate the weapon, promising to return to help us when the evil approaches again.

    Cut to several hundred years in the future, and Earth's outer-space defence forces are encountering a huge, black, impenetrable entity, believed by priest Cornelius (Ian Holm) to be 'the evil' returning for another round. Earth's military is crushed by the entity, as it starts hurtling towards our planet.

    Who can save us? Bruce Willis, of course! Corban Dallas (Bruce Willis) is a New York cab driver, ex-special forces, who by chance encounters Leeloo (Milla Jovovich), a supreme being said to hold the key to Earth's protection from evil. But, in order to get the all-important missing weapon (a box of ornate stones) they must travel to Fhloston Paradise, a luxury resort planet. Chased by Zorg (Gary Oldman), a maniacal corporate cut-throat, and his henchman (Tricky), along with a squad of not-so-bright alien Mangalore warriors, all and sundry are after the stones and it's up to Dallas and Leeloo to discover the weapon's secret and save Earth.

    Beautifully directed by Luc Besson, The Fifth Element is one of my all-time favourites. It perfectly mixes sci-fi, action, comedy and thrills in a way unlike any other film. The special effects are first rate, from the amazing alien creatures to the outstanding futuristic ships, bizarre costumes and spacecraft, this is an awesome experience. The performances are a little on the campy side at times, particularly the flamboyant DJ Ruby Rhod (Chris Tucker), but these form part of the film's timeless charm. I'm certain this is a film I'll still be enjoying for decades to come.

    My colleague, DanielB, outlined the various standard definition versions of this film very well in his review of last year. It's definitely worth a read.

    Note that the review below refers to the non-remastered, original Blu-ray release. While the Australian distributor did send us this disc in advance for review, we suspect that this release may not have ever reached Australian shelves. The Remastered Blu-ray disc, currently available in Australian shops, is reviewed by BrandonV here.

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Transfer Quality

Video

Disclaimer: Please note that this disc has a video resolution of 1080p. It has been reviewed on a display device with a maximum native resolution of 720p. More information can be found here.

    When The Fifth Element was first released on standard definition DVD in the late nineties, it set the benchmark for digital transfers and showed us all the exciting potential of the format, even though it was soon bettered later down the line. Our expectations have grown considerably since then, and while that original release initially gained five-star reviews across the board, it's not likely to be rated quite as highly when placed alongside transfers of current blockbusters or top-shelf remasters. So, when The Fifth Element appeared on Blu-ray, my interest was piqued to say the least. The film is an awesome candidate for HD, besides being one of my all-time favourites, so one would hope the powers that be would give The Fifth Element a transfer that stands up to its status as a quality film with a decent history on SD DVD.

    Unfortunately, they haven't delivered the goods this time around, so you might want to hang onto your Collector's Edition a bit longer. There's no denying this is a sharp, vivid transfer, but very little has been done to clean up or stabilize the source print. The sharpness and clarity of HD betrays a myriad of dusty, dirty positive and negative specs that litter the transfer from beginning to end. The first five minutes are particularly bad in this regard, for example, check out the opening shot of earth at 1:35, or the bright Egyptian skyline soon after. Minor telecine wobble is also visible during still moments, such as the opening titles.

    The film has been transferred in its original theatrical aspect of 2.35:1, in a 16x9, 1080p frame.

    I made direct comparisons between this Blu-ray edition and two PAL SD discs I have on hand; the Region 4 Superbit and the original Region 4 release. The Superbit transfer is much cleaner and void of any wobble. The Superbit is also slightly windowboxed on the left and right of the frame, whereas the Blu-ray is tight to the frame. Obviously, the Superbit isn't as sharp as the Blu-ray, but the difference is not as drastic as you might expect. The Blu-ray transfer seems soft in comparison to other 1080p material I have viewed of late, and it still outdoes the SD versions- but only just. As far as colours go, I detected slightly stronger depth in the Blu-ray, but again, the difference is negligible. Like the Superbit version, the Blu-ray also has the English opening titles.

    The Blu-ray does have some strengths, although I still don't think they warrant an upgrade for most viewers. Black levels are solid, without a hint of noise or pixelation to be seen in shadowy scenes. Like most other Blu-ray titles to date, MPEG2 video compression has been applied. I didn't note any obvious compression issues at all.

