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Star Quality Shines Through in Stardust

December 14, 2008

STARDUST (2007)
d. Matthew Vaughn

In the extras, Matthew Vaughn describes this movie as The Princess Bride meets Midnight Run, and it’s an entirely accurate description that captures the delightful and engaging tone of this fantasy based on an original novel from Neil Gaiman.

This Star Is Not The Only Thing Rising

This Star Is Not The Only Thing Rising

Structured as a fairy tale, where magic and glamour runs hand in hand with swashbuckling romance, Stardust tells the story of a dreaming shop boy, Tristan, who, in order to demonstrate his affection for the high-society gal, Victoria, promises to retrieve a fallen star that has landed on the opposite side of a wall that separates England from the magical realm of Stormhaven. In doing so, he discovers that the fallen star has taken the shape of a beautiful girl, Yvaine (Claire Danes); remembering his promise to Victoria, he endeavors to return with Yvaine to his town of Wall. However, other interested parties have also noticed the falling star: an aged witch and her sisters who long for the beauty of their youth that can only be returned by consuming the heart of the fallen star, and several princes who have been promised the crown if they return the jewel that Yvaine wears.

It’s no surprise that on the journey back to Wall, Tristan and Yvaine develop feelings for each other — this is a fantasy romance after all — but the writing makes this well-worn plot fresh and delightful. There is a great light touch and humour to the whole proceedings that is allowed to develop and lets the special effects take the back seat. Still there is enough fx when the magic starts flying about that will satisfy those craving such visual entertainment.

Do NOT Mess With This WILF

Do NOT Mess With This WILF

And the effects aren’t the only eye-candy on display. Michelle Pfieffer has never looked lovelier, and she plays nasty so deliciously. Claire Danes is also gorgeous and gives humanity to the abstract Fallen Star character; if by the end you are not invested in her relationship with Tristan then you have a heart of stone. Charlie Cox who plays Tristan is given a difficult challenge since his character starts off as bland and weak as tofu, but he really comes into his own as the film progresses that I cheered when he storms the witches’ castle to rescue Yvaine. His nearest rival, Prince Septimus, has great scenes as well. The fight between him and Tristan at the climax of the film is an amazing bit of choreography, not for its swordplay, but for its concept of a possessed limp body engaging in fencing.

Matthew Vaughn surpasses Layer Cake in many ways with his editing and casting choices. While Layer Cake felt like a tired Tarantino rip-off several years too late, he invests great emotion and wit to his camera work here. The scene where the Princes share a poisoned drink comes to mind — there are these great humourous cuts motivated by close-ups of characters looking at each other that is hilarious and dynamic in its execution.

I strongly recommend this film; it’s romantic, thrilling and witty. You can’t go wrong.

*** stars.

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