Genre: Adventure and Fantasy Running Time: 2 hrs. 7 min.
Release Date: August 10th, 2007 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Director: Matthew Vaughn Actors: Charlie Cox, Claire Danes, Michelle Pfeiffer, Ian McKellen, Sienna Miller, Henry Cavill, Peter O’Toole, Mark Strong, Jason Flemyng, Rupert Everett, Robert De Niro, Ricky Gervais
hile it’s been done before, “Stardust” still brings an emphatically welcome revisit to the science-fiction-infused fantasy subgenre. Boasting a first-rate cast (with cameos and bit parts by the likes of Peter O’Toole, Ian McKellen, and Ricky Gervais), and a stellar combination of genial comedy and swashbuckling adventure, this early Jane Goldman/Matthew Vaughn script is fittingly adapted from the Neil Gaiman graphic novel – an entity ripe for a big screen treatment. Drawing from the lighthearted tone of Rob Reiner’s “The Princess Bride,” the sorcery of Ron Howard’s “Willow,” and the wonderment of the films of Terry Gilliam, “Stardust” is a celestially electrifying foray into the often dabbled in – yet rarely perfected – blend of high fantasy, comedy, and romance.
150 years ago, young Tristan (Charlie Cox) becomes hopelessly enamored by the beautiful but shallow Victoria (Sienna Miller), vowing to win her heart by embarking on a journey to capture a falling star. But when he reaches the crater of the astral body, there is only a glowing young woman named Yvaine (Claire Danes) in its place. As the two venture back to Tristan’s hometown, they are pursued by the malicious witch Lamia (Michelle Pfeiffer), leading to breathtaking encounters with such nefarious rogues as the sky pirate Captain Shakespeare (Robert De Niro) and the Princes of Stormhold, Septimus (Mark Strong) and Primus (Jason Flemyng), who seek a missing amulet and the coveted throne of their faraway kingdom.
Rarely are audiences privy to such enchanting entertainment by a fantasy picture. Gathering together all of the most impressive aspects of the genre, “Stardust” recreates the lively romance and action that seem to have been forgotten in contemporary filmmaking. With kings, princes, witches, wizards, and a knight in shining armor (sans armor), this magical, live-action fairy tale boldly plays out as if each subsequent scene was constructed from brainstorming the most imaginative and abstract of thoughts. Evoking constant surprise with flying vessels and whimsical ghosts, “Stardust” also presents distinct sci-fi components that surface just as frequently as the sword fights and the damsels in distress. With the outlandishness of each new character or undertaking, the story at first seems too convoluted with bizarre ideas to fit together so fluidly. But director Matthew Vaughn has crafted an exciting fusion of typically incompatible fundamentals for a very different, very amusing venture.
The music is also noteworthy, as it seamlessly enhances the dramatic sequences and stirs up the moments of tumult. The pulsing theme by composer Ilan Eshkeri provides a striking balance to the events onscreen, especially during the rousing clashes of good and evil. Similarly keeping the mood consistently upbeat is an ensemble cast that provides regular comic relief, shifting around the source material’s decidedly darker approaches to sex and violence. There’s nothing commonplace or overdone about “Stardust,” even with the exotic mixture of absurd characterizations, spell-casting CG rambunctiousness, and genuinely earnest romance. The love story peaks just below sappy, the action remains invariably thrilling, and any cliched occurrences are cleverly masked by beautifully realized fantasy imagery. It may possess a basic formula for a supernatural odyssey, but it uses its magical eccentricities and sweeping adventure to augment all the right spots for a well-rounded, highly satisfying, poetical vision.
– Mike Massie