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Sprinkle a little Stardust on your life
Member Name: silverbird44
Date: 08/03/10, updated on 08/03/10 (47 review reads)
Advantages: Plot, characters, imagery, script
Disadvantages: It didn't go on forever!
*Film only review*
The fantasy film is a slightly hit and miss sort of creation. For every Lord of the Rings or Princess Bride, you have a slew of generic sword-and-sorcery epics which are instantly forgettable. Looking at the write up for Stardust, you might suspect more of the same - pretty as a picture hero navigates limp plot and poor script in effort to rescue marginally interesting heroine. You would expect that, until you saw the name Neil Gaiman. Then you would know you were in for a rather different ride.
Neil Gaiman is a novelist, graphic novelist and screenwriter, famous for brilliant and off the wall fantasy novels such as Coraline and Neverwhere. He specialises in vividly original stories, fiercely imaginative, where a relatively simple story is told using fantastic characters and dark humour. He wrote Stardust in 1998, with the film following in 2007: and, though I have never read that particular book, I would guess that the voice of the author has translated quite well into this magic little film.
The story begins in the small English village of Wall, a place unremarkable except for the fact that nearby there runs a drystone wall in which lies a portal to another world, the Land of Stormhold. The hero of the story is Tristan (Charlie Cox), native of the village, who out of love for a girl called Victoria (Sienna Miller) crosses the wall in order to seek out a falling star that they saw tracking across the sky. What they do not know to start with is that the star is actually a girl, played by Claire Danes, and that she is also being chased by an evil witch (Michelle Pfeiffer) who wishes to cut out her heart in order to achieve eternal life.
At the same time as Tristan is trying to bring back the star to please his love, the old King of Stormhold (Peter O'Toole) is dying. His four remaining sons each want to be the next King, but to become heir to the throne they must quest and find a magical necklace which has been thrown across the Kingdom. Unbeknownst to them, the flying necklace is actually what knocked the Star out of the sky, and is around her neck - and so the plot threads meet.
The following plot is brilliant, containing flying pirate ships, waltzing stars, magical inns and people being turned into goats, birds and all sorts. But I hate to read spoilers myself, and so if you want to know any more about the plot, I'm afraid you'll just have to watch the film!
The basic plot of Stardust contains nothing entirely new - a boy going on a quest, discovering himself, becoming a man, fighting an evil witch. But the way in which it is decorated and executed is absolutely beautiful. You have a star made human, which glows when it is happy: a ship, but one that flies through the clouds and harvests lightning: a witch who eats stars to stay looking young, and ages with every bit of magic she uses. Additionally, the story moves at decent speed - it did not feel like we had been sitting in front of the telly for nearly two hours (with advert breaks).
Like the plot, the characters are also a cut above the ordinary fantasy sketches. Firstly, the main character, Tristan. For much of the film he is a clumsy boy, with a bad hair cut and scruffy clothing - far from the heroic action man often beloved by fantasy writers. More than that, he is absolutely real. The bit that made the character for me was when he was about to be involved in a fight, and there was a brief shot of his hand shaking where it grasped the sword. Fear is not something that heroes seem to experience often. Of the fenale leads, the apparent heroine is self obsessed, childish and shallow, while the star, despite being an ethereal being of incredible beauty, also has frequent tantrums when being told what to do. And the evil witch? She is just deliciously nasty.
As well as the well drawn main characters, the supporting characters also lend a healthy three dimensional feel to the imaginary world of Stormhold. I can't write too much about the characters of the seven Stormhold Princes without giving too much away, but enough to say that they are very irritating and very funny. The many witches that are met on route and their accompanying servants also provide some dark humour and make your skin crawl very efficiently. And special mention goes to Robert De Niro, playing rather against type as a frills and feathers loving cross dressing pirate captain who is trying to protect his image.
From the characters to the actors who inhabit them - and overall, the actors do a good job. Charlie Cox was an unknown when the film was made, but is charmingly believable in the role of Tristan. Clare Danes is glowingly lovely as the star - beautiful, but with enough spark and flaws that the audience can engage with her. Robert De Niro and Michelle Pfeiffer stay (just about) on the right side of ham and seem to be having a lot of fun. Peter O'Toole acts everyone off the screen while lying down (literally). And the Princes play their pompous, self obsessed parts very well. I know a review should be critical, but it's impossible when I can remember no glaring missteps that I would want to criticise.
There are also many other brilliant aspects of the film which deserve mentioning. Firstly there is the imagery of the land of Stormhold. This is not always realistic in the kind of 'could be a photo' way pioneered in Lord of the Rings - you can tell easily what is drawn or computer animated and what is real. But when something is drawn beautifully, why on earth should that matter? So artistically, Stardust takes the biscuit. I also loved the music, as it adds enough tempo and mood to the film without ever becoming too overpowering.
There is a temptation with a film like Stardust to glance at the TV Guide, see the word fantasy and say: ' Oh, it's not for me.' Please don't. You will miss an absolute treat. Because what the breakdown above can't get across is that Stardust has energy, and heart, and drags you into a beautiful imaginary world that genuinely takes you away from your problems for a precious two hours. It expertly balances darkness with sweetness, humour with sincerity, magic and realism. I absolutely adored it. And I think that all those involved in its creation should be very, very proud.
Thanks for reading :)
Duration: 127 minutes
Direction: Matthew Vaughn
Summary: Worth a watch, whoever you are