Reel Rumbles #25: “The Fifth Element” vs. “Men in Black”

Nigel Druitt

An avid Flickcharter since 2009, Nigel is a self-described fanboy whose Top 20 is dominated by the likes of Indiana Jones, Frodo Baggins and Marty McFly. Nigel is the Canadian arm of the Flickchart Blog, but try not to hold that against him. You can find him on Flickchart as johnmason.

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9 Responses

  1. I liked both of these, but I always felt that “The Fifth Element” falls apart in the last 10-20 minutes. The whole story is moving toward the reveal of the fifth element, but I found it underwhelming. Perhaps it’s because of that big fireball that supplanted Gary Oldman as the heavy for the end of the story?

    As for “Men in Black,” I think its greatest strength is in its brevity and pacing. It’s actually a very straightforward movie, and I think if it had a run time closer to two hours we’d have tired of it. But the hour and a half run time is just right; everything moves quickly, but we don’t feel rushed.

    I’d give it to “MIB,” too.

  2. Nigel Druitt says:

    “Perhaps it’s because of that big fireball that supplanted Gary Oldman as the heavy for the end of the story?”

    EXACTLY. :)

  3. Bryan Andrews says:

    Well done. I personally would not have been as gracious towards Fifth Element. I had no problem with the movie in general, but I think Men in Black is easily a better and more entertaining film.

  4. George Scheaffer says:

    Okay, there’s just one thing that you guys REALLY need to get straight:
    Men In Black’s story isn’t UNIQUE if it’s based off a comic book. People have read it before; it’s nothing new and it’s nothing original. In my book, original films beat out adaptations of anything. What’s The Fifth Element, an original work? If so, then that changes the outcomes of the Story and Script categories. Plus, can you really pick a satirical parody film over something that’s completely serious?
    Who wins now?

  5. johnmason says:

    To me, yes, The Fifth Element is an original story…that rips bits and pieces here and there from movies I’ve seen before, particularly Star Wars. There’s nothing inherently “wrong” with that, but from a story standpoint, it feels a bit like “been-there-done-that”. (Visually, that’s a different story.)

    Sure, Men in Black is adapted from a comic book, but I’ve never read it. (Have you? I actually understand that the comic book is a lot darker than the movie.) In terms of a movie, it was something I’ve never seen before, and I’d wager that a lot of people hadn’t.

    Yes, it was adapted from different source material, but that doesn’t make the original idea any less unique. Odd criteria you have there, IMHO.

  6. johnmason says:

    Oh, and as for The Fifth Element being “completely serious”…really? It seems quite quirky to me.

    And even so, if a satirical parody can never win with you, well…where’ s your sense of humor? :)

  7. johnmason says:

    (As always the opinions expressed in these blogs are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Flickchart or its creators.)


  8. @George Scheaffer – I can appreciate your point about originality, but if you’re going to be strict about that then be prepared to toss out “The Wizard of Oz,” “The Godfather,” “Gone with the Wind,” “The Bridge on the River Kwai,” “Doctor Zhivago,” “The Ten Commandments,” “Ben-Hur,” “The Shawshank Redemption,” “Fight Club,” “The Lord of the Rings” and a whole host of other “unoriginal” movies.

    Besides which, the “Men in Black” feature wasn’t a strict adaptation of the comic book so much as a new story crafted from story elements featured in the comic series. Give the writers some credit for what they did, including changing the tone and even some of the key plot points. If they’d hewed more closely to the source material, it may have come across as little more than a sillier “X-Files” knockoff and not a fresh-feeling adventure.

    As for the idea of satirical parody, there is first a need to distinguish between the two. A satire uses humor to make a point; a parody is mere mockery for laughter’s sake. “Men in Black” was a satire of conspiracy theories, but it isn’t a parody. Satire is actually fairly high brow in nature; it seeks to criticize through humor. If you’re unconvinced, though, and wish to toss out satires, then be prepared to lose “M*A*S*H,” “Gulliver’s Travels,” “Thank You for Smoking,” (all three of which were also so “unoriginal” as to be based on novels), the Monty Python features, and quite a lot more.

  9. johnmason says:

    Well said, Travis.