directed by Matthew Vaughn
(Paramount, 2007)

Stardust is the only Neil Gaiman novel I've never read -- only because the original graphic novel by Gaiman and artist Charles Vess was so perfect as it was, I never saw a need to read it in another form. Still, the chance to see Gaiman's vision transformed into a big-budget film (with Gaiman himself co-producing to keep things from going astray) was simply too delicious to resist.

The story begins in the 19th-century village of Wall. But Wall isn't your average country village -- it guards a low, stony wall between mundane England and the fantasy kingdom of Stormhold. No one crosses the wall -- except for young Drustan Thorn, whose curiosity led him to an otherworldly market and a single night of passion with a captive gypsy -- or princess -- and nine months later he was given a son, Tristan, who was left for him by the wall.

Flash forward 18 years, and Tristan (Charlie Cox) hopes to win the heart of his beautiful but shallow love, Victoria (Sienna Miller), by recovering a star that fell somewhere beyond the wall. So Tristan sets forth on his own journey in Stormhold. Meanwhile in that magical land, the dying king (Peter O'Toole) has set his four surviving sons on a quest for the crown. And the witch Lamia (Michelle Pfeiffer) is seeking the heart of the star for an entirely different purpose, one that probably will not turn out well for anyone else involved in the story.

Despite initial trepidations, Stardust the movie is all I could hope for. The settings and scenery are lush and beautiful. The effects are seamless and spectacular. The score by Ilan Eshkeri is dramatic. Narration by Ian McKellen is compelling. And the casting is exceptional.

Robert De Niro is a delight as the sky pirate Captain Shakespeare, a surprising man of many parts. Pfeiffer, as the dread witch Lamia, is cruelly beautiful and sumptuously evil.

Claire Danes is absolutely radiant as Yvaine, who in one way or another holds the resolution of every quest. Poised, beautiful and sporting a great English country accent, Danes glows even without the benefit of special effects.

Tristan Thorn is a classic everyman hero, a simple young man who grows and flourishes on his journey, and Cox captures the role perfectly. A relative newcomer to the screen, he's without question an actor to watch.

Gaiman is a brilliant writer, a man with an imagination like no other. Fortunately, director Matthew Vaughn bucked the Hollywood trend by respecting the source material, creating a splendid film, one that will surely become a classic for generations to come.

Oh, and I love the ghosts.

review by
Tom Knapp

25 August 2007

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