Monthly Archives: December 2007

Review: Stardust

stardust_cov.jpgYear: 2007
Director: Matthew Vaughn
Starring: Charlie Cox, Claire Danes, Mark Strong, Michelle Pfeiffer, Robert De Niro
Kaboom Review Action Movie Rating: 90 (Sparkles)

A young man tries to bring back a fallen star to prove his love for a local woman.

Quick Review
Stardust is a refreshing cross-genre film that sparkles with creativity and imagination. Bolstered by a solid script, fine acting, and tight construction, this film is a must-see for fantasy fans.

Full Review
Ready? Stardust tells the story of a star that falls from the sky and lands in England. Except the star is really a woman. And although it lands in England, it lands on the other side of a long wall near the town of yes, Wall. The wall can never be crossed, because on the other side is, well, no one is sure because no one (almost no one, that is) has ever been there. In reality, there is a magical land on the other side stardust_1.jpgof the wall. Inside, three decrepit witches are trying to hunt down the star and cut her heart out so they can eat it and get back their waning powers. Four cutthroat princes are also trying to hunt down the star because their dying father, the king, started everything in motion by propelling his royal amulet into the sky and knocking the star down. The princes need the amulet—which the star has around her neck—to claim the throne. Lastly, a young man from the town of Wall crosses the wall to search for the star as proof of his love for a woman.

The amazing part of the preceding synopsis is that it barely covers the first fifteen minutes of the film. Even more amazing is that somehow Matthew Vaughn, the director, manages to make this intricate tale of magic and fantasy work as a film. Part comedy, part fantasy, part action, part horror, and part romance, Stardust spins a wonderfully unique tale in a rich fantasy setting. Based on the novel by the always imaginative Neil Gaiman, this is the most compelling fantasy tale in years.

A great part of Stardust’s impact stems from the rich, complex, and unique characters that inhabit the equally fantastic world. We’ve got Unicorns, ghosts of dead princes, witches who stay young by eating the hearts of fallen stars, and pirates that sail the skies hunting lightning, to name just a few. The film also deserves credit for its character development. Although much of it is direct and predictable, it adds to the story and helps us to connect with the characters. The world of Stardust is equally creative. stardust_4.jpgThere are Babylon candles that can transport you to a place of your imagining, lucky glass flowers, and magic string that can enslave captives. In many ways, the settings and characters are so rich that I kept drawing favorable comparisons with the world of Harry Potter. It’ a treat just to watch the fantasy world unfold and see the characters interact with it.

But characters are nothing without a script and good acting. Surprisingly, Stardust shines in this regard. The movie is fortunate to have the talent of Robert De Niro and Michelle Pfeiffer; both actors drive up the acting quality with their fine performances. Lesser known actors perform admirably as well. Charlie Cox does a likeable and energetic job as Tristan, the male leading character out to prove his love. Claire Danes does a convincing job in the female lead role, as the fallen star. Mark Strong excels as Septimus, the most successful of the greedy princes. The numerous other villains in the film manage to combine ample nastiness with a touch of softening comedy that blunts their edge and makes their stardust_5.jpgcharacters fit into the romantic fantasy that ultimately lies at the heart of Stardust. All the actors get a lot of support from the high quality script, which holds the complex movie together nicely.

When I watched the scattered preview for Stardust, I was certain that the film was jumbled and disjoint: there was simply too much going on for it to possibly work well and for it to pay any sort of attention to the premise. However, one of Stardust’s more remarkable achievements is how tightly the story unfolds, how well the premise holds up as all the complex and various elements move forward. The editing, planning, and construction of this film are brilliant, and the rich tale flows quickly and coherently. I was also impressed with how convincingly the movie pulls off the romance in the film: the relationship that builds through the film is believable, which made it easy to care for the genuinely pleasant main characters. Toss in some low-key comedy and some creative action sequences, and you end up with a film that is simply a joy to watch.

Admittedly, the action in the film is sparse overall, but it does have its moments. Of particular note is the tastefully executed, original swordfight at the end of the movie. For the most part, the visual effects are clean, creative, and crisp, if not a bit on the subdued side.

stardust_6.jpgIt’s hard to find negatives with this movie. Perhaps, in places things get predictable, but there are a half dozen places where the plot takes twists to shake things up. Some of the comedy perhaps, is over the top. The message, in the end, is rather a simple one of self-discovery. There are a couple of spots where I’m not sure how people could have followed people so well, but these instances are forgivable. Lastly, the final resolution was a bit contrived. All of these faults are insignificant blemishes on the film, however.

As for our Babes and Hunks rating, I’m happy to say that Stardust fares well here as well. Claire Danes grows on you with a charming performance that enhances her already above average beauty. Michelle Pfeiffer is past her prime, yet still elegant and enjoyable to look at. Kate Magowan and Sienna Miller are quite attractive in their minor roles. From the Hunk side, Charlie Cox nails the pure innocence of youth that magnifies his good looks. The princes are quite handsome as well.

All in all, Stardust is a refreshing cross-genre film that sparkles with creativity and imagination. Bolstered by a solid script, fine acting, and tight construction, this film is a must-see for fantasy fans.

Fun Fact
Sarah Michelle Gellar turned down the lead female role as the star.

Pace: 84
Plot: 93
Action: 81
Consistent Premise: 86
Script/Quotes: 77
Characters: 97
Acting: 88
Villain: 83
Body Count: 5
Time to First Dead Body: Forgot to measure
Babes: 83
Hunks: 91
Explosions: 8
Special Effects: 77
Stunts: 41
Ending: 80

Overall: 90 (Sparkles)

[tags]Stardust, fantasy, movie review, action movie, Matthew Vaughn, Charlie Cox, Claire Danes, Mark Strong, Michelle Pfeiffer, Robert De Niro[/tags]

Up Next: Stardust

My life has settled down to the point where I’m hoping to begin posting reviews at least on a weekly basis. I apologize for the slow autumn, but this year has been particularly busy.

Next up, I’ll be posting a review of Stardust, which caught me completely off-guard. I hope to post the review in the next couple of days.

Also, I’ll be going through comments in the next day or so as well and replying to those that I have yet to answer.

And to everyone out there, Happy Holidays!