Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Movie Review: Interstella 5555

Interstella 5555: The 5tory of the 5ecret 5tar 5ystem
Unrated
4 Slimes
Copyright Toei Animation & Virgin Records 2003

THE CHARACTERS

Stella: The bass guitarist and female band member who is probably the main motivation for Shep to rescue everyone. She’s a bit on the unlucky side since she is the last person to be freed from mind control and is used to power up Earl’s cylinder thingy.

Shep: A space pilot, who is big fan of the band in the film and possibly a bit loopy, considering his delusional daydream for Stella. During his rescue mission, he is killed by one of Earl’s Terminator guards. However, that doesn’t stop his ghost from saving the band later on in the film.

Arpegius: The guitarist who surprising is not the main hero of the film. I normally come to expect this sort of thing with my anime after awhile.

Baryl: The drummer. How old is he anyways? He looks like a little kid almost.

Octave: The keyboardist and lead singer. The bad guys decide to make him to the token black member of the group when they recolor the group.

Earl de Darkwood: Now there’s a generic villain name! He’s evil band manager who kidnaps aliens to earn Gold Records, which will help him achieve global conquest. He suffers a Disney related death by falling from a great height.

LESSONS LEARNED
+ Alien devices cannot produce a signal able to penetrate human skin.
+ Aliens make good fertilizer.
+ Entire alien planets will stop everything they are doing to listen to one band play.
+ Today’s musicians are so bad that we must now kidnap alien ones.
+ Fanboys are our only hope to save bands from intergalactic kidnappers.
+ Gold Records are the key to universal domination.
+ Once the music cult leader falls to his death, his followers will do a lemming stampede off to follow him.
+ Paint can change your skin pigment.
+ Secret passages do not need hidden levers or keys to open them up.
+ Sheep love Daft Punk music.
+ The inside of a spaceship and a wormhole looks like a rave.

STUFF TO WATCH FOR
1 min – It’s like 2001, but with less pretty colors!
4 min – Yes, rock on with that tambourine you badass.
5 min – This is why NASA isn’t allowed to play music while they work.
10 min – FREEZE FRAME! Doctor Wily?! Is that you?
11 min – Hey, there weren’t any security cameras able to get pictures from those angles.
18 min – Stop the press! There was an actual sound effect in this film.
21 min – And his global conquering plan begins through power of music!
24 min – Whoa! Cheering now? The sound effect quota as skyrocketed recently!
27 min – RANDOM ACTS OF VIOLENCE AGAINST A BAD DRIVER!
30 min – Ah ha! You guys couldn’t stay away from a cameo could you?
41 min – Yes, the villain’s diary must be sitting out in the open and easily spotted. It would be too hard for the heroes to figure out the back-story otherwise.
50 min – I love how the world is just so accepting of this.
59 min – Yes, Power Rangers poses!

NOTABLE QUOTES
What quotes? No one talked during the entire damn film. Then again, why is this even here if that’s the case?

THE PLOT

It’s not often that one encounters a film like this. It is a film, according to Wikipedia, that is a visual realization of a music album. In this case, it’s Daft Punk’s Discovery album. It is also an anime produced by Leiji Matsumoto, the man behind Captain Harlock and Galaxy Express 9999 (None of which I have seen). It’s an interesting concept to say the least and deserves a look into it. As such, let’s examine this unique feature.

Our film opens up on some alien planet where a bunch of blue skinned aliens (Get Avatar out of your mind right now) are performing a concert with the hit title, One More Time, is playing. Strangely, the lyrics are in English, despite this being another planet somewhere outside of our solar system from the looks of it. Are singing in Rigellian or something?

Anyhow, as the band plays on, a spaceship shows up on their planet and launches a bunch mini-crafts full of Stormtroopers. They invade the concert and start launching gas bombs that knock out everyone, while Aerodynamic plays (whose playing that music now that band is out of it?). The mysterious baddies take the band with them and blast off back to their HQ.

