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A view from the Blu (-ray) on DVDBeaver by Leonard Norwitz


A Little Background     Openers     


    Modus Operandi     The Scorecard:     

Emotive Connection      Audio     Operations    Extras     The Movie     Equipment




The Fifth Element comparison (SuperBit vs. Blu-ray vs. Blu-ray remastered)

(Luc Besson - 1997)

(SUPERBIT Region 1 NTSC LEFT vs. Blu-ray (original) MIDDLE vs. Blu-ray remastered RIGHT)


















Review by Leonard Norwitz


Studio: Columbia / Sony Pictures Home Entertainment



Aspect ratio: 2:40:1

Feature film: 1080p / AVC

126 minutes

1 disc: BD-50 dual-layer



English PCM 5.1 Uncompressed

English DD True HD 5.1

French DD 5.1



English SDH, English, French & Spanish, Chinese, Portuguese, Thai, none



• Trivia Track


16 chapters

Standard Blu-ray case.

Release Date: July 17, 2007



The Fifth Element ~ Comment

What could have been a pretty darn good movie is undermined by a juvenile subplot about a cab driver's quest to find the perfect woman, but settles instead for a sort of mythological demi-god.


The idea of interspecies sex needs to be handled with a certain degree of finesse, wouldn't you say?  Consider The Day the Earth Stood Still  - where Patricia Neal and Michael Rennie hold up in an elevator for 30 minutes and only talk about the fate of humanity, or Starman – where Jeff Bridges has sex with Karen Allen when she is in a virtual coma so that he can create a new species.  The Star Trek TV series took the matter very seriously: In the intriguing episode, Metamorphosis, Zefram Cochrane had been intimate with another species for decades without realizing it.  Once he was put onto the scent, his companion had to become Elinor Donahue in order to continue agreeably.  And, of course, right from the start, there's Spock, whose human mother and Vulcan father are more referred to than dealt with directly – we being more interested in how their union presents hormonal and rational consequences for their offspring.




Add to these relatively trivial instances, the myriad number of trysts between gods and mortals that pervade the annals of mythology and religions, and you can see that this is a subject that is traditionally not dealt with frivolously.  But then, you ask, what is The Fifth Element if not frivolous? And I answer, perhaps nothing more than an opportunity missed.  Contrariwise, the chemistry between Fred Kwan and Laliari in Galaxy Quest constitutes real movie magic at play, not some wish-fulfillment fantasy, better left unfulfilled.  There's a lot of high-minded, but nonsensical talk about love, protect, need - and then, somehow: sex.  I don't think so.  The Fifth Element is properly a maternal figure – an Earth Mother, if you will, not a sex toy.  In any event, if the mercenary Mangalores pirates had not intervened and shot down the returning Mondoshawan, the five elements would have been restored to their rightful place and, presumably, have spurned Evil without having "learned about love."



The Fifth Element

The Score Card


The Movie : 7

Most of the story takes place about 200+ years in the future (Why do moviemakers think we will have intergalactic travel nailed down before our grandchildren have passed on to oblivion!).  The Earth is threatened by "Pure Evil" whose mission is to destroy all Life.  It has an interesting defense system which get absorbs ballistics only to make itself stronger.  Very Zen.  Only the five elements placed in their correct positions in an Egyptian tomb can protect life.  As luc would have it, the elements have all been removed from Earth for safe keeping until the predictable right moment.  And as bad luc required, the keepers are waylaid en route.  Enter our anti-hero cab driver, played with his usual sour smirkiness by Bruce Willis.  Enter, also, the Fifth Element herself who needs help in reuniting the other elements to save the world.  In a moment of depressed clarity she asks Willis something to the effect of "Why Bother – you'll only destroy yourselves, if given the chance?"


