Movies of 1997 Bracket Game: The Fifth Element vs Men In Black
And here we are jumping from a couple of successful little indie films to a pair of big budget special effects bonanzas! This is a matchup that I did consider pairing with an action group and putting in the top half of the bracket, but that would have meant two things: 1) I probably would have had to cut The Game or L.A. Confidential from the event and add a movie I’m much less enthusiastic about and 2) It probably would have meant putting Men In Black, the movie I considered the number two overall seed, into the same half of the bracket as the overall number one seed Titanic. Now you guys just went ahead and invalidated that reason right off the bat by kicking Jack and Rose to the curb, but I still maintain that having those two movies in the same half of the bracket would have made no sense. so here we have it: two sci-fi flicks with a lighter tone, and one will move forward to face the comedies aligned against them. Let’s take a look.
The winner of today’s matchup will face the blue collar male strippers of The Full Monty in the second round. I have to admit that I was mildly surprised that Robert Carlyle and company defeated Chasing Amy without really breaking a sweat. Perhaps I underestimated the influence of our overseas readers. Take a look at the bracket below. We’re almost to the second round. Crap, I need to get writing!
First, a warning. If you haven’t seen Luc Besson’s The Fifth Element, I’d recommend skipping the trailer below because it inexplicably contains major spoilers. It’s not a great trailer anyway. Also, just go watch the movie, but don’t say I didn’t warn you about the Chris Tucker character. He ruins it for some viewers. Not me, but some.
The film as a whole tends to be pretty divisive in a few ways. Some viewers find The Fifth Element to have a very simplistic plot occurring in an unnecessarily dense world. This is not a criticism without merit. It’s a pretty basic “save the girl, grab the things, save the world” hero quest, but it’s all being filtered through an extraordinarily odd set of contexts. It is the film’s visual design which has gone the furthest in winning it some ardent admirers and it should be no surprise that it was the work of a pair of French comic book artists which was significantly influential on the project as a whole and were hired to help create its look. Elements of the design might be somewhat accurately described as “what if Blade Runner was shot during the day and in good weather?” but the costuming work by Jean Paul Gaultier mostly breaks this pattern. Still other viewers have criticized the movie for its use or misuse of gender roles. Milla Jovovich’s central LeeLoo character is presented as a sort of innocent, but powerful and necessary object, while the other human female characters are typically sexless or mannish. The clearly female alien “Diva” is also shown to be noble and beautiful, but ultimately disposable. Take a look at the rest of the cast with speaking roles and it’s all male. Also, there’s that grating cross dresser who appears to be added for color and comedy, but really just reinforces that his femininity makes him someone to be saved. I could argue for or against these points of view, but in the end what stands out is that The Fifth Element is an amazing feast for the eyes that truly succeeds in entertaining. Oh, and Gary Oldman is a real hoot in it.
As opposed to above, feel free to go ahead and feast your eyes on the truly excellent trailer for Barry Sonnenfeld’s Men In Black. This is what a trailer should be like. It tells you the premise. It shows you something shiny and impressive. It tells you who the stars are. It delivers a couple of jokes. Then, having done its job of making you want to see the movie, it goes away.
Like The Fifth Element, Men In Black treads the ground of light sic-fi action culled from a comic book source with fun and impressive effects which tasks its main characters with defending Earth against an alien threat. Right there is pretty much where the similarities end. One of the primary differences is that Men In Black takes place in what seems to be a rough approximation of 1990s America (albeit through a comic lens). This allows the audience to experience entry into the fantastic elements of the story from a supposed place of comfort and recognition, taking the journey with Will Smith’s eventual Agent J. Much less relatable is the farmer played by Vincent D’Onofrio who discovers a crashed UFO and has his skin used as a disguise by the alien bug inside. It’s hard not to think of D’Onofrio as if he’s a good actor playing that embarrassing Steven King bumpkin from Creepshow. The characterization improves substantially once you know he’s now actually playing a nefarious space insect. The oddity of the performances by he and Tony Shalhoub and others does serve to emphasize the straight edge Cold War normalcy of Tommy Lee Jones’ Agent K, a longtime veteran of the MIB who recruit’s Agent J.
Both of these movies is big and loud and colorful and fun. But which one deserves to move on to the next round? Vote her and then tell us all about it in the comments section below!