Meanwhile, a distress signal from the planet’s… whatever base is sent to help recover the band. The person who picks it up is someone called Shep, what looks like a fanboy of the band and is singing the next song, Digital Love; who decides to help out. He takes off after the enemies in his electric guitar spaceship, but ends up crashing when his ship takes damage going through the wormhole the villains use. Where does the ship crash and where do the baddies take the band? Why Earth of course! Apparently we have technology able to cross entire galaxies to kidnap alien bands. Well as long as it is being put to good use.

The band is taken into some kind of strange lab (Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger is the next song to play) as the baddies start changing them into something more Earth appropriate. Their minds are warp; their skin and hair is dyed human colors; and they are given more human looking clothing, plus some weird looking shades that look like they have some sort of mind control device attached to them. The result of this makeover is that they look like some silly 80’s band, though the vocalist who is now black looks like he stepped out of the 70’s.

The evil leader that kidnapped them, called Earl de Darkwood, becomes their band manger and takes them to recording studio to produce their first hit, One More Time from earlier in the film. From there, we are set on a musical montage, to the song Crescendolls, as the band, also amusingly now called The Crescendolls, rises in fame across the globe and Earl rakes in the dough. I’m more surprise by the fact that the band is so popular and hit with everyone, considering the fact that they smile and they always look like they are in a daze. While brainwashing while do that people I suppose.

The next song, Nightvision, plays as we see the band is reaching their limits and are completely exhausted by the events that have been going on. I wonder if they are even getting any sleep at this point since they don’t even look like they had a break? Also, Shep, who is still alive, is wandering the streets of some city and discovers what has happened to his favorite band, more importantly to Stella, the female member who he is in love with. Then with a dramatic hand and fist clench pose, similar to the cover from The Dark Knight Strikes Back #1, he vows to rescue and save his beloved band and out of his league girl.

Following this, Superheroes begins as the band begins a live concert in front of hundreds cheering them on and an orchestra backing them. What better time than now for something to crash this shindig? Right on que, Shep shows up and manages to free almost free all the band from this mind control shades. However, when he is about to rescue Stella, Earl jump right behind the two of them. Strange thing I know, but how is alien technology not able to produce a device that send out signals that can go through a human being? My remote control is more powerful than his gizmo that he uses to free the others from their sunglasses.

Anyhow, Shep and other band members make a break for it in a van. The bad guys give chase, but stop by a semi truck when they aren’t paying attention to the road. However, the baddies survive when it turns out they are Terminators in disguise! Seriously.

Despite being 3 band members short, Earl still continues with whatever plans he has by just using Stella. Well I’ll give him points for still trying despite a massive setback. The High Life plays as we have another montage of Stella’s success as Earl takes her to an award ceremony to receive a Gold Record for the One More Time song. As they are up on stage, one of the band members hits with a signal that breaks the mind control device, allowing her to escape. What I love is how Earl is so wrapped up in the Gold Record and making silly evil looking faces as he stares at it, he is clueless that she manages to sneak off stage in front of a giant audience and he never notices or no one ever points it out to him until it’s too late.

Stella is taken to the rest of the band and Shep at an abandon warehouse (Something About Us plays now). Sad news is that Shep is dying from a bullet wound he received early when he helped the others escape. He manages to share one moment with his love Stella and helps remind the band of who they really are before passing on. The band drives off somewhere far away from the city and gives Shep a proper burial, allowing his spirit to pass on (Voyager plays now).

