by RISHI AGRAWAL
Stardust, the latest film by Matthew Vaughn (Layer Cake) is based off a Neil Gaiman novel and is often described as the next Princess Bride. Stardust is a fantasy romp through the Kingdom of Stormhold, which borders the Village of Wall in mid-1800s England. To get to Stormhold, you must go through the wall which gave the village its name.
The plot revolves around Tristan (Charlie Cox), who wants to impress Victoria (Sienna Miller), the prettiest girl in the Village of Wall. He promises to bring her a shooting star which has landed on the other side of the wall. Now, unbeknownst to Tristan, his father had been on the other side of the wall and Tristan is the child of a princess, which makes him an heir to the throne. Of course, things get complicated when Tristan reaches the star (Claire Danes) and finds that she is headstrong and stubborn. Meanwhile, a witch (Michelle Pfeiffer) seeks the star so she can eat its heart to restore her youth. There is also a plot involving succession to the throne of Stormhold.
It might be better to discuss this film as a comedy first and then a fantasy film later. As a comedy, there are some very funny moments, but none of them strike me as anything special. One of the key scenes revolves around a pirate named Shakespeare (Robert De Niro) who seems tough and bloodthirsty on the surface, but his true name is something unexpected. Perhaps I have too much experience with fantasy, but a tough guy with a hidden softer side is nothing new or unique.
Also, after the King (Peter O’Toole) dies, his sons vie for the throne by trying to become the sole heir. The most entertaining thing about these scenes is the ghosts of the dead brothers, who follow the living ones, making snide remarks. Each ghosts looks exactly as he did the moment he died. The peanut gallery of ghosts strikes me as an original element, but the brothers who are at each other’s throats are definitely something I have seen before.
As for the fantasy elements, the film is about what you would expect. The world is not populated by elves or dwarves, but take a medieval-based fantasy world, throw in some witches and airships, and you have a cookie-cutter fantasy universe to serve as a backdrop. As with all films of this type, the visual look of the film is well-done and fairly interesting. But now that the fantasy setting is getting to be so familiar that I feel the bar has been raised. A few years ago, I might have praised this film for its look, but it just doesn’t have the pop of the Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter films.
The cast is great, as you can probably surmise by all the famous names that appeared in this review. The most remarkable thing is that newcomer Charlie Cox holds his own in the shadow of all these wonderful actors.
All in all, if you are a fan of the fantasy genre and you don’t mind a film that is slightly derivative, then I think you would enjoy this film. I do like that it is another entry into the fantasy-comedy genre, an unexplored genre. Still, if I had to recommend a film based on a Neil Gaiman novel, I wouldn’t rate Stardust above MirrorMask. MirrorMask was original and quirky and had a serious core to go along with its comedy, which gave the film some depth. While Stardust is a fun film, it is predictable and relatively ordinary. In the end, it is nothing more than fluff.
2 1/2 stars