Rated PG-13; Directed by Matthew Vaughn; Starring Charlie Cox, Claire Danes, Michelle Pfeiffer, Robert De Niro, Mark Strong, Kate Magowan, Jason Flemyng
Stardust is one of those rare artistic achievements that succeeds in multiple versions. While it was acclaimed as a book, with author Neil Gaiman producing and the wizards of Hollywood creating shining special effects, Stardust: The Movie indeed shines brightly and even surpasses the brilliance of the book.
Amazon.com says Stardust is an utterly charming fairy tale in the tradition of The Princess Bride and The Neverending Story. Neil Gaiman, creator of the darkly elegant Sandman comics and author of The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish, tells the story of young Tristran Thorn and his adventures in the land of Faerie. One fateful night, Tristran promises his beloved that he will retrieve a fallen star for her from beyond the Wall that stands between their rural English town (called, appropriately, Wall) and the Faerie realm. No one ever ventures beyond the Wall except to attend an enchanted flea market that is held every nine years (and during which, unbeknownst to him, Tristran was conceived). But Tristran bravely sets out to fetch the fallen star and thus win the hand of his love. His adventures in the magical land will keep you turning pages as fast as you can--he and the star escape evil old witches, deadly clutching trees, goblin press-gangs, and the scheming sons of the dead Lord of Stormhold. The story is by turns thrillingly scary and very funny. You'll love goofy, earnest Tristran and the talking animals, gnomes, magic trees, and other irresistible denizens of Faerie that he encounters in his travels. Stardust is a perfect read-aloud book, a brand-new fairy tale you'll want to share with a kid, or maybe hoard for yourself.With all due respect to Amazon's reviewers, I'll have to disagree. Stardust is engaging, but it has none of the dramatic tension that would qualify it as a page-turner, and emotionally, it has none of the weight of even The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, although it owes it's existence to Narnia every bit as much as to The Princess Bride.
That being said, Stardust is a great read with wonderful lyricism, some fantastic imagery, excellent literary references--especially that of the Babylon Candle--and some honest wistfulness and magic.
But I believe Neil Gaiman might have been a little disappointed in the achievement of Stardust the novel, and like Stevie Nicks' evolving concept of her song Rhiannon, the story kept evolving in the back of Gaiman's mind, and thus we have a more fully realized, more magical, and more bewitching tale in Stardust the movie.
The movie version of Stardust is at once the same story as the book, but derivative and evolved nevertheless. With a rich cast of memorable pirates, mutli-dimensional evil witches with genuine bents for comedy, ghosts, royal quests, and cross-dressers, Stardust is one of those films that defy categorization, though it fits exactly in the same category with The Princess Bride and Robin Hood: Men in Tights and even Disney's Enchanted. With a stellar cast, some stirring and unique special effects, and an interesting story that never seems to lag, Stardust is satisfying on every level that the book was not.
With spectacular cinematography and inventive imagination, Stormhold, the realm on the other side of the "Wall" comes to life and is fully realized. There are some gaps in narration that probably were left behind on the editing room floor that don't really take away from the story, but just leave some things left unexplained. And ultimately, that's fine. When venturing into the fantasy room, sometimes it's enough to leave the explanation to magic.
Neil Gaiman rose to acclaim by taking back comic books for adults, without sacrificing creativity and imagination... his 75-issue Sandman comics are a true phenomenon, bringing great storytelling and unforgettable characters to a fantasy world.
As Gaiman says:
As adults, we are discriminated against. As adults, we are an oppressed majority because nobody writes us fairy tales. I think the problem is not that ... we grow out of fairy tales. The problem is nobody writes us fairy tales; nobody gives us fairy tales that are as satisfying, as meaty, as filled with real people and real incident, as the things that we remember from when we were children.In Stardust the movie, Gaiman succeeds in creating the milleniums first fairy tale for adults. And after watching the movie some of the magic doesn't quite make sense, I recommend you pick up the book to fill in the details and the unanswered questions.
Thanks for reading.
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