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Interstella 5555 is certainly not the first attempt to turn an album into a full length movie (you’re got The Wall and Yellow Submarine to name two), nor is it the first time Japan and France have collaborated in animation (Uly-seeee-eeeeeeeeee-eeeee-es). You might not know this (I certainly didn’t), but manga is absolutely HUGE in France, making up around half of all comics published there.
That over and done with, the movie proper actually begins. So listen up, here’s the story, about a blue band who live in a blue world. And all day and night and everyone they know is blue, like them, inside and outside. I’m just going to go ahead and call the band the Crescendolls, even though they only get given that name later on in the movie. The Crescendolls are keyboardist/vocalist Octave, Arpegius on lead guitar, Baryl the drummer and Stella, who’s the bassist and possibly some kind of universal constant because I swear to God every last female character in this thing looks exactly like her.
Arpegius flees, managing to knock out a few of the attackers, while the aliens gather up the remaining unconscious band members.
Eh, we should be so lucky. Our intrepid space hero is actually named Shep (Shep? Really? Space Hero Shep? Shep of the Cosmos? Shep, the Doom of Worlds?) who we first see polishing his guitar shaped spaceship from the outside. As character introductions go, I’ve certainly seen worse. Shep sings “Digital Love” and inside his ship we see a load of Crescendolls merchandise and a big ass poster of Stella over his bed. Shep lies on his bed and daydreams about dancing with her and it’s pretty clear that he wants nothing more than to get Inter Stella I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry. He’s awoken by the distress call and one of the blue dudes gives him a very succint plot summary of the last two music videos. Horrified, Shep runs a few diagnostic checks to ensure that Shep’s ship’s ship-shape and blasts off after the alien ship. He follows it into a portal that takes him through a cosmic dimension so acid-trippy that Shep’s lucky he doesn’t turn into a Star Baby and emerges out the other side with his ship badly damaged. The alien ship arrives at earth and makes its re-entry, transforming into a jumbo jet in the process. Meanwhile, Shep crash lands in a forest and is knocked unconscious.
Meanwhile, the still-unconscious Crecendolls are put through a conveyor built system that spray paints their skin that weird utterly unnameable and undefinable colour that white people are. Except Octave, who gets to be black, presumably because he has an Afro.
I spent five goddamned hours trying to come up with a joke about this situation that wouldn’t get me blacklisted by the Southern Poverty Law Centre and I got nothing so let’s just move on.
This whole sequence is set to “Harder Better Faster Stronger” which is probably the best known song from Discovery, not least because it was memorably covered by ohhhhhhhhh crap here we go…
Okay so we finally see our villain for the first time, Earl de Darkwood, who is in the unique position of having a last name that’s too evil and a first name that’s not evil enough. Darkwood takes the brainwashed aliens to a recording studio where he introduces them to a young record exec. The exec extends his hand but the Crecendolls just stare blankly into space, clearly drugged out of their minds. Since this is nothing out of the ordinary in the music business, they get to work recording their first album. Their music is so awesome that they instantly become the most successful and beloved band on earth.
Meanwhile Shep has managed to make his way to the city from the crash site and stands on a hill, looking over this alien world.
Wandering through the darkened streets, Shep sees posters for the Crescendolls everywhere and realises that his people’s music has been appropriated by the music industry (take a number, pally). Darkwood plans a massive concert in an open air stadium and appears before the crowd to rapturous applause.
As the concert starts we get an absolutely kickass sequence where Shep jetpacks out of the sky and then crashes the stage, using a remote control device to break the mind control of Octave, Baryl and Arpegius. The crowd is aghast, presumably thinking that the Crecendolls have started beefing with the Blue Man Group.
Unfortunately, Darkwood gets to Stella before Shep can free and they have to escape without her.
Shep and the three male band-members escape in a van, pursued by two of Darkwood’s bodyguards. The goons’ car collides with an oncoming articulated truck and their car explodes, but not before one of them manages to shoot Shep in the back. Fatally wounded, Shep manages to drive the van to safety. Meanwhile, the two bodyguards limp from the wreckage of the car, metal showing beneath torn skin, their eyes flowing red.
Why no “You whores!” joke? Bored with it. Simple as.
Meanwhile, Darkwood puts all his energy into promoting Stella’s solo career now that her bandmates have been freed by an ally from their home planet.
