Director Michael Vaughan gives the short story by Neil Gaiman the big screen treatment in this star-studded story of love, courage and kingship. Gaiman is without doubt a master of the page when it comes to fantasy, but transforming his prose into cinematic success has yet to be accomplished, and so the question remains; does Stardust shine quite as much as we’d hope it would? The answer is, although it never quite reaches epic status, Stardust does deliver a delightful romantic fairytale with a side helping of adventure for good measure. It also has its fair share of black comedy and features cameo performances from a seemingly endless line of top British actors.
The story begins in Victorian England in the village of “Wall” so called because it shares a bordering wall with the magical land of “Stormhold.” Although it is forbidden to go beyond the wall, young Tristan (Cox) defies the rules of his community to go in search of a fallen star, which he promises to retrieve for the woman he loves (Miller). Little does Tristan know that there are other predatory characters after the star, which takes the form of a young woman called Yvaine (Danes). Needless to say Yvaine does not appreciate Tristan’s designs to take her back as a trophy to his would-be girlfriend and causes as much trouble as possible for him until she meets a much deadlier foe: Michelle Pfieffer in some truly terrifying make-up.
Pfieffer is chilling as the evil witch hell bent on eating Yvaines heart which will bestow the gifts of youth and beauty, and fans of the Godfather and Taxi Driver will get to see a whole other side to De Niro. All this certainly contributes to the fun factor, but Danes without doubt out-shines everyone else around her putting in one of her most sensitive performances to-date. She is highly watchable and demonstrates a beautiful capacity for on-screen vulnerability and a certain unspoken innocence meaning that the audience has no choice but to warm to the lonely star who is just trying to find her way home to the sky, and accidentally stumbles on true love.
Although the piece is held together by a deliciously dark sub-plot about the fight for the throne of Stormhold, the pacing of this piece could be better. Some segments of the film are slowed and over stressed when brevity would have been a better strategy. The success of the coupling between writer and director depends very much whether or not they function on the same wavelength. It’s clear from this piece that Vaughan and Gaiman aren’t quite the perfect fit, especially when compared to other pairings such as De Maurier and Hitchcock who together created works of genius.
In short, it is worth watching and has some beautiful and enjoyable moments. Just make sure you take a bag of sweets in with you to get you through the slow moments, as the overall flow of the piece is a little bit disjointed.