When thinking about all the movies that the artist Jean Giraud -- known mostly to us in the U.S. as Moebius -- The Fifth Element is as good of a place to start as any.
Moebius, along with fellow French comic creator Jean-Claude Mézières, did the production design for Luc Besson's ridiculous attempt at a sci-fi epic. As dumb as this movie often is, the aesthetic at least means it looks really good.
Probably the most obvious thing about The Fifth Element is how shamelessly it steals from every popular sci-fi movie that came before it. Maybe I wouldn't go quite as far to say it rips them off, but there's some of that. Still, that's what makes this movie fun, despite its many flaws. After all, most of those movies stole elements from Moebius' work anyway.
(Hilariously enough, so did this one. Publisher Humanoids sued over similarities to The Incal by Alejandro Jodorowsky and Moebius.)
Bruce Willis plays Korben Dallas, a Bruce Willis-type whose tough-guy exterior hides a wounded soul. Milla Jovovich plays Leeloo, the supreme being who is essential to saving earth and can kick your ass, but is also innocent and vulnerable. These aren't so much characters as they are action figures. Both our leads make the mistake of playing these parts very straightforward and seriously instead of campy. Jovovich's oft-quoted, loopy take on "Leeloo Dallas Multipass" does come close to capturing the right tone for the film.
Only Gary Oldman, who plays villain Zorg as a broad parody of a Texas oilman, seems to realize he's in a movie where henchmen are wearing leather short-shorts (the costumes by French fashion designer Jean-Paul Gaultier are incredible and one of the things I do love is that absolutely not attempt was made to tone his looks down). Zorg is ultimately inconsequential but at least Oldman seems to be having fun.
The plot is fairly standard -- earth is in peril, stuff blows up, Chris Tucker appears and the movie screeches to a halt with his shrieking, and then everyone is saved -- but I realize expecting this movie to make sense or actually be good is maybe wanting too much from it.
Is it pretty? Yes. This is a beautifully stylish movie -- it looks good whether on a small screen or big. Individual scenes are dazzling and colorful (if a little bit reliant on orange) and parts of it go very far to evoking an intriguing future. It's just too bad that the story around those parts aren't very interesting.
Still, this is probably as close as we have to a live-action adaptation of Moebius' science fiction work -- at least visually, anyway. Even if I, personally, never need to sit through this movie of my own free will again, I think I will always have some affection for it on that account.