As the band drives off, not knowing what to do next, they find a sign for Darkwood Manor. Stella remembers finding a card earlier that Earl dropped that had name on it. With no other choice, they decide to check it out. Once there, the card opens the door for them and they start exploring the place once in. During their exploration, they discover a book called Veridis Quo, which is also the title of the song currently playing. It’s the back story of the Earl, who is somehow centuries old (I don’t know the reason though), who’s been kidnapping aliens since the era Mozart and turning them into human musicians (It looks like Jimmi Hendrix was an alien according to this movie). Every time he gets a gold record for the artist (How old is the concept of a Gold Record anyhow?), he kills the alien by dropping them into a pit and having them fall to their death. The old Disney Kill method, of course! After he apparently gets 5,555 records, it’ll give some him some sort of power to rule the universe.

Turns out that they are 5,555 band/musician to earn a gold record, so Earl’s plan can now happen. Just as the thought hits them, they are surrounded by his guards and taken to him and his cult below the manor. There, he takes Stella, shoves her into this slot in a giant cylinder, and begins reading a chant from the Veridis Quo. The book starts to glow and Arpegius, the guitarist for the band, makes a break for it to rescue her, after destroying Earl’s two Terminator robots. He knocks Earl and the last Gold Record into the pit (which causes the rest of music cult to follow in after Earl for some reason); and then pulls Stella from the cylinder.

The device/cylinder fails to do whatever it was going to do and decides to set off the self-destruction for the entire place (Short Circuit starts now). The band escapes the place and takes a look at the book more closely now that they recovered it from Earl. They get a better understanding of the technology and where their memories have been archived in (earlier, Earl had erased a bunch of their memory, but decided to keep it on 4 disks for safe keeping). Octave, the vocalist of the band, breaks into the record company where they were signed on earlier to retrieve the master recording for One More Time, which is where the disks were placed. As he grabs them and escapes, the security guards run into them and taser him when he reaches into his coat pocket. The shock is enough to change him back to his original blue skin color, surprising the guards.

Face to Face plays, as a huge police investigation is launched in response to the discovery of who the band really is and the discovery of Shep’s ship. The entire world is told the truth of what happened to them and why they are really here, showing the evidence from the book and destroyed manor. Instead of governments from all over the planet wanting to hold them forever and dissect them to figure out what they are, everyone just decides to send them back home. After returning them back to their normal form and giving them everything they need to return home, they blast off in Shep’s repaired ship as their fans cheer them on.

The final song plays, Too Long, as heroes venture back home. Seems like everything is wrapping up nice and easy, right? WRONG! As they head through the wormhole back to their home, Earl’s essence/spirit comes to attack them and destroy the ship. However, Shep’s spirit shows up and holds off Earl long enough for the group to make it back home, where everyone eagerly awaits them. As soon as they arrive though, they start playing for a concert. Now that’s dedication! Back on Earth, they managed to somehow pick up the band’s concert and are now playing it across the globe. Don’t know how that works, but okay. The film then closes out the band unveils as statue to Shep in memory and a remix for Aerodynamic plays during the credits.

So how was the film exactly? It’s one of more unique and different experiences I have had with a film in the fact that visuals and music tell the story. It feels like a music video movie (which it probably might be). I found the time rather enjoyable and experience well worth sitting through. Daft Punk’s music is great (though personally, I didn’t like two of the songs), the animation was excellent, and the story rather enjoyable, with an occasional leap of logic.

As for the bad, well, there are 2 problems. A lot of character models seem to be overused in this film and it becomes rather noticeable, especially with the more goofy looking characters in the background. The other problem isn’t really an issue with the content or quality of the film, but with what the film is. It is a movie with no dialogue and just techno music by Daft Punk playing with the occasional sound effect, with a reliance on the music and the animation to tell what is going on. Lots of people may not like that kind of film or may find it difficult to follow along with what is happening due to no one speaking. This could seriously drive people from it and make it more of a hard sell to an audience outside of big movie lovers or anime & Daft Punk fans. It doesn’t hurt the quality film, it’s just a problem people could have with it.

Despite the film not having a big target audience, it is still a very well made and enjoyable film. I’m not sure if there are any other films like this, because I would love to check them out. Until then, I’ll be sticking with this film.

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