Upon first viewing this film in the late nineties, I found it confusing, but I figured that was because I was a kid who couldn't understand any underlying themes like my cousin usually kind of could. Even after learning how to search for that kind of symbolism in film and literature, I still don't know if this is one of those kinds of films that can be studied much, if at all, but either way, all I needed was just another viewing with my cousin to explain a bit more of the plot. After that, it made sense, and I liked it a lot.
The film is essentially about this evil sitting out in space that gains power from evil deeds committed either throughout the world or the universe, and attacks Earth once every five thousand years. To stop it, four stones representing certain elements are to be collected and placed in a pyramid around a fifth element, the supreme being representing good or love, to stop the evil heading towards Earth, but if evil stands there, then. . . obviously something bad happens.
Unfortunately, considering this is directed by Luc Besson, the same person who also directed The Transporter, I'm not even sure if this movie does have much hidden symbolic stuff to look for. A lot of the messages seem to be pretty clear. That's not a bad thing, it just seems like quite an artsy project despite the action and comedic moments. Here you have a film with a wobbly, penguin-like alien with shitloads of DNA being resurrected as a sexy flat-chested, red-haired woman who knows martial arts and eats more food than that Japanese guy who eats over fifty hot dogs every year, an evil corporate boss with half a head of hair and plastic on his head who deals with evil alien merc creatures and talks to a magic evil orb thing hanging out in space waiting to attack Earth, and a tall blue female opera singer with tentacles coming out of her head who bleeds green blood, and has magic stones that are supposed to help the red-haired chick save the world stuffed inside her stomach somehow.
Oh, and I can't forget about the most annoying character in the film, probably the only thing that is truly bad about the film: Ruby Rhod, the radio DJ with wacky hair, a horrible fashion sense (it is the future, but damn, a full bodied leopard print outfit?), an annoying voice, is an extremely jumpy scaredy cat, and has a scream loud enough to pierce through the sound of an explosion (and still manages to get plenty of women even considering all of that), played by the only actor this character could possibly be played by: Chris Tucker. Other than comic relief, he has no purpose. He essentially does nothing helpful, other than ensure Korben Dallas, played by Bruce Willis, who can usually only act decently in an action film (12 Monkeys being a notable exception) is accompanied to Fhloston Paradise. Thankfully, though, even the movie is self aware that Ruby Rhod is annoying, but it doesn't have the gall to kill him off or let him leave the group. Once he appears, he sticks around until near the end of the movie, so have fun.
Anyway, despite the fact that this film is mostly Science Fiction with some Action and Comedy thrown in the mix, there is even a bit of Fantasy. The fact that the four stones, which represent the four elements, are magical, and require four elements (fire, water, wind, and earth), and the fact that there is a big ball full of evil, and something good, a fifth element, must stop it, essentially makes this film Fantasy as well, since there is no scientific process involved. I can also talk about how morality is relative, but it's a movie critical of war and violence. . . even though there is a lot of beating up and blowing up of bad guys by the main characters, but screw it, I agree with the message that war is not always the answer and it's bad that we're one of the few species on the planet that kills itself en masse like we do despite our higher reasoning abilities.
I also like to mention how, since the fifth element, Leeloo, played by Milla Jovovich, seems to represent love, that essentially makes me wonder if Luc Besson ripped off Captain Planet. Seriously, it's the exact same elements: Earth, Fire, Wind, Water, and the additional power of Heart (Love).
But that show sucked, and this film doesn't, so it's all good.