31 October 2007

Stardust Review

Expectations are an interesting thing. One can frequently raise them, lower them, fail to have them surpassed, and have them smashed into little pieces. And I honestly wasn't expecting to have my expectations absolutely obliterated by Stardust; but seems that I had two sets of the damned things blown apart. Silly me, I suppose.

The film tells the story of a young man named Tristan Thorne (Charlie Cox), who is a shop-boy in the town of Wall - the namesake of which just so happens to be the border of a magical realm of Stormhold. Upon seeing a shooting star cascade into the land beyond the wall, Tristan makes a promise to local beauty Victoria (Sienna Miller) to retrieve the star in exchange for her hand in marriage. What Tristan doesn't know is that in Stormhold, stars are celestial beings who sit in the sky and watch the over the world; and the star he was looking out for would turn out to be the beautiful Yvaine (Claire Danes). But he's not the only one seeking the star - a trio of witches need her heart to acquire her youth; and thus the adventure begins.

The story, however, isn't the strongest aspect of the movie. In fact - apart from the vaguely decent concept and execution - the story is perhaps its weakest point, being wholly predictable from start to finish. It'd've been nice to have some kind of twist or turn (in fact, I could think of a way of doing it by simply deleting a single line of dialogue). Another problem is that the movie feels about 15 minutes too long, but it's incredibly difficult to point a finger at any given moment and say 'that could go'. No, it's more down to pacing than actual structure; there are a few moments that just need a trim in the editing department to make them bounce along faster. But honestly, these are minor problems at best, and they really didn't matter by the end of the story. I was having too much fun.

And that fun derives from two things. Firstly, the characters; there's a lot of them, and each is incredibly well fleshed out - from the actor playing them to their scripting, they're each memorable and funny in equal measures. Of particular note is Robert DeNiro's Captain Shakespeare - a man who puts on a tough veneer to hide a rather amusing secret; DeNiro playing it with tongue firmly planted in his cheek. Excellent, too, are the two protagonists; with Cox and Danes displaying some excellent chemistry, and the latter's RP British accent being more or less flawless. Then there's the gamut of British talent that turn up in quick-fire cameo roles - the most memorable of these being Ricky Gervais' Ferdy the Fence, who had me close to tears of laughter.

The second is the execution of the set-pieces; from a mass brawl on board Shakespeare's airship, to the swords'n'sorcery with a twist final showdown, it all tingles with a real sense of silliness and excitement. There are a couple of bum notes with regards to the special effects - including one that is almost heinous in its execution during the otherwise superb final battle - but on average they qualify as 'solid', and again, you should be having too much fun to notice them.

Basically, this is an old-school fairytale, full of fun, wonder and a healthy dollop of silliness; whilst being almost totally devoid of anything too serious or scary. A hugely enjoyable film if you're not looking for anything too heavy; and unless The Golden Compass proves otherwise, this could be the fantasy film of the year. Absolutely brilliant.

Ross' Rating: 8/10

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