Stardust is a 2007 fantasy film based on Neil Gaiman’s novel of the same name. It is directed by Matthew Vaughn and it is one of the most underrated films of its time.
I won’t try to summarize the story as so much happens in it and I don’t want to spoil it either, but it is so immensely entertaining. I was engaged from beginning to end. There was never a single moment where I lost interest even a bit and I was on the edge of my seat the whole time and that rarely happens to me! The story is filled with such inherent charm and playfulness, but also with goofiness and authenticity. Yes, on the surface it may seem like an ordinary children’s fantasy flick, but it turns out to be anything but as it has its fair share of hilarious adult humor, some very weird but positively weird scenes and even some horrific moments as well. It truly is a fantasy worth seen by anyone, but mostly adults. It is mature without any gore or too much action and that I hugely appreciated.
It starts and ends in a typical fairy tale manner but that is a good thing as it is done wonderfully and you get invested in the story from the very first moment. And then it quickly goes into weird and adventure mode with a very interesting plot structure that incorporated a variety of different characters into a coherent whole. Usually when you have so many people going on a same quest and so many subplots, it can be uneven. But this was deftly edited and very well crafted with all characters perfectly fitting in the story arc which was so admirable. The fantasy elements I absolutely adored with some fantastic fight sequences and a great mythology to it. But I also liked the romantic aspects as well because it has some really romantic and sweet moments that lift the relationship at the center to higher levels.
The characters are mostly very likable with the exception of Tristan who was to me personally incredibly annoying and just plain unlikable. He is the only character that I didn’t care about at all. But Yvaine is really good and although seemingly a typical old-fashioned female character at first, she still proved to be more than that in the end with a very charming personality. The witches are so great with Lamia of course being the highlight. She is such a phenomenal villain, so well depicted and acted with a great screen presence and set of powers. I really liked her a lot. The Princes are so interesting as the humor with them and their depiction, especially in the first act, is absolutely magnificent with such an authentic and inventive approach and a hilarious outcome. And all of the other supporting characters are colorful and add a lot to the table, but it is Captain Shakespeare who is the highlight. It was an incredibly brave and respectable choice to have him as a gay character, but having his crew still admiring him. It added to a lot of the heart of the movie and his character is so endearing and lovable while also being very funny.
The acting is mostly good. One of the reasons I disliked Tristan is because Charlie Cox is lame in the role. He gave a very weak performance. Claire Danes is better, but still not that great. But Michelle Pfeiffer is excellent and she brought her character to life wonderfully. As for Robert de Niro, he is criticized sometimes for playing comedic characters, but I honestly like him in those roles and he proved here that he can be great as a comedic actor. He is not given nearly enough credit for it.
Technically, Stardust is weak. That is one of the weakest aspects here and probably the biggest problem that detracted from my enjoyment of it. The visual effects are not the greatest, but the photography is so uninspired that it is such a shame as the world-building is superb and with a better cinematographer it would have been much, much better. But it is just so annoyingly dark which is one of the reasons why I strongly dislike the look of the movies in the 21st century. It is always too dark and it is mostly happening at night which is just so frustrating. Another problem I’ve had is the sound mixing which is very poor, especially in the pirate sequences where you cannot hear the dialogue. But the imagery is solid, the dialogue is playful in tone and fun plus the score and also the narration are quite good. I haven’t read the book, but I have a hunch that it is well adapted. It is coherent and always effervescent and original. The humor is amazing. The costumes are good. The editing is excellent. And the whole movie is very memorable and unique. The fantasy and romantic elements work well into a coherent whole and the film is highly unpredictable and always intriguing. It is one of the best modern fantasy movies I’ve seen without a doubt.