    Two optional English subtitle streams are provided, including a normal text and a hard of hearing text situated in a black box. Both streams are relatively accurate and easy to read. Location titles are burned into the video stream, as they are on the Superbit disc.

    The disc format is a single layered BD-25. The feature is split into sixteen chapters.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    There are two audio options accompanying this film, most notably an uncompressed 48KHz PCM 5.1 soundtrack. The default soundtrack is a lowly Dolby Digital 5.1 effort. Both are in the film's original English language. I listened to the PCM in its entirety and sampled the Dolby in a few key scenes.

    I'm passing the PCM via HDMI and allowing my receiver to do the processing, as I am with HD DVD. This is a fantastic soundtrack, noticeably superior to the Superbit dts audio, especially in depth and channel separation. The PCM audio is very clean and amazingly crisp. The score and effects are very well reproduced across all channels.

    The English dialogue is clear and easy to discern at all times. The ADR is perfect and audio sync is problem-free.

    The surround channels are given a good workout, with all manner of effects, from passing vehicles at 32:23 to very in-your-face gunfire at 38:17. The Shadow's loud, booming voice envelops the viewer beautifully, and has a depth here that I have not experienced before.

    In comparing the two English soundtracks, the Dolby does the job, but is barely comparable to the PCM. The uncompressed stream is very sharp, noticeably louder and has much more depth. If you're able to process the PCM, or send it via analogue, this soundtrack is the best option.

    The score by Eric Serra is highly memorable and perfect for the film's futuristic setting. A great many genres are thrown into the film, from cheesy 80s-style electro trash to more traditional symphonic scoring. It all works wonderfully and is presented very well in the PCM soundtrack.

    The subwoofer augments numerous effects and explosions, such as at 52:39. For me, this is the best the film has sounded to date.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    If you needed another reason not to upgrade, the disc is graced with a lone trivia track. Anyone who vaguely likes the film would be aware of the recent SD Collector's Edition, laden with extras, but here we have nothing. A Super-Mega Blu-ray Edition of this title will hit the shelves eventually, no doubt.

Menu

    The menu page shows a futuristic New York cityscape with passing vehicles, all themed around film. The only audio accompaniment is street noise.

Trivia Track

    There are some interesting tidbits of information available, delving into the production, the actors, special effects, awards, deleted scenes and continuity goofs. I learned a few things that I had not heard before, but I doubt this is the kind of feature I would use regularly.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    There is no other edition available on either of the HD formats just yet. I think I've made it clear that if you own the SD Collector's Edition, you should put your wallet away and wait until this is re-released with a suitable HD transfer and some decent extras.

    DanielB outlined the various standard definition versions of this film very well in his review of last year. Given the vast differences in special features between regions, it's definitely worth a read.

Summary

    The Fifth Element is one of the best, most exciting sci-fi action spectacles out there. I've experienced the film at the cinema numerous times, on VHS and on almost every SD DVD release to date. In my opinion, this Blu-ray Disc is a step backward for fans of the film, who more than likely own the very good Special Edition already. Save your money.

    The video transfer is a pretty poor effort, but would be sharp enough to impress someone viewing HD material for the first time.

    The audio transfer is great.

    The extras are missing, probably being saved for the Blu-ray Special Edition.

There are Official Distributor Comments available for this review.
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Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Rob Giles (readen de bio, bork, bork, bork.)
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
Review Equipment
DVDPanasonic DMP BD-10, using HDMI output
DisplaySanyo PLV-Z2 WXGA projector, Screen Technics Cinemasnap 96" (16x9). Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 720p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVR3806
SpeakersOrpheus Aurora lll Mains (bi-wired), Rears, Centre Rear. Orpheus Centaurus .5 Front Centre. Mirage 10 inch sub.

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
New version -
Huh ? - REPLY POSTED
Biased? - REPLY POSTED
DVD region codes on Blu-ray? - REPLY POSTED
Disappointing Blu-ray reviews - REPLY POSTED
Dual format player for me..... - REPLY POSTED
re Biased? - Bran (my bio, or something very like it)
Dual format players -
About dual format players -
RE re Blu Ray reviews -
Biased? - phantomps2
It is remastered -
New version? - REPLY POSTED
Remastered Fifth Element is much, much better -