Twenty-two years after the release of “The Fifth Element” (May 1997), we still have one question: What in the world was that?
Luc Besson’s ( director of “Leon the Professional”) flamboyant, over-the-top sci-fi epic, starring a blond Bruce Willis, an androgynous Chris Tucker, an oddly coiffed Gary Oldman and an always unusual Milla Jovovich who all left viewers stunned. Some loved it, some hated it, but it was a box office hit around the world (for many years, the biggest French cinema export ever), and it remains a cult favorite today.
The famous flying taxi is based on the French comic book published in 1994, “Valerian and Laureline – The circles of power.” Besson enlisted influential French comic book artists Jean Giraud (a.k.a. Moebius) and Jean-Claude Mézières to design his futuristic universe.
In case you didn’t know, Luc Besson is a huge fan of comic books. In fact, it was his work on The Fifth Element that opened the doors for him to work on Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets years later.
The New York scenes were created using a combination of CGI (for the flying cars), live action (the people), and scale models (the buildings). The film has style oozing from every orifice with its great visual effects at the time, both practical and CGI, and its staggering production design. In fact, a lot of the scenes of New York City were actually model buildings that were nearly reaching 20-feet high. It took a team of 80 workers and five months to complete the models. Not quite as long as a real city, but it’s cool to know how much work went into it. Most of the practical effects used for the cars were done with the actors inside and had camera rigs to simulate the gravity-defying effects of the flying vehicles. The cab and cop car were inspired by the famous checkered cabs and old police cruisers of New York City.
If you’re obsessed with the film, or just the futuristic taxi, you can find model kits on the internet to feed your sci-fi passion starting around $25. Or if you’re a sci-fi freak, you can order a more realistic version cast in resin for $300 and up.