Make Room for Cap’n Shakespeare: Review of “Stardust”

Yvaine on unicorn

“Stardust” seems to have crept up on me. Although I’ve certainly heard of it and have been waiting for it, I didn’t actually expect it anytime soon. A novel by Neil Gaiman made into a movie, filmed somewhere in gorgeous Scotland, with Michelle Pfiffer already cast to play the witch, my hopes were rising.

The plot is fairly simple, and, amazingly, very similar to the one in the novel. A boy in an English village is in love with the pretties girl around and to prove his devotion he promises to bring her a fallen star from beyond the Wall, which has never been crossed, except by his father. There lies a magical world filled with witches, pirates, enchantments as well as some answers as to the boy’s questionable heritage.

I expected the worst; I too dared not hope for anything but a lamer and tamer version of the novel bereft of anything but sweet romance. I gave the movie a chance though, as should you. In fact, go ahead, it really is safe to get your hopes up.

As an adaptation of a generally light-hearted fantasy that mixes romance, comedy, and adventure with the question of our hearts’ true desire, “Stardust” delivers. Where it lacks in bitterness and R-ratings, it makes up in quirky characters, witty dialogue and, of course, pirates!

Packed with interesting characters the book did have pirates, but only for a moment. The movie is cashing in a bit on today’s obsessions. Pirate Papa De Niro is superb as Captain Shakespeare, and somehow his relationship with his ragged crew becomes both deep and real even in the few moments it is examined. Charlie Cox and Claire Dane are sympathetic as the bumbling Tristan and slowly humanizing Yvaine and actually grow through the movie as they did in the book. The audience is never beaten over the head with morals or sugary romance however.

The director Matthew Vaughn made sure of that. He has been bringing us movies like “Snatch”: comedic, but also full of action and gore. And yes, he toned it down some, but he did not allow formulaic ruin to come to “Stardust”. Perhaps this is also due to Jane Goldman’s screenplay. Both of these creators had Gaiman’s blessing.

The movie is beautifully produced, but does not attempt to carry itself off as eye-candy. The plot is solid and mostly follows what was put down in the novel with a few forgivable twists and turns and a revamped ending. The overall story unfolds through narration as every fairy tale should, but it is the actors who truly pull the viewer into the movie.

A great film, an instant classic much like the novel it originated from, and money better spent when the alternatives are yet another Harry Potter or Pirates of the Caribbean. “Quite the adventure”, in the words of Dazvsemir.

Article Copyright © 2007 to ETL

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