On a distant planet in a far off galaxy, a band of four musicians, Octave on keyboards, Baryl on drums and Arpegius and Stella on guitars, perform a huge concert. Just as things are going well, the concert is rudely interrupted by an army of troops who descend from the heavens and render everyone unconscious - including the band. Then the band are kidnapped and transported through a star gate to the planet Earth, where a nightmare awaits, all orchestrated by the wicked Earl de Darkwood...
Daft Punk's Discovery album was one of the musical highlights of 2001, and just as stories are set to music, the French duo, Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel De Homem-Christo, teamed up with co-writer and producer Cédric Hervet and veteran Japanese comic book artist Leiji Matsumoto to set their album to a story. What they came up with is an endlessly colourful, science fiction spectacular, which takes a skewed look at the recording industry but also provides the seriously catchy music with some perfect visual accompaniment.
If you used to watch Marine Boy, Battle of the Planets or Ulysses 31 when you were growing up, then you'll appreciate the retro look of the cartoons here. Spaceships, robots, dreamlike sequences and a glossy, shiny look are all on offer. What happens to our heroes is that they are manufactured as a pop band for Earth's consumption, complete with a makeover that helps them look more human. Never fear, because to the rescue flies Shep, a pilot who has a crush on Stella, and resolves to save the band, now named the Crescendolls, from corporate hell (like signing endless autographs!) and bring them back home.
The songs, with their combination of futuristic and 1970s disco sound, fit the animation so well that it looks as though Daft Punk conceived the project as a film all along. For example, "Harder Better Faster Stronger" works superbly with the scenes where the band are being turned into The Crescendolls, complete with human flesh tones being sprayed on and a wardrobe being selected by computer and machine. The villain, Darkwood, is at first a mercenary manager exploiting his musicians for financial gain, but there's more to him than that.
The attitude to the music industry is that typical artist's grievance about how much of their work goes to line the pockets of the record execs, but the story takes that so far that Darkwood becomes a science fiction villain in the customary mould, here using the gold discs from his artists' success to conquer the universe. Somehow. The film is a little fuzzy on the details of the evil plan, but just go with it and enjoy the other details, such as Baryl managing to hit the cymbal one more time before falling unconscious, or the young fan watching aghast before the TV when the subterfuge is revealed. This really is a joy, and if you think it's being too tough on music execs, one of them turns out to be an OK guy after all. Interstella 5555 may be like viewing just over an hour's worth of music videos, but when they're of this quality and vitality who's complaining?