Script: The Fifth Element by Luc Besson
Logline: In the colorful future, a cab driver unwittingly becomes the central figure in the search for a legendary cosmic weapon to keep Evil and Mr Zorg at bay.
Extremely sorry this is so late.
It was my birthday this weekend, and had some friends come in to reinforce how old I’m getting.
Then today, I took the boy so he could see the old man do his civic duty and vote early. Well, we waited in line for just over an hour and then, like any child, he couldn’t take it anymore and made a scene.
Hopefully tomorrow will be easier sans aforementioned child.
So where are we?
Oh right, the Fifth Element.
This script was kind of funny. It had certain beats in it that it needs, but it kind of ran long, and zig zagged a bunch, but it always felt like it was moving. Almost episodic, but in a good way if there is such a thing.
An odd duck to say the least.
1.) Can we visualize the description?
The opening didn’t start with much. Especially considering the wordsmithing that was going on. (Is that even a word?)
EXT. DESERT NILE RIVER VALLEY – DAY
Somewhere in the Nile at the edge of the desert.
WRITTEN: EGYPT 1913
OMAR and his mule zigzag along the bottom of sun scorched dunes.
EXT. TEMPLE EXCAVATION – DAY
The mule and the boy finally reach a camp. A few tents dwarfed by a huge
temple door jutting out of the sand. The camp is deserted except for
some kids by the temple entrance holding large mirrors, reflecting light
into the temple.
Omar leaves his mule in the shade, seizes two goatskins and slips inside
There was nothing that really drew me in here, especially considering the fantastic stuff that happens in the rest of the script. Maybe this was supposed to be a stark contrast to the future setting, but that’s a bad gamble to take, especially if a reader drops out before the “fantastic.”
This opening almost felt like cold leftovers that your mom would throw on the table after you showed up two hours late for dinner. Like the author was saying, “Take it or leave it.”
Luckily after this first slip up, it gets better save for a few spots that run long like on page 17:
… wakes up a man trying to escape from a nightmare. KORBEN DALLAS rubs his head. Thirty five years old, short hair, powerfully built,
unquestionable charm, good looking in spite of the scars here and there.
The alarm clock is still ringing, it shows the date as March 18, 2359. It
in two in the morning. Ha grabs a cigarette, and stops to look for a
light. He shuts oft the alarm. He hears a cat mewing in the hall. But it
still rings. Korben takes a moment and then realizes it in the phone
that is ringing.
I think SOMEONE had a man crush on Bruce Willis.
This is a perfect example of two things that SHOULD have been done.
1.) Make your character descriptions brief for ease of casting
2.) Break up the action so it’s more manageable for the reader
Some good bits to make a note of:
In the middle of the shadows, a door to the nightmare has just opened.
Evil is back.
A WARRIOR whips out the biggest knife ever made and rushes Leeloo. She disarms him gracefully. A violent fight breaks out. The Diva sings and
Leeloo dances. The Mangalores pay a heavy price for the show.
I liked this last example especially, since it summed up an entire action sequence with just a few sentences.
7 out of 10 points.
2.) Does the author use an acceptable format?
This was a shooting script, so just be aware of that if/when you read it.
At 142 pages, that’s too long if we’d try this with a spec.
After that I had a HUGE problem with typos.
First, I’m not sure if this was just the formatting of it from a text file, but there were two periods for any pause.
After that, there were a bunch of wrong words, like Ha in stead of He. In instead of it. Oft instead of Off. Etc.
It was very sloppy and very distracting, and I can’t stress enough…
6 out of 10 points.
3.) Is the dialogue free of exposition and rich in subtext? Does each character have a unique voice?
Dialogue was okay.
I’ll give it half credit since nothing weighed me down save for these specific problems. (And characters all had unique voices.)
Staedert, do you read me?
I can hear you, Mr. President, but I
can’t see you .
This was just a weird exchange that only seemed to boost the page number in a script that’s already running long.
Finger’s gonna kill me…
This is the second time Korben says this in a relatively short time, and the problem is that it’s so lame the first time people are going to groan hearing it twice.
The next two examples just have to do with the love story. It’s another one that doesn’t feel natural so it comes across as forced on the characters.
Pages 110-111 the Diva tells Korben he has to love Leeloo in order to save the world.
Then on page 138 Korben goes overboard with explaining to Leeloo that he loves her.
