REVIEW: Daft Punk – Interstella 5555: The 5tory of The 5ecret 5tar 5ystem Blu-Ray DVD

By: Jason Shawhan

Daft Punk’s 2003 collaboration with Anime legends Toei Studios (Voltron, Yu-gi-oh, Digimon, Sailor Moon, Dragonball Z, and many other internationally-known series and films including some production work on Hayao Miyazaki’s Princess Mononoke) and designer Leiji Matsumoto (Space Battleship Yamoto) has finally hit Blu-Ray after almost a decade of sublime beats and social allegory, and it’s an essential addition to the library of classic SciFi fans, anime enthusiasts, or househeads.

Immortalized in its “One More Time” video (essentially an extract from this film), Interstella 5555 is the story of an alien band who get bandnapped, turned into white people, then unleashed on an unsuspecting world of pop fans by a corrupt music industry, personified by the evil Earl de Darkwood. The quest to regain their true selves falls upon a devoted fan and spans several worlds and otherworldly technologies, as well as bringing in a mysterious prophecy that deals with the arcane properties of music business sales awards.

Interstella 5555 is a lot of fun; it’s concise and energetic, with great visuals and a lot of heart (which could also be its strong pounding kickdrums), its story is clear (and could serve as a great way to get the kids into dance music from an early age), and it makes for an entertaining experience. The film, billed as “The animated House Musical” (and there should be more, certainly), pays tribute to classic anime design and storyline, while also finding a visual corollary for the blend of styles and eras of sound that Daft Punk’s music represents; it is well-served by the lush encode that the Blu-Ray offers viewers.

There can be soft-looking elements in the transfer, but this is more due to the way the film was designed and animated, rather than a weakness in the encode or a presumed lack of care- if anything, it aims to recapture the textures of Toei and Matsumoto’s classic works to such an extent that they did so on all levels (this also includes the 1.33:1 aspect ratio). As a reflection of the vision of Daft Punk’s thought process, Matsumoto’s character designs, and director Kazuhisa Takenouchi, this Blu-Ray is a leap forward for the viewer and a good way to show off one’s home A/V system.

There’s some nice bonus material included (as well as some additional material that I couldn’t find, but that’s more my own inability to locate Easter Eggs), and the sound options are pretty insane: I prefer the original 2.0 Mix (I’m a purist), but the 5.1 version will turn your subwoofer out. There’s only intermittent use of the surround channels, so again, I’m more partial to the 2.0 mix, but if you love the bass, give the 5.1 track a whirl. It’s a great disc for parties or just for hanging out with.

You can’t get more awesome than the combination of visuals and audio that comprise “Veridis Quo” in this film, or for that matter the surreal joys of “One More Time.” It’s also intriguing to witness “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger” in its original context, before being absorbed into Kanye West’s “Stronger.” The music and the message are in perfect sync, and the homage to anime traditions allow dance music to infiltrate into yet another new arena.

Interstella 5555 is a definite precursor to the work that Guy-Manuel de Homem Christo and Thomas Bangalter would later achieve working on Disney’s Tron Legacy film, and it is an utter joy for fans of Daft Punk, anime, and house music in general. It has the kind of cinematic ambition that we don’t often get to see with most artists, especially given the way that the industry has fallen on such strapped times. So turn out the lights and tap into the outerworld sound of The Crescendolls…

Review copy provided by record label.  Interstella 5555 DVD released October 2011.