More 'pew pew' please.
November 27, 2008 2:32 PM   Subscribe

Why hasn't another movie like "The 5th Element" been made since, well, "The 5th Element"? ("Because it sucks" is not an answer)

Its a fun, campy, whiz-bang space opera. Its had multiple editions of it released to DVD. I assume it's done well in sales. Why the heck hasn't there been another like it? Too expensive? No one writes scripts like it (I find this hard to believe)?
posted by eurasian to Media & Arts (25 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I'm not sure about campy, but Firefly and the associated movie Serenity are fun, whiz-bang space operas.
posted by arcticwoman at 2:46 PM on November 27, 2008

hold on to your hat

Supposedly retired action maverick* Luc Besson, currently making the rounds on behalf of Transporter 3 (which he produced), told Collider that not only was 1997's The Fifth Element supposed to be the first in a trilogy, but that he also has vague plans for another sci-fi trilogy
posted by complience at 2:47 PM on November 27, 2008 [3 favorites]

Well, 'because it sucks' is an answer (might not be the one you're looking for...), but I'd argue Night Watch is pretty similar in feel, albeit with less camp.

(Give Day Watch a miss, though - read the books instead.)
posted by Pinback at 3:32 PM on November 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

Um, all three Star Wars prequels? All three Starship Trooper films? Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow? WALL-E, maybe?
posted by oulipian at 3:44 PM on November 27, 2008

You might try Luc Besson's Banlieue 13 (aka District B13). Similar feel, although not nearly as epic.

Judge Dredd also had some similar elements iirc, although it was terrible.

The DVD extras for the Fifth Element have some interesting things to say about how the movie came to be. Pretty unusual.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 4:02 PM on November 27, 2008

I agree with Pinback. "It sucks" is an answer. The movie was crap. The concepts tired (an ancient sect of priests protecting some terrible secret... oh really? YAWN).

Also, when it comes down to it, movie-making is a business. If something does not offer a significant commercial return, regardless of critical aclaim (and I don't think this movie was critically acclaimed by the way), then the studios will not green-light further or similar versions. Note the TV show Arrested Development as an example of something that was quite popular, very successful in wining awards, but was cancelled due to low ratings.
posted by Mephisto at 4:19 PM on November 27, 2008

Nope, 'it sucks' isn't a good answer, because it doesn't actually explain the situation. Movies that suck are often copied. So the OP isn't rejecting a particlar answer just because he doesn't like it, but because it doesn't make any sense as an answer. It's made money, that means it was a success for the studio.
posted by bluejayk at 4:23 PM on November 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

The Fifth Element plays like a lot of Anime movies out there. I don't have specific recommendations, because once you start down that road, there lies madness...

It's not enough to call Fifth Element camp though - it has a central style and quirk to it that goes far beyond simple camp. The fact that the hero and the villain never meet each other still amuses me.

Yeah, Starship Troopers has some of that over the top, campy-but-trying-hard feel. Also Robocop, though much more terrestrial. Blade Runner - which I don't ever need to see again in my life - is up there too. Solider is certainly a sleeper, rumored to be "set in the Blade Runner" universe, but worth a look despite being mostly a snooze fest.

Total Recall. Yeah, Total Recall now that I think about it is pretty close to the 5th Element mold.

But, you're question wasn't about what films are like Fifth Element - you were asking why these films aren't made more often.

I think it's pretty apparent that these sorts of films are both expensive to produce and more often than not fall flat at the box office. Fifth Element was a flop and it wasn't until it was released on DVD that a "cult following" grew up around the film. Ditto for a lot of the other films mentioned here.

The public wants fantastic escapism with heroes and villains and explosions, but there seems to be a resistance to really-far out there space opera type stuff. We love to see Spiderman swinging from building tops, but anything that folds space, bends time, requires artificial gravity, etc just falls flat with the non-nerd public.

Recall that Star Wars and Star Trek movies get made because the viewing public has had decades to become familiar with these cartoonish characters. Something like Serenity can get made only after a failed tv series has caught fire among the fanboys and is inexpensive to make thanks to no-name actors, cheap western sets, and crummy CGI.
posted by wfrgms at 4:28 PM on November 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

Check out Fantastic Four
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:16 PM on November 27, 2008

I thought 5th element fantastic, and made me remember Luc's name. A lot of those types of movies fail with the general population though. Similarly genre was Pluto Nash.
posted by lundman at 5:18 PM on November 27, 2008

My wife and I still say "cheeekeen good" and "Muul-Tiiii-Pass!" on occassion. Personally I enjoyed Fifth Element in the theater even though I'm not a nerd (I'm not! I'm not!) and approach anything Star Trek with dread.

Most of the time box office returns are the yardstick for secondary and tertiary markets. You can just about put on a spreadsheet what the long-term returns will be for TV, cable, DVD, etc. based on B.O. numbers. On (rare) occassion a film will exceed those downstream expectations. You can't, however, bank on that ever happening. As a producer you are really beholden to the all-powerful box office numbers.
posted by trinity8-director at 5:52 PM on November 27, 2008

The question should be: Why is there no quality SciFi on the screen in general, or why is it so rare?
I don't have an answer.

