Sunday, August 12, 2007

Stardust: A Review

Now that life has settled back into a normal routine, at least temporarily, my Darling Boy took me to the movies yesterday to see Stardust. I have wanted to see this movie more than any other this summer, except for Pirates of the Carribean: At World’s End. As a member of the generation that grew up on The Princess Bride, I have wanted another good, quirky, romantic fantasy for many years. No, Shrek doesn’t count.

As I have rambled on at length on bill’s blog today (so sorry, bill), I love Neil Gaiman’s work. I first heard about him sometime in the early ’90s, then I found out he was a good friend of Tori Amos’, and was, in fact, the “Neil” she often mentions in her songs. (I loved early Tori in my younger “college girl” days.) I never had time to read anything he had written because I was too busy becoming too over-educated for my own good. When I finally recovered my senses and started reading for fun, I saw Gaiman’s Neverwhere at a bookstore, remembered all the good things I had heard, and picked it up. I’ve been a devoted little fan girl ever since, even going so far as to purchase all ten volumes of his Sandman series of graphic novels (at $20 a pop) and the associated spin-offs and add-ons. I have not gone so far as to buy the new Absolute Sandman, but only because I haven’t entirely lost my mind.

Anyway, Stardust is the first of Gaiman’s novels to make it to the big screen, and I have been aquiver with anticipation since they started filming. This might be the most successful book-to-film adaptations I’ve ever seen, and it way out-classes the Harry Potter movies. To be clear, many of my favorite moments from the book didn’t make it into the movie, and the movie added some action sequences not found in the book. That’s ok. They are entirely separate media, and the movie remains true to the heart and soul of the book, which is the most important thing.

Some thumbnail impressions:

First, Claire Danes is absolutely luminous as Yvaine. When I first heard she had been cast in the role, I wasn’t sure if she was pretty enough for the part. She is definitely pretty enough and just marvelous in the role.

The producers of the The Pirates of the Carribean movies need to hurry up and cast Charlie Cox as Will Turner III right exactly now; he is the heir apparent to Orlando Bloom, only not quite as girly-pretty. I just figured it out: He looks like the secret love child of Robert Sean Leonard and Orlando Bloom.

Michelle Pfeiffer is perfect as Lamia. Given how great she was in The Witches of Eastwick so long ago, it’s clear she should always play witches.

The roles of Princes in the movie are worth at least half the price of admission; you'll just have to trust on on this and see for yourself.

Critics seem to be raving about Robert DeNiro’s performance, and, to be sure, he’s quite the charmer in the role of Captain Shakespeare. I, personally, would give up his scenes in exchange for more exposition about the town of Wall, the mysterious market, and the exotic visitors who come for the market. I also would have liked Una to have been released from her captivity as described in the book. You’ll just have to read the book yourself to see what I mean.

In contrast to Stardust, the first four Harry Potter movies (I’ve not seen the fifth yet) try too hard to literally translate entire sequences from the books, and, in doing so, end up without the time to really explore the heart and soul of the story. As a result, the Harry Potter movies seem more like visual Cliff’s Notes of the books; they look great, but the deeper points of the stories are somehow lost.

So, anyway, if you want to see a good old fashioned romantic adventure with a heart, go see Stardust. Preferably with someone who makes you glow inside.

When you've done that, go buy the graphc novel for another tasty treat. If the movie is like a really good chocolate chip cookie, then the graphic novel is like a great chocolate chip cookie with butterscotch chips and vanilla ice cream. (The non-illustrated novel is a really good chocolate chip cookie with fewer chocolate and butterscotch chips and no ice cream.)


bill said...

I'm kinda surprised by the positive Stardust reviews because the preview looked cheesy as hell and imminently skippable. On the other hand, Golden Compass looks gorgeous.

Perhaps I'll reevaluate. Would you consider this appropriate for a girl who enjoys Shrek, Princess Bride, and the first PotC movie (hasn't seen the other 2)?

justkim said...


I agree that The Golden Compass looks amazing. I'm interested in how they adapt it though. If the writers/producers treat it with too heavy a hand, it could wind up being pompous and ponderous without any of the fun adventure.

bill said...

As a result, the Harry Potter movies seem more like visual Cliff’s Notes of the books; they look great, but the deeper points of the stories are somehow lost.

Oddly, this has come up in separate conversations over the last two weeks. My argument is that Rowling had too much input into the movies and they're not much more than a slide show (Cliff's Notes is good) of scenes. Great for those familiar with the books in adding visual context, but otherwise emotionally empty.