Neil Gaiman fans have adored the writer’s talent with the world of fantasy for many years. Unfortunately, for the longest time it seemed doubtful that the author’s vision could be brought to life on film. Mirrormask received mixed reviews and Neverwhere had a tolerable BBC adaptation but, for the most part, Gaiman seemed out of bounds. When it was announced that Matthew Vaughn was taking on Gaiman’s Stardust I was a bit hesitant. After all, Vaughn only had the crime drama Layer Cake under his belt, and his brief stint helming an X-Men picture had been precarious. I never should have been concerned, because Stardust the movie shows that “happily ever after” was never in better hands than Vaughn’s.
Stardust features everything you could expect from a fantasy story. Romance, swashbuckling action, magical worlds, revenge, and the time honored “quest,” it’s all in there. As the various stories collide, the movie descends further and further into the fantastical, and becomes a true delight to behold – a story that is instantly on par with other classic fantasy stories like The Princess Bride.
At the center of Stardust is a fallen star, who appears in a female form called Yvaine (Claire Danes). Many people in the magical world of Stormhold are after Yvaine for a variety of reasons. Young Tristan Thorn (Charlie Cox) is seeking the star as a gift for the girl he thinks he loves. Three witches, led by the villainous Lamia (Michelle Pfieffer) is after the star as a source to revive their powers. Meanwhile, a batch of backstabbing princes aren’t after the star itself, but rather the jewel their father accidentally used to knock the star out of the sky, because the bearer of the jewel will be the new king of the realm.
Although each of the quests serves as a separate storyline, the movie focuses on Tristan as its swashbuckling protagonist. An awkward chap, Tristan never expected the fallen star to be in a humanoid form. As the two bicker and Tristan attempts to convey her across Stormhold back to his home in England, a wonderful bond is formed and the two begin to share unanticipated emotions. Unanticipated by the characters, that is. The course of the relationship is clear to the viewer, but that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable to watch.
In fact, much of Stardust’s storylines are fairly clear to the observant viewer, with ample clues given for each twist the story takes. It’s still a highly enjoyable ride, however, and even the deepest fantasy fan will find themselves grinning with delight as the story progresses.
Part of the delight comes from a solid cast, who brings a wide range of talent to the movie. Relative newcomer Charlie Cox makes Tristan a delightful character to follow, especially as the character stumbles through a strange world for a motive he can’t completely recognize as foolhardy. Claire Danes brings an interesting mix of wisdom, impatience, and naiveté to her fallen star. More fascinating, however, are the roles some of the veteran actors have taken on. Michelle Pfeiffer takes on a particularly unglamorous role and truly brings it alive. Meanwhile, even people who hate anything Robert De Niro has done that didn’t involve organized crime will find enjoyment in Captain Shakespeare, an air pirate character with quite the twist.
There really isn’t a weak element to Stardust, from a brilliant story assembled by Neil Gaiman brought to life through Matthew Vaughn’s capable vision by a highly talented cast. It’s one of those rare movies that is so delightful, I wanted to start watching it again as soon as the movie was over with, just to enjoy watching it again.
The DVD release for Stardust comes in a little light on what we want from a movie like this. There’s no commentary, and the accompanying making-of featurette leaves the viewer wanting more. Let’s just hope Stardust won’t be following in the footsteps of the multiple release strategy of its peers like The Princess Bride.
“Good Omens: The Making of Stardust” is a half-hour making-of featurette that looks at every element of making the movie from Gaiman’s original concept behind writing the story to most aspects of movie making: acting, visual effects, shooting locations, costumes, etc. You wouldn’t expect half this much information from the typical half hour featurette, so in that regard “Good Omens” is very compact, fitting a ton of information into a short running time. Compared to the extensive documentaries that showcase the making of other fantasy worlds, I wish there was more here. “Good Omens” is a great taste of what went into the movie, but at the end it’s still only a taste.
Five short pieces make up the deleted scenes. Several of these are so short they are barely worth watching. Two of the better ones bring back more of the ghosts of the princes, who are trapped on Earth until the new ruler of Stormhold takes charge. Neither of the ghostly prince scenes are that significant, but since they are such an enjoyable part of the movie it’s nice to see more of them, even if it didn’t make it into the movie.
The DVD also contains a five minute gag reel which isn’t all that funny, and the theatrical trailer for Stardust. That’s it though – a very small offering from such a big movie. Thankfully, the transfer on the movie is fantastic, with both the video and sound looking incredible. In the end, that’s worth more than a second disc of extras, isn’t it?
For the fantasy fan, Stardust is a must own, regardless of this release being a little light on contents. While a commentary from Gaiman or Vaughn would have been appreciated, the movie itself is just too good to pass up. Let’s hope Paramount leaves well enough alone with this offering rather than going back to the well for future releases, because Stardust is just too good to pass up.