Maybe you would enjoy The American Astronaut (trailer) or Equilibrium (trailer), both very camp in a different way.

But you really should consider checking out some good SciFi anime, like Memories (a set of 3 stories), Kaiba (a fun surreal series, you can watch it online on crunchyroll), Millenium Actress (an episodic film with SciFi elements), Planetes (a funny and touching series about debris collectors on a space station), Samurai 7 (a space opera version of the seven samurai), Ergo Proxy (where the androids are named after Derrida, Lacan and Husserl) or Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo (a very camp re-telling of the classic revenge story and set in the future).
posted by kolophon at 6:26 PM on November 27, 2008 [10 favorites]

on a limb here, and going into the past, but I would say a 'Fifth Element' type film is 'The Princess Bride'.

simple concepts utterly heightened by a quality cast, fantasia and enchanting dialogue.
posted by Frasermoo at 6:30 PM on November 27, 2008

In the immortal words of MST3K, if you like injecting LSD straight into your eyeball, you'll love The Fifth Element.
posted by LastOfHisKind at 6:40 PM on November 27, 2008 [3 favorites]

...Come to think of it, if you put The Princess Bride and Equilibrium on a continuum, the midpoint between the two would be awfully close to something like The Fifth Element.
posted by NMcCoy at 8:16 PM on November 27, 2008

The reason it's so easy to answer with "because it sucks" is because you haven't bothered to define what "movies like The 5th Element" actually means.

"Campy, whiz-bang space opera" describes a lot of movies that have been made before and since. So, the answer, then, is this. Movies like The 5th Element - that is, sloppily structured, poorly written, campy pastiches of other movies - are made all the time.
posted by bingo at 8:42 PM on November 27, 2008

Fifth Element was a flop and it wasn't until it was released on DVD that a "cult following" grew up around the film.

A flop? That's not true. It wasn't a massive blockbuster, sure, and may have been a disappointment to a studio expecting a major hit, but the film made $263m in theaters ($63m of which came from the U.S.). That's before any DVD sales that may have turned it into a "cult" hit. I'd say that's pretty far from a "flop." I don't have a direct answer to why there haven't been more like it, but the idea that Fifth Element was a financial failure in theaters is wrong.
posted by mediareport at 9:29 PM on November 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

Because there are only so many hours in Gary Oldman's day.

I want to see a movie where Gary Oldman and Alan Rickman are both cops who are wannabe actors who do community theater in their off hours and fight who gets to be "bad cop" each time they have to interact with someone.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 10:08 PM on November 27, 2008 [8 favorites]

I always figured 5th Element would be a great franchise. Korben Dallas as a sort of futuristic 007 slash Die Hard character.
posted by davidmsc at 10:19 PM on November 27, 2008

Because directorial styles are as subject to the times as any other sort of style, and this particular directorial style (which I will describe as "florid") is currently not in style. The movie didn't know if it was a space age Rocky Horror Picture Show or what, the acting was all over the place, and it was mostly held together by the visuals. Which describes about 80% of Hollywood's output since this movie came out, but some of them actually had a coherent narrative structure, which this one didn't, to it's detriment.

Oh, one other featured Chris Tucker, who is generally regarded as being Box Office Poison, except in those awful martial arts comedies he makes with Jackie Chan.
posted by motown missile at 12:28 AM on November 28, 2008

First time I saw Fifth Element was on DVD and I love it. I don't know why, I keep popping it back in the dvd player when I'm doing background hobby activities 'cause I know the movie by heart and I tune in when my favorite bits come on.

I don't know how it's similar, but I feel the same way about The Mummy and The Mummy Returns. I have no interest in the third one that was recently released.
posted by like_neon at 2:32 AM on November 28, 2008

"Campy, whiz-bang space opera" describes a lot of movies that have been made before and since.

Can you name some then? Space operas are actually pretty rare, campy whizz-bang ones even more so. About the best I can come up with since 2000 is, er, The Adventures of Pluto Nash. Maybe The Chronicles of Riddick too. As others have mentioned there is probably quite a bit of anime that fits the bill though.
posted by ninebelow at 4:52 AM on November 28, 2008

I think the answers here are all over the place because it wasn't entirely clear what you mean to be "like" the movie and because few cared.

You describe it as a "fun, campy, whiz-bang space opera", and if we take all those as criteria, it's bound to be a pretty small class. I mean, how many fantastic musical journeys to imaginary lands did we see after the Wizard of Oz (besides The Wiz)?

Anyway, here's the core of the problem as I see it: it is extremely hard to do camp. Making a movie that hangs together is hard enough, but making one that *deliberately* and *successfully* is that mode, rather than inadvertently, is a recipe for disaster.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 7:28 AM on November 28, 2008

My feeling was that 5th Element was the best Heavy Metal movie since Heavy Metal. My feeling is that there are a number of factors:
1) adult science fiction, in general, has not had much box office success. Children of Men $38M domestic, Solaris $14M domestic.

2) because of #1 Hollywood seems more willing to bite on expansions of existing franchises and spin-offs of popular books.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:18 AM on November 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

I would qualify Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow as a "campy, whiz-bang space opera."
posted by Johnny Assay at 9:39 AM on November 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

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