One of the biggest artistic downsides of science fiction franchises is the same thing that executives love about them: consistency. When you go to see a Star Wars, Star Trek, or even a Blade Runner movie, you know roughly what you’re going to get (aesthetically speaking). You can probably guess at the broad strokes of the costumes, world building, and even the storytelling. This predictability means that the “new” installments are less likely to have transformative impact on our culture or the genre. It’s highly unlikely that the newest installment of a decades old sci-fi property could possibly have the impact of a film like The Fifth Element.

Luc Besson’s 1997 film polarized critics and the film was a modest hit by the blockbuster tent pole standards of its day (returning $263 million on a $90 million budget; for context, Mission Impossible doubled that number the year before with a similar cost). 20 years later, the film and its fairly standard sci-fi plot would have been largely forgotten, if not for the film’s style—and particularly—the costumes.

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