Luc Besson’s 1997 film The Fifth Element concerns the efforts of two characters, played by Bruce Willis and Milla Jovovich, to find the fifth element and activate four powerful stones, which represent four other powerful elements. The “fifth element” in the title refers to “love,” which we discover in the film’s climactic finale when Bruce Willis’ character kisses Milla Jovovich’s character and confesses his affection for her.
I hated that ending.
Maybe it was because I was more cynical at the time. Maybe it was because I didn’t believe the relationship between Bruce Willis and Milla Jovovich, or maybe the movie simply didn’t give the characters enough time to build a believable relationship. For whatever reason, I found the gibberish ending cheesy enough to obliterate an otherwise perfectly decent pop sci-fi film.
By making so much of Netflix’s sci-fi series Sense8 about romantic love, the Wachowskis also ran the risk of sinking an otherwise great sci-fi idea with squishy nonsense. Ultimately, however, it works. It works because it’s believable. Because, in reality, Earth-shattering love is not subtle. It is not nuanced. It is big and sloppy and clumsy and sometimes cheesy, and the Wachowskis understand that. They understand profound love, I believe, because they also understand profound heartbreak, and the kind of over-the-top, romance-novel affection that burbles out of Sense8 could only be written by two people who know that devastation.