But the movie itself is a real kick in the pants.  A shot in the arm.  Fun effects and spectacle: mixing art direction, media and cultural references like Tim Burton's Batman on speed.  Lots of great characters: Mathieu Kassovitz as the Mugger (my personal favorite), Chris Tucker as the relentless Ruby Rhod, the always reliable Ian Holm as the flappable Father Cornelius, Charlie Creed-Miles as his even more flappable novice, and most of all, Milla  Jovovich as "Leeloo," the very perfect Fifth Element.  For my money, hers was a far more nuanced and interesting accomplishment than Helen Hunt's Oscar-winning performance in As Good As It Gets.  Gary Oldman, along with Alan Rickman, is probably our best screen villain: he has been Dracula, Lee Harvey Oswald, the opportunistic congressional opposition in The Contender, and the leader of the hijackers in Air Force One.  Besson used him as a psychopathic cop in Léon, and brought him back for The Fifth Element as a comic-book version of power-corrupted.


Image : 9.5

The Superbit was good in its day – very good.  So good that the announcement that Blu-ray was going to lead with that title a year ago was met with loud "Huzzahs!" in the belief that a high definition version could end the format war before it began. Alas -the rest, as they say, is history.  It was not to be.  Then, to the amazement of all of us in Fantasyland, Sony decided to re-master the title.  And not only that, but are offering a free exchange program for us poor souls who leaped before testing the water.  Was it worth the trouble?  There are noticeable improvements in sharpness (apparent even in these low-res reproductions shot with a digital camera) and color: the reddish cast that marred the original BD is gone, and a more alive, more dynamic image results. I trust the images below will decide the matter for you.

In case you're wondering, these screen shots were taken with a Canon 1D MkII off a 7 foot wide Syntra board painted with Video Goo.  The camera settings were identical for every shot and only the most conservative contrast adjustment in Photoshop was applied in the same way for all shots.  The crops were done in the camera, and all shots started off as 8MB and reduced to the same proportions in Photoshop by the same method.


(SUPERBIT Region 1 NTSC TOP vs. Blu-ray (original) MIDDLE vs. Blu-ray remastered BOTTOM)



(SUPERBIT Region 1 NTSC TOP vs. Blu-ray (original) MIDDLE vs. Blu-ray remastered BOTTOM)



(SUPERBIT Region 1 NTSC TOP vs. Blu-ray (original) MIDDLE vs. Blu-ray remastered BOTTOM)



(SUPERBIT Region 1 NTSC TOP vs. Blu-ray (original) MIDDLE vs. Blu-ray remastered BOTTOM)



(SUPERBIT Region 1 NTSC TOP vs. Blu-ray (original) MIDDLE vs. Blu-ray remastered BOTTOM)



(SUPERBIT Region 1 NTSC TOP vs. Blu-ray (original) MIDDLE vs. Blu-ray remastered BOTTOM)



(SUPERBIT Region 1 NTSC TOP vs. Blu-ray (original) MIDDLE vs. Blu-ray remastered BOTTOM)



(SUPERBIT Region 1 NTSC TOP vs. Blu-ray (original) MIDDLE vs. Blu-ray remastered BOTTOM)



(SUPERBIT Region 1 NTSC TOP vs. Blu-ray (original) MIDDLE vs. Blu-ray remastered BOTTOM)



(Blu-ray (original) TOP vs. Blu-ray remastered BOTTOM)



Audio & Music : 7

The audio track has to accommodate a number of pre-recorded sources.  Listening in one's home theatre system, we are likely to be more sensitive to discrepancies or restless differences as we move from one music cue to another.  The effects track is certainly aggressive, with plenty of bass, but not of itself, irritating.  The dialogue was sometimes submerged in the hubbub, but it all seemed just about as it should be.


Empathy : 8

Fab picture, pretty good sound, and kind of an early Christmas present from Sony adds up to an engaging experience.

Operations : 8

Easy to use, but not much of a challenge, since there's not much on the menu.

Extras : 3

Only a casual Trivia Track.  My question: Are trivia tracks trivial?  And how are they different from useful information."

  Chapter Menu

(SUPERBIT Region 1 NTSC TOP vs. Blu-rays BOTTOM)


Recommendation : 9

Totally worth the upgrade even if you have to pay for it.

Leonard Norwitz
August 5th, 2007

















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