- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Here’s a look at some hardware and software that’s available:

The Fifth Element, from Columbia Tristar Home Entertainment for DVD-enabled computers and home entertainment centers, rated PG-13, $29.99; and Halo 2, from Microsoft Studios for Xbox, rated M: content suitable for ages 17 and older, $49.99. This pair of releases is perfect for those looking to spend the weekend watching and then controlling an action hero trying to save Earth from an oppressive extraterrestrial threat.

First, check out “The Fifth Element: Ultimate Edition,” a DVD celebrating French director Luc Besson’s ode to science-fiction epics and comic-book design.

Starring Bruce Willis as cab-driving savior Korben Dallas and Milla Jovovich as the best-looking element ever to appear on a planet, the 126-minute effort arrives in a pristine Superbit format, which means the digitally remastered gem pops off home theater screens thanks to finer resolution and colorful clarity.

After enjoying the battles with Mangalorians and a planet-size orb of evil, I suggest turning on the optional “factoid track” and viewing some of the film again. Viewers will learn this was Mr. Willis’ 30th film, the movie originally was titled “Zaltman Bleros,” and experts believe 50 billion galaxies exist in the visible universe.

Cinema deconstructionists also will appreciate an entire disc devoted to the background of “The Fifth Element.” Included are a section on the singing blue Diva and an excellent featurette on famous French sequential artists Jean-Claude Mezieres and Jean Giraud, whose designs gave the movie life.

The sheer volume of the frenetic soundtrack combined with riveting action scenes should prepare viewers to move from the 23rd to 26th century and take charge of a cybernetic soldier in Halo 2.

The legend of Microsoft Studios’ first-person shooter has been renewed in a great-looking sequel. In it, the Master Chief returns to unleash another round of devastation on the alien enemy named the Covenant.

Though I could appreciate the game’s nuances, which demand that the player carefully seek out and obliterate hostile species using a devastating amount of firepower, the Halo experience was not quite my cup of superheated plasma.

Maybe it was because I recently had tackled the minutiae-rich Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II and the frighteningly delightful Resident Evil 4 and had enjoyed the cinematic moments of the latest “Lord of the Rings” games. I think I just need a more intellectual experience than virtually killing things.

The single-player campaign translates into planet-hopping and taking part in 14 sometimes dizzying missions with the variety of firearms at the Master Chief’s disposal. Each weapon and vehicle has its own variations of effectiveness on certain opponents, though I’ll take a pair of Needlers firing crystalline projectiles any time.

The violent simulation allows the player to pick up the weapons of fallen comrades or the enemy, control a separate weapon with each hand, jump into a turret to blast foes and even use a scope’s zoom function to take out distant targets.

Maximum enjoyment more likely will be found within a dense Xbox Live experience, in which up to 16 players can hook up via a broadband Internet connection for seven variations of combat.

Halo 2 will not disappoint groups of warriors, but it may leave the solo gamer wondering what all the hype was about.

Write to Joseph Szadkowski, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20002, or send e-mail (jszadkowski@washington times.com).

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