It’s always a pity when incredible writing blends with beautiful film making, only to have an exceptionally good product fall out of the minds of the general public shortly after the film is released. Stardust certainly fared well enough in the box office, and more than a few people really liked the movie. It did not, however, maintain the repertoire it deserved. What was one of the more imaginative pieces of fantasy in the the early 21st century was based on the book written by Neil Gaiman, took the audience, not to a new world, but an old one, filled with magic and wonder. We’ve seen thousands of fantasy worlds on film, many of which attempt to wow us with their flashy special effects. Stardust takes us to a world that, while new to the protagonist and the audience alike, is well known to the majority of the characters.
We’re introduced to two worlds early on in the film. First is the town of Wall, in which, unsurprisingly, a wall lies on the outskirts of the town under constant supervision. The residents are not allowed to go over the wall. Naturally, someone does, which brings us to the much bigger world beyond Wall. This is a much different world, one where witches and kings abound. Tristan Thorne, a naive young man, attempts to win the heart of the girl he’s infatuated with, but is engaged to another. He attempts to impress her by promising to bring to her a star they watched fall from the sky. This journey will require him to cross over the wall. Upon reaching the crater left by the fallen star, he finds a beautiful woman. He soon realizes that this woman is the star, and that the world he’s entered is far more magical than the one he left. In the meantime the star-woman is being perused by a witch that wishes to eat her heart to gain youth, as well as a band of brothers eager to win the crown of their deceased father.
Neil Gaiman’s tale of love and magic is, above all things, incredibly creative. The universe in which this fable resides follows a type of magic that is about two steps darker than a Disney cartoon, but with all the sense of adventure and wonderment. As a film, the story is translated excellently, projecting that sense of wonderment easily onto the viewers so that we experience every quirky bit of magic right along side Tristan. The biggest problem with the modern fairy tale in film, specifically live action fairy tales, is that they become simple vehicles for flashy special effects. While the effects needed to show unique magic and breathtaking visuals is certainly necessary, it should come secondary to the story. Thankfully, one of the most celebrated modern fiction writers is the father of Stardust, a fact that shines through.
If the movie suffers from something it’s an overly busy plot. With the various groups vying for the possession of the star, we are subjected to a violent thrashing around from scene to scene. As the movie progresses these elements draw closer together, somewhat remedying the jostling about that it has subjected the audience. However, it is a small fault in an otherwise interesting and visually pleasing film. When there is little encompassed within the movie to distract from the movie, then something was done right, and in this case all the pieces fell together to capture the attention of it’s audience and tell a fantastical tale that stood above the drivel.