It’d be more emotionally exciting if this was ever in question, but since Korben seems like a love sick puppy for the entire script, it’s confusing why this is taking so long other than the writer wants it to.
5 out of 10 points.
4.) Does the writer understand the challenges and rewards posed by the medium chosen in which to tell his/her story? Shorthand version of this is: Is it a movie and not a play?
This was a cool sci-fi action flick. The setting alone can only be utilized through the eye of a camera.
10 out of 10 points.
5.) Is there anything unique in what the writer presents? Are the writer’s ideas, based on this sample, likely to continue to be original?
I think the setting lends a bit to this question also.
There’s so much structure to the future society in this script that you’re drawn in, which is always a good thing.
Fantastic places and unique characters make me think that this author could expand into entirely different projects easily.
10 out of 10
6.) Does the script have a hook?
First two pages were kind of slow.
The premise of the movie is awesome, but just having an old guy look at some hieroglyphics while a younger guy draws them? Nothing particularly exciting there.
Oh, and another guy was riding a donkey, so remember that too, even though it doesn’t play into the rest of the story.
10 out of 15 pages.
7.) Is that hook effective?
Luckily page 3 saves us and the priest is obviously trying to kill them. BUT WHY?!
Think of how you’re a new writer though, and you’ve fluffed your way through the first two pages, but maybe that’s all the professional reader gave you to make your case. They never got far enough into your script and arguably missed out.
Lesson here, ditch the fluff.
Aliens come to the temple, so that’s fun.
One gets locked inside some tomb where these special stones are kept. Mysterious.
Finally we flash forward to the future and there’s a giant mass of evil that can’t be killed.
My problem here, and I’m definitely taking off points, is that if this thing is PURE EVIL why’s it just sitting there giving us a chance to defeat it?
It should be flying at us at rocket speed just like it does at the end.
12 out of 15 points.
8.) Is there enough to maintain the hook? Reveals, conflict, etc.?
Again, the beats didn’t seem to hit any corresponding pages, but the script was entertaining AND it moved.
The one thing I feel I need to harp on here though is that love story.
Korben’s falling for anything with boobies (even his cat) made Neo and Trinity look like Han and Leia. (And you all know how we felt about the Matrix love story.)
It needed to be stronger. Since Korben got ditched so horribly by his ex-wife, you think he’d be a bit more guarded with his heart.
The other problem here (and could have cut down on page length) is there’s a lot going on in the background that doesn’t relate to the main story.
It’s almost like the author is trying to make a social statement about the society he created, but doesn’t have enough time to fully explain it, so there a tip here, and a tip there, then we’re left to infer for ourselves what the hell was meant by them. (And it’s not answered later, so we’d be pissed.)
A good example of this is the folks hiding in the garbage and being chased by pigs in the shuttle scene.
It either needs to connect into the story, or be left out completely. Only going halfway doesn’t work ESPECIALLY if you’re running long.
8 out of 10 points.
9.) Does the story play to a target audience, and have the elements demanded by that audience?
Phew, big budget of $90 million, but that makes sense given the scope of the project. It also made over $263 million to date worldwide. Lucky for Bruce Willis, lol.
HOWEVER, there were a bunch of small things that almost felt like rewrites happened, but the old ideas weren’t written out of the script.
Page 33 – Earlier the cab computer tells Korben he has 9 points left on his license, but then he gets into and accident and loses 7 points, leaving 1 point the computer tells him. Where’d the other point go?
Page 35 – Leeloo is regenerated from a single living cell, and had the clothes on her back, but suddenly when she and Korben are safe, she hands him the case. Where’d it come from?
Lastly, the dead evil planet stops 62 miles away from the surface of the Earth. That wouldn’t act as a second moon, that’d be a giant rock that WOULD KILL US.
Think about it. 62 miles is an hour average drive in a car. That’s not very far, or high. (The moon is 238,900 miles from Earth, and still controls the tides with the gravitational pull.)
That’s a crappy way to leave us at the climax.
*SIDENOTE* – The names were GOOFY! This was a bit distracting also, but as it was the future I let it slide.
7 out of 10
Although I don’t feel it followed a typical pattern for a story, it kept me going.
This is pretty impressive considering I’ve seen the movie countless times AND the script was 142 pages.
If there’s one thing to take away from this script it’s that if you’re writing an action movie, make it heavy on the action. Ships blowing up, gun fights, even hot Serbian actresses falling through a car roof.
All good stuff.
Total 75 out of 100 points.