In 1914, the Mondoshawan aliens meet with a priest of a secret order on Earth, at an ancient Egyptian temple. They take away a weapon capable of defeating a great evil which appears once every 5000 years, promising to return when it is needed. It contains the four classical elements in four engraved stones and a fifth element in a sarcophagus. In 2263, the great evil appears in space in the form of a giant living fireball. It destroys an Earth ship in passing on its way to Earth. The Mondoshawan priest, Vito Cornelius (Ian Holm), informs the Earth President of the evil’s approach.

The Mondoshawan spacecraft carrying the defensive weapon is attacked and destroyed by a crew of Mangalores working for the Great Evil, in the form of industrialist Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg (Gary Oldman). A severed hand in metal armor is brought to New York City. Using biotechnology, scientists recreate the original occupant of the destroyed sarcophagus, a humanoid woman named Leeloo (Milla Jovovich). Frightened by her surroundings, she escapes from the lab and jumps off a ledge, then happens to land in the flying taxicab of Korben Dallas (Bruce Willis), formerly of the Special Forces.

Quite smitten by the babe who literally fell into his unhappy life, Dallas delivers her to Cornelis and his apprentice David (Charlie Creed Miles), who recognize her as the Fifth Element. She tells Cornelius that the stones were entrusted to an alien Opera Singer Plavalaguna (Maiwenn Le Besco). Zorg is looking for her and the stones and Leeloo. Earth sends Dallas to see Plavalaguna under cover of a radio contest, and he takes Leeloo with him. Cornelius stows away on the ship, and the Mangalores board it as well.

They attack during the concert and Plavalaguna dies. Dallas removes the stones from her body and kills the Mangalore leader. Zorg arrives and shoots Leeloo, then activates a time-bomb. He takes off with the stones’ carrying case, then returns when he discovers the stones are not in it. He deactivates his bomb, but the Mangalores set off another one, which kills Zorg. Dallas, Cornelius, and Leeloo escape in Zorg’s spaceship. As the Great Evil approaches, they set up the stones, but Leeloo, having learned about history, has given up on the human race. Dallas declares his love and kisses her, and she ignites the stones and defeats the evil.

The movie is French but made in English, directed by Luc Besson from his own story, written when he was 16 to escape his unhappy life. He was 38 when the movie was done. The bizarre, surreal, gorgeous production design was by comic-book artists Jean Girard and Jean-Claude Mezieres. The 900 costumes were by Jean-Paul Gaultier. It won several awards and was either adored or hated by critics, though the kindest called it visually inventive and over the top. The females in the film were criticized, and the males as well. The way over-the-top Chris Tucker was extraordinarily irritating, if you ask me.

Luc Besson invented the divine language spoken by Leeloo. Since she was fluent in four languages, she had little trouble learning it and she and Luc Besson ended up able to converse in it. Besson was married to Maiwenn Le Besco, who plays the opera singer, but left her for Milla Jovovich, but divorced her too in 1999. Did he think he was James Cameron? The future New York, which was crazy and beautiful, with aerial cars darting everywhere, was based on the architecture of Antonio Sant’Ella in the 1910s. Central Park was in the same place, but 100 feet in the air.

Gary Oldman played Zorg as a cross between Ross Perrot and Bugs Bunny. Bruce Willis and Gary Oldman were never actually in the same place at the same time. The stunning and ubiquitous music was by Eric Serra, and the opera was sung by Albanian soprano Inva Mula. The aria was impossible to sing and had to be enhanced with special audio effects. The film opened the 1997 Cannes Film Festival. Milla Jovovich beat out 3000 women for the role of Leeloo. Besson said she could be Nefertiti or from outer space. Leeloo’s full name is Leeloominai Lekatarariba Lamina-Tchair Ekbat de Sebat. I don’t believe you could write it on her costume.