Thursday, February 28, 2008


This is not so much a review as just a heaping of praise on the film Stardust.
It came out in the UK in October and I saw the trailer and thought 'that looks quite cool' but then forgot about it. Then in December I happened to have the chance to see it at the cinema. 24 hours later I was there for a second time with my sister and brother. Now all three of us are massive fans. Yesterday I watched it on DVD for the first time, and that prompted me to write this.

If you don't know, the story is set 150 years ago and follows Tristan Thorn (newcomer Charlie Cox) as he seeks to find a fallen star to bring back as a gift for Victoria (Sienna Miller), with whom he is smitten. The star happens to have fallen the other side of the Wall, believed by the locals to be the boundary between England and a fairy-tale kingdom. The star also happens, as Tristan discovers, to actually be a girl, by the name of Yvaine (Claire Danes). Yvaine is also hunted by a witch, Lamia (Michelle Pfeiffer), who wants the star's heart to restore her beauty and youth, and by the three still-living sons of the late king, who seek the jewell she possesses to claim the throne of stormhold. The film also features Robert De Niro, Ricky Gervais, David Walliams, Peter O'Toole, Ian McKellen, Mark Strong, Rupert Everett and Sarah Alexander, among others!

Stardust is essentially a fairytale, but a sufficiently dark, violent and complicated one to make it a PG. The story is based on a novel by Neil Gaiman and, other than LOTR, is the best plot I have come across in a film. The multiple characters all chasing after the same goal makes it a lively story, but the real genius is in the many little things dropped in at the start which turn out to be highly significant later on. Think JK Rowling on a smaller scale.

The film is also a heck of a lot of fun, both just as an enjoyable watch and with many laugh-out-loud moments. Ricky Gervais, while still acting David Brent, is great, and all the cast perform their roles admirably. Director Matthew Vaughn deliberately tried to make the roles difficult for some of the actors (DeNiro and Pfeiffer especially I suspect) but you wouldn't know it. Everyone fulfills their role well, which in such a big cast is quite something. You can tell they had a really good time making the film.

Visually, it also delivers. I believe it was filmed on the Isle of Skye, so the scenery is great, very LOTR. The effects aren't Matrix-level spectacular, but at least 10 times as good as anything in the Pirates trilogy. The music is good too, with the originial score and songs such as the Can-Can (don't ask, you have to watch it) working well together, and the closing song by Take That is perfectly placed (please note, I am not a Take That fan (!), but Rule The World is a fairly good song and fits amazingly well at the end of the film).

Tellingly, the only award won by Stardust was the Phoenix Film Critics Society award for 'Most Overlooked Film of The Year'! It's a film that scratches in all the right places - a brilliant plot, an abundance of humour, great performances from an all-star cast, beautifully delivered on screen and it also treads a wonderfully fine line between romance and cheese. Although a fantasy film, like LOTR, it's the humanism that makes it so good rather than the world and the effects.

Obviously I'm now going to tell you to get hold of the DVD and watch it, because that's what one does at this point. So go on! If I could recommend only five films to you, Stardust would probably be one of them. It's that good.

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