Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Review: Stardust

I posted to the Horror list about the film first, as there's been a conversation going on about it since its release. Suitably, I spoke of the horror elements first:

A song by Take That! The horror, the horror! Without Robbie Williams even! Steve Bissette thought the Titanic nod was more horrifying, but I thought that was a bit more of a wink than a nod. You can read his much longer review (well, it's Steve) here.

The short review: fun. There's no way any film could match the extraordinary beauty of Charles Vess' images. Perhaps an animated film that simply put his drawings in motion, but the film captures the feel of his illustrations with some success. I'm a bit prejudiced, obviously. I have a print of Vess' illustration for the anthology The Green Man (signed) hanging in front of me as I type this. If I look back over either shoulder, I'll see one or the other of his cards framed: a witch flying over a moonlit sky, a black cat sitting like Jiji on the end of her broom, or Puck swinging on a wind blown tree, laughing madly.

Putting that aside, I enjoyed the film which follows the source tale much more than the previews indicated. Yes, De Niro as the air pirate, Captain Shakespeare, is a big interpolation, but he's eminently entertaining. His ship is a good bit more steam-punk looking that the original crafts, but it fits within director Matthew Vaughn's less magical imagining of the story. Faerie is far less faerie-filled, which is a pity. Perhaps he feared it becoming too fey -- I doubt any of the viewers would have minded. We had the two teens in front of us who clapped enthusiastically at the end, waved their lit cell phones in the air to the anthemic Take That song (the new lighters, I guess) and afterward, in the ladies room, continued to gush. In fact, the one gal said if she had to choose between seeing the Harry Potter movie again and Stardust, she would probably choose the latter, even considering "the absolute gorgeousness of Gary Oldman" (Sirius Black in the Harry Potter films).

Michelle Pfeiffer is a lot of fun. The fantastic supporting cast is drawn from just about every BritCom in the last ten years and there's also the always reliable Rupert Everett (but not enough of him!). Claire Danes is adequate as the star Yvaine, but she lacks the sparkle needed to really make the role more than just an object. The less said about Siena Miller, the better, but she's hardly essential. Charlie Cox is likable as Tristran and grew on me over the course of the film, although I couldn't help wishing that Ben Barnes, who played Tristran's father Dunstan as a young man, had been chosen instead (he's going to be Prince Caspian in the next two Narnia films, so we'll be seeing more of him).

No Tori tree -- how sad is that!

There's less blood over all (except for one good joke) but more violence. I think the popularity of the Pirates franchise had an effect on the shape of the movie. It follows what I have begun to think of as Neil's formula (I won't put it here as it will spoil the film for anyone who hasn't seen it), but all these quibbles aside, I did enjoy it. Oh, the bombastic score is one more quibble, as it can be overbearing at times.

Bottom line -- a movie with some magic and imagination is a rarity these days. If it's not as good as it could be, well, few films live up to the beauty of a good book. Books just have so much more they can accomplish. Most viewers (who ask far less of films) will be delighted and amazed, charmed by the story and amused by the humor. I enjoyed it more than this review ends up sounding and I recommend it to anyone who needs a little magic in her life right about now.

And go look at Charles' site!

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