Theatrical Review: Stardust

In this screen adaptation of Neil Gaiman and Charles Vess’ fairy tale/novel, we see the story of a mystical world in England called Stormhold, that’s guarded by a wall from humans from the outside coming in. A young man named Tristan, who has more to him than meets the eye, has fallen in love with a young girl who doesn’t feel the same for him, and one night, as Tristan is trying to prove his love, a falling star falls past the wall, and Tristan proclaims his love in such a way that he promised to go retrieve the star for the girl who he’s courting, and from there… Tristan enters a world unlike any he’s ever seen before and learns a few lessons along the way.

Now, right off the bat, I’m gonna tell you this sort’ve thing isn’t my normal cup of tea, but with director Matthew Vaughn behind it (Vaughn directed the remarkably cool movie Layer Cake) it got me quite a bit more interested. I certainly respect Neil Gaiman’s talent, and certainly think he’s a fine writer, though I’m mostly familiar with his comic work, his work on the whole just hasn’t grabbed me the way that it does most genre fans. This isn’t saying it’s bad at all, it’s just not my cup of tea.

But with that said, and like last year’s MirrorMask, I’ve gotta say, Stardust is still a very good movie with my only bone of contention being that it’s probably just a bit too long, but other than that, this is a very entertaining piece of work. Matthew Vaughn has perfectly realized this world of Stormhold, and it’s all out there on the screen. And though I’ve never read the actual book, the script and dialogue certainly ring true to what I know of Neil Gaiman.

It’s really a beautiful film to watch, with a lot of great visual effects. My favorite of these being a flying pirate ship that catches lightning from the skies. there’s one scene involving this ship where it’s attempting to “land” in the water that’s just very cool to watch. There’s a lot of great set pieces in the film as well, one of the first that really impressed me was watching a witch (played by Michelle Pfeiffer) setting up a roadside inn and planning to use that to catch the star that Tristan has gone after. There’s a real nice convergence of visual effects, editing, and sound and music that really gives that scene quite a charge.

Good performances around in this film. Charlie Cox plays Tristan, and though I’m not that familiar with this guy, he’s certainly a very engaging personality in this film. Claire Danes plays the “star” that Tristan goes after, Evaine and she does a pretty nice job with the part. I already mentioned Michelle Pfeiffer above, and she’s certainly having fun chewing the scenery here. And Robert DeNiro plays the captain of the pirate ship, who has his “softer” side that’s the sort’ve of thing that I don’t know really works on him that well, considering who he is, but I still give him credit for going all out with it. Look for Peter O’Toole near the start of the film and there’s a great little part that Ricky Gervais has here as well.

We saw a late show of this last night, and honestly I was surprised to see more people in the audience than just the crew I was with. This is a very odd film to picture a mass audience going to, just because it’s different from other fantasy movies in that there’s nothing that’s real kid-centric here (though nothing objectionable as well)- but I don’t know, I’d like to see this do well, but could certainly see it get lost real easily out there too. While it’s subject matter, being this fantasy/fairy tale isn’t exactly my bag, I still honestly think it’s a terrific movie and wouldn’t hesitate in the slightest to recommend it. It’s been tossed out this past week that Matthew Vaughn’s next big project will be a film version of Marvel Comic’s Thor– seeing what Vaughn did here, I really do hope this happens…

About Darren Goodhart

Darren Goodhart is a 44-year old St. Louis-based Graphic Designer and Illustrator (and former comic book artist) who's been seeing movies all his life, but on an almost weekly basis in theatres for the last 20 years and owns nearly 1,000 DVDs for his home theatre. He's learned a lot about film over the 20 year period, and has taken his appreciation beyond the mainstream. His favorite types of film are mostly genre entertainment, but he also enjoys a wide range of drama, action and cult-y stuff from around the world, and is currently re-discovering a love affair with lower budget exploitation and genre films from the 70s and early 80s. He doesn't try to just dismiss any film, but if there's a bias against one, he'll certainly tell you that in the space of his reviews.

14. August 2007 by Darren Goodhart
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