I must admit, the Fifth Element is one of my favorite movies. Its one of those "you either love it or hate it" flicks. Alot of people I know took it too seriously and didn't enjoy the sheer genius filmaking, outrageous costume designs (and the people in them) and the glorious sets.
The region 1 disc set the early standard for dvd but has since been surpassed so what does the region 4 version have to offer? Sadly, not much...
From the beginning, I just had this feeling that this disc is not from the same digital master as the region 1 version. I even concluded it wasn't from an english master at that.
What made it obvious? Firstly, no columbia tristar intro as is customary on many of there other titles. Secondly, a very old looking "Gaumount" title lending to some foreign distribution company. Thirdly, and probably the most convincing argument, the opening titles were in French.
Now don't get me wrong, I've had The Rock and know of dvd's ability to display different languages for titling and the like but for the life of me I couldn't get the damn disc to show english titling.
Onto the actual transfer itself. Not nearly as good as the region 1 transfer, particularly in all levels of the video. Shadow detail was there but not to a similar extent on the region 1 disc. Color was definetly there. Sharpness was there, but alot more than necessary and because of this it was a detriment to the transfer.
What stood out the most was the brightness. Alot of scenes, if not throughout the whole disc, were overly bright to the extent that areas of the screen became white. The over-enhanced sharpening combined with the brightness made some scenes unbearable to watch in comparison to the region 1 disc. Peoples skin tones would tend to become whiter, background sand walls would also be whiter and just lighting overall had the same effect.
But in retrospect, many other scenes had bright beautiful colors of the sets and costumes were a great contrast to each other. And then there were some that were very grainy, almost to the extent of noise. Hmmph.
Not only did the opening credits appear in french, so did the default audio track. It took a while for any actual speech to occur within the movie and it surprised me that it was french.
This could have been because the french track was encoded on tracks 1 & 2 with english on tracks 3 & 4. Usually its the other way around and maybe the player just dumped what it found on track 1 but it was very strange indeed.
I switched back to the standard english 5.1 track and it was generally good. It did seem different to the region 1 version but only a subtle difference. I can't say if the same audio master was used but with the strangeness that has occured in the video at the moment I'd argue the fact that it indeed isn't.
I have to honeslty say that I wasn't concentrating on the audio as much as I should have but there is alot of activity from all channels so its not a shy soundtrack at all.
The fifth element is a great movie IMHO. But this transfer is a let down in comparison to all the other Columbia Tristar discs out there. I have a strong feeling that CTHV Australia didn't know what they were getting when importing this disc.
A great movie with an ordinary disc. I'm a little sad actually. weeps