Friday 16 November 2007

Stardust (2007) Matthew Vaughn

Here's something that happens too rarely nowadays: a book that I've loved for a long while turned into a film and done right. Neil Gaiman wrote the book, which I didn't just read, I read it in entirety over an international phone line from England to my American better half to be. It's a fairy tale, but done as fairy tales ought to be done: simple and archetypal at heart, yet full of fascinating characters, fantastic situations, complex interplay, joyous comedy and that unique form of magic that lightens the soul and makes everything right with the world, just for a little while. What's so amazing is that this got transferred to the screen properly.

Charlie Cox plays Tristan Thorn, a young boy who doesn't seem entirely at home in the English village of Wall. We soon find out that only his father is English, his mother being a princess held captive by a witch in the amazing country that exists on the other side of the wall that gives the village its name. He has a crush on Victoria, who he believes to be his One True Love but he soon discovers that she's about to be married. As a last ditch attempt to win her heart he promises to bring her back a falling star that they see rocket down out of the sky, and then his adventures begin.

This film is a treat, even to me knowing the plot. I'll be honest and say that I was expecting the film to be a disappointing and pale shadow of the quality of the book, because hey most of them are, right? Yet I was thankfully surprised and quickly fell into the magic of it all. My heart skipped and my eyes teared up and I laughed and smiled and left in joy knowing that I'll see this film again. Cox is excellent, though I don't know him at all, and Claire Danes is just as excellent as Yvaine, the star that Tristan and Victoria see falling.

There's also Michelle Pfeiffer as an old witch set on regaining her youth. She's not afraid to look scarily old even though she still looks stunning without the makeup, and she's absolutely spot on for the part. Even more outstanding is Robert de Niro, as the captain of a flying ship that harvests lightning. I won't spoil his character for you but rest assured that you've never seen de Niro the way you'll see him here. There's also Peter O'Toole in a small role, Melanie Hill, Jason Flemyng, Rupert Everett, an excellent Mark Strong, Mark Williams, Ricky Gervais and many others, plus narration from Ian McKellen and a Greek chorus of dead princes. All are superb.

Never mind my yakking, go see this film. Its lack of PR is shameful because it's absolutely top notch. It's one of those films that you will buy not just a copy for yourself but another to lend out, still more to give to friends and family and then yet another for yourself because you've worn out the first. Gaiman now has two classics on the big screen: Mirrormask and Stardust, and that bodes well for the Sandman and others. You owe it to yourself: go see this film.

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