Many a times it was said that The Fifth Element doesn’t have as much story as action set pieces – and, for all that matters, it may be actually true. Let us not forget that the basis of the movie was set by a teenager and that, even in the later years, this teenager was an avid comic book reader. All he wanted was to translate all those awesome comic book sequences into a live action film.
And Luc Besson spared no expenses when it came to bringing the action – at that time, The Fifth Element was the most expensive European film ever made, with a large chunk of the $90 million budget spent on the special effects.
And it is this richness of the images that played an important role, if we are to consider The Fifth Element’s cult status. As most of the critics remarked, it wasn’t the story that appealed to the audiences, but the details with which the worlds were built. It all feels organic, even if at times it is just too crowded – but it is a possible future (and, if we are to consider that some of the things we see in the film have become a reality…)
Speaking of the budget, Luc Besson didn’t find the necessary finance at first. But this didn’t mean that he was about to give up. After having made Leon, which is yet another fantastic and cult favorite film, the director got the money for The Fifth Element.
And, when he went over the budget, he asked for more – he had a vision and he wanted everybody else to see it.
And it was worth it – after being praised by the critics (Roger Ebert said that he wouldn’t have wanted to miss the film, particularly because of the rich images), The Fifth Element was named by the Visual Effects Society as being one of the top 50 most influential films of all time.
And this is no small feat when considering the leaps taken by the special-effects in the past few years (also, as a bit of trivia, Mark Stetson – the special effects supervisor – worked on both The Fifth Element and The Lord of the Rings trilogy)