Darkwood takes the still-brainwashed Stella to a fashion show where she can watch her own clones parading past wearing various different outfits.
Seriously, what is up with these character designs?
Later, at an awards ceremony, the Crescendolls win the award for best new band which everyone is super happy about, even Daft Punk who were competing against them.
Darkwood collects a golden record but Baryl is in the crowd and he manages to break Stella’s mental controls and she flees the stage. Octave has a taxi waiting for them outside and they head to an abandoned warehouse. Inside, they find Arpegius and Shep, who ain’t doing so good. Shep and Stella have a…mind meld? I think? They go dancing together in his mindscape and I think the idea is that she’s falling in love with him but her expression would have to change for me to be sure and clearly modern animation techniques just aren’t there yet. After this, Shep dies. Wow. I guess you really shouldn’t meet your heroes.
The band drive out into the countryside to bury Shep’s body and really fuck with the heads of future archaelogists. They bury him and then his bright blue glowing spirit appears overhead and then flies off into the stars
So. What’re four aliens trapped on Earth with nothing but a van to do?
While that would no doubt be awesome, they decide to get to the bottom of just who Darkwood is and why he abducted them from their home planet. They drive down many dark and windy country roads until finally they reach Darkwood manor.
They break in and uncover a secret passage when Baryl tries to turn on a lamp. Because that’s how you keep a secret passage secret. By making the trigger that opens it something that someone would do naturally without thinking. Deep in the bowls of the manor they find a book that explains everything. I’d say that’s kind of a cheat but this a movie that has no dialogue so I’ll give them a pass on the use of the Encyclopedia Expositiania. So here’s the deal: Darkwood is an immortal who’s been alive for thousands of years. He’s been abducting musicans from other planets and disguising them as humans, using their talent to win gold records.
Once Darwood has 5,555 gold records this will grant him the power to conquer the universe.
Okay, so the four get captured by Da Terminadas and brought before Darkwood who’s conducting the final ritual that involves a giant metal pillar with the golden discs encased in it and a big glowing space for a person and…and…I…I have no idea what the fuck I’m watching here.
So Darkwood puts Stella in the glowing person slot because apparently that’s needed for the ritual? So…why were you already conducting the ritual before Stella was even captured? Surely you should have been out looking for her to get her to complete the ritual instead of enacting the ritual that wouldn’t work without her? Unless you somehow knew the Crescendolls would find their way to Castle Duckula in the middle of the night just in time for the ritual and that your cyborgs would capture her at that exact moment…oh wait, let me guess.
All part of your plan. Yeah. Sure. Moving on. So Arpegius manages to to grab a gun and shoot the two cyborgs and rescue Stella. Darkwood gets knocked into a pit and falls to his doom. I like a villain who respects the classics, so points there. Darkwood’s death triggers a volcanic eruption sure, sure, seems legit and the Crescendolls have to make tracks out of there before their albums seriously increase in value. Now, here’s a big problem with this movie. Our villain is dead, our main conflict has been resolved and everything else should just be narrative tidying up. But there’s still three tracks, or around a quarter of the movie’s run-time, left to go. Not helping matters is the fact that the album front-loads the good stuff and leaves the filler to end which means that the final act of the movie is a bit of a slog.
The band then decide to break into the recording studio where Darkwood has stored their of their old lives on data disks which they need to get back…even though they seem to have gotten their memories back already so what even the hell?
Weirdly, they send in Octave alone and he gets tazered by the security guards so badly that he reverts to his natural blue skin colour. The security guys freak out because a) it’s a frickin’ alien and b) they tazered a guy who wasn’t actually black and now there might even be some kind of legal consequences.
So now the authorities get involved and, after studying the ruins of Darkwood’s manor, they piece together what happened. Unlike in a lot of sci-fi where the government tries to keep this kind of thing tightly under wraps, the nightly news actually informs the population that for centuries, mankind’s greatest musicians were actually brainwashed aliens in the service of an immortal warlock seeking to amass enough gold records to conquer the universe.
Shep’s ship is also found and repaired to allow it to take the Crescendolls back to their home planet, and the motion is voted on in the United Nations and passes.
Our heroes return to their home planet and resume to concept from where they left off. Their music gets broadcast back to Earth and both planets rock out in harmony.
Aaaaaaand then we zoom out until we see that the entire story took place in the mind of a small boy who was listening to a Daft Punk record.