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Review: Stardust

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posted on Aug, 14 2007 @ 06:29 AM

Review: Stardust

A fine adaptation of a novel by Neil Gaiman of the same name. Stardust brings a refreshingly good good movie to a genre that hasn't seen a good fantasy movie since the 80's (Lord of the Rings aside, of course). Having read the book, I can say there's differences, but they may be overlooked in light of the movie being excellent.

The Breakdown

GENRE: Fantasy.
PLATFORM: Color, Motion Picture
STARS: Charlie Cox, Claire Danes, Robert De Niro
RE-WATCH FACTOR: High to Very High
LOVE IT: People who loved Willow and lovers of the fantasy genre. Neil Gaiman fans as well.
HATE IT: People who require unaltered, perfect adaptations of a novel.
ACTING: Ranged the gamut from stumbling to excellent.
MUSIC: Epic quality, but nothing I'd buy seperately.
WARNINGS: None. As far as I can remember, there was no foul language, no blood, most violence occurred off-camera or was comical in nature, no nudity. Aside from "scary" parts, there's nothing I wouldn't be comfortable with my own son watching.
SCORE: 8.5/10
TEASER: A boy living near a wall that seperates the human world from the faerie world must cross it to retrieve a falling star for the woman of his dreams.

The Full Review

Where to begin with this movie? First off, buy the book and read it, although this is not a requirement to enjoy the movie. In fact, if you're one of those who require that novel to movie adaptations be perfectly in synch, you'll enjoy reading the book AFTER you've seen the movie. If you've already read the book, they change quite a few things. If it's been a long time since you've read it, chances are you won't notice much. However, fear not, if you can accept the novel and the movie must have some differences for the sake of time, the changes are fine and acceptable, and hold true to the whole plot, sub-plots, and theme of the movie. The only major glaring difference was the ending, which I will not spoil, but I will say there is one huge significant difference, and I'm not sure why they changed it.

Now, on to the movie itself, sans book predjudice.

First, the question everyone has been asking, "WTF was Robert De Niro thinking?" I'm still not sure, myself. For that matter, I'm not entirely certain what the director, Matthew Vaughn, was thinking. For one, this character wasn't even in the book, and somehow became one of the top-billed characters in the movie, and one of the longest segments, and one of those montage scenes where the boy Tristan becomes a man. Think of Dune where the vast majority of the movie is taken from about three paragraphs in an otherwise several hundred page book.

Still, again, taken as a movie, and not the book, it works. Even though the entire time I'm watching De Niro and thinking "what the hell was he thinking?" I could not help but admit his character to be extremely likeable and engaging. There were a couple of low-brow, stereotypical, over the top scenes involved, which is a shame, because it did nothing to advance the plot, nor was it necessary for the eventual growth of the character of Captain Shakespeare. Overall, however, De Niro did an excellent job of playing the cards he was dealt, and any shortcomings in his character I attribute to the poor judgment of Vaughn.

The main character, Tristan, was well played by Cox, an otherwise unknown actor whose movie credits would likely be unheard of to an American audience. His handsome features, decent acting skills, and a solid blockbuster to his credits will open up a world of opportunity for him. He is far from the "action hero" type, however. I would instead look at him to replace the aging Hugh Grant as America's next Romance Genre lead male.

Danes did a barely adequate job as Yvaine. It wasn't quite bad enough to ruin the movie, but she certainly did nothing to advance the rating. The role of Yvaine would have been much better played by a woman who could act. I cannot fathom their choice of her, except as possibly a female name to bill as a star. Still, she managed not to ruin the movie.

The Witch Queen, Lamia, played by Michelle Pfeiffer, did a better than adequate job at her role, but still fails to reach the level of villainy achieved by Jean Marsh in Willow as Queen Bavmorda. Her two sisters, however, are barely adequate through most of the movie, and stumbling throughout the rest. In the beginning, they were just awful.

The scenery is quite good, but not of the sort of New Zealand beauty seen in Lord of the Rings. Rather, it's above adequate, to achieve the desired effect. There's nothing, however, that will make you "ooooooh" and "ahhhhh".

The cinematography is adequate as well, and the blend between CGI and live action is probably one of the best done features of the film. If you watch a movie and think "Wow, that's some really good CGI work," then the CGI editors have failed in their task. If you watch a CGI scene and think "Wow, that's a really pretty forest," then they have succeeded.

The special effects were straight out of the 80's. Each spell used the same color of magical light, only to varying degrees. The color varied on who cast the spell. Yvaine's "glowy" effect was ill-placed at times, and made her look more blurry than shining. The glowy effect is probably one of my deepest resentments at the director, as since it is such a major plot element, you would think they'd have put more work into something that didn't look like something a five year old could do in photoshop in five minutes. I believe this problem is the result of shooting the movie scene itself normally, and trying to add the glow later, which has the problem of her glow not lighting up her surroundings, and looking unnatural. A bit more attention to properly lighting Yvaine and her surroundings during these scenes would have made a world of difference. Instead, it just breaks the moment whenever she glows.

After a brief scene with Peter O'Toole, the King's sons provide a good bit of hilarity and running commentary throughout the film. This was another of the best-done portions of the film. If this were a Shakespearean play, they would be the chorus and clowns (Shakespearean clowns, not the horrible soulless entities that stalk children's birthday parties these days).

In short, this movie is absolutely greater than the sum of its parts. Every shortcoming of the film is balanced out by a combination of something better, and an overall fantastic story. In fact, I really had to give it a couple of days thought to really critique it fairly, so as not to gush about the film.

In the end, I give it 8.5 out of 10. If I were to only add up points for individual items on this film, it would score a couple of points lower, but somehow, the fusion of all the film's elements together makes for a delightful film the entire family can enjoy. And, despite the deviations from the novel, it is a fine homage to Gaiman's work.

Now, get out there and read the book. You'll thank me for it later.

[edit on 8/14/2007 by thelibra]

posted on Aug, 27 2007 @ 12:35 PM
I would have to agree with your review.
I took my girlfriend to see it this past weekend and was pleasantly surprised.

I have not read the novel and quite frankly, I did not know anything about the story beforehand. It was a very entertaining movie.

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