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A magical adventure is just what the summer needed to usher the season into its closing months, leading up to the award contenders’ fall/winter releases. With all the sequels and over-the-top action and special effects heavy drivel, an intelligent story steeped in originality couldn’t come at a better time. Neil Gaiman and Charles Vess’s fantasy story Stardust is a tale ripe for cinematic translation. With the adventure, the surreal, the action, the romance, and the comedy, this film is a direct descendant of classics in the genre like The Princess Bride. After walking out of the theatre, I only had one regret—that I hadn’t the opportunity to open up my newly purchased 2007 hardcover edition of the novel yet. If the film was this enjoyable throughout its entirety, I can’t wait to check out the source material.

I don’t want to ruin any story/plotlines in this review. There is a lot going on and many characters to contend with. Rest assured, everyone’s motives are clearly laid out and no one seems two-dimensional or a waste of space. Even the small parts, which crop up at many instances throughout, have fleshed out roles, integral to the story thread that they are a part of. Nothing happens without a reason or regard for some future event. Between the journey of a boy for a fallen star to win his love back at home, the quest for the ruby stone that will crown a prince king, the mission for eternal life by a sisterhood of witches, and the story of a boy becoming a man and finding the true meaning of love and sacrifice, Stardust literally has it all. Fate is a big factor with the progression of our characters as an incident that happened eighteen years previous started a chain reaction of events leading to where we begin our tale with young Tristran. All our heroes and villains continue down the same paths, hot on the heels of each other or narrowly missing confrontation at every turn. The magical land of Stormhold is very near our very own England. Only those with the courage to seek out adventure will dare cross over to see what the other side holds.

We are treated to a plethora of quirky folk along the journey of Tristran and Yvaine. They soon find out what trouble lies in store for them and, with the help of others, attempt to stay alive so that they can each get back to their respective homes. Charlie Cox is fantastic as our hero with equal parts shyness and bravery. His transformation along the duration of the movie is realistic and he handles the romantic moments with the same poise as the action sequences. Always with a smile, his awkwardness to the world outside his reality leads to some very humorous moments with great comedic timing on his part. As for our falling star, Claire Danes continues to impress me this year. The girl I couldn’t stand has been slowly finding a soft spot with me. She is radiant here, and her smile glows enough so that the filmmakers didn’t even need to use the halo effect when she is happy.

Fans of British film and television will enjoy seeing the numerous cameos included. No matter the name or the top billing, some of the big stars don’t last very long. Either way, though, each does his job fully to create the world we are in. We are given nice turns from Ricky Gervais, Peter O’Toole, and Jason Flemyng along with wonderful brief moments from the likes of Rupert Everett and Mark Heap. Michelle Pfeiffer is fantastic as our main villain, yes, but it is Robert De Niro who truly steals the show. You have no idea what to expect from him in the trailers, and you still don’t upon his introduction. However, when his true self comes out, it is absolutely priceless.

I never would have thought Matthew Vaughn could create such a lush world of comedy and swashbuckling amongst so many fantastical elements, complete with some very nice computer generated work. This is the guy who produced Guy Ritchie’s high violence capers and directed his own harsh crime story in the film Layer Cake. To go from almost directing X-Men 3 to than begin work on a Gaiman fantasy story is quite the leap, but he handles it beautifully. I read that Gaiman actually approached Vaughn because he knew him as an entertainment industry guy that he could trust. Not wanting his words to be altered and disrespected, he met with Vaughn and the two came up with a way to make the film true to the novel while also being palatable for Hollywood to embrace. This is truly a story with a lot of heart and I can’t wait to watch it again.

Stardust 9/10

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photography:
[1] Sienna Miller as Victoria and Charlie Cox as Tristran in Paramount Pictures’ Stardust – 2007
[2] Michelle Pfeiffer as Lamia in Paramount Pictures’ Stardust – 2007

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