Neil Gaiman has proved himself a worthy writer in the eyes of comic fans and literary critics around the world with books like “American Gods” and his library of “The Sandman” graphic novel collections. This week, cinema audiences will be treated to one of the most versatile and all-ages stories Gaiman has produced to date, with the feature film adaptation of his and Charles Vess’ “Stardust.”
The story centers around Tristan (played by Charlie Cox), a young boy who is destined to become a man on a long and perilous journey through another world, undertaken in the name of love. Unbeknownst to him, standing in Tristan’s way is a trio of witches trying to sustain their youth, and a family of princes all dying to become the next king. All of them are chasing what young Tristan has already found: a fallen star. Of course, nothing is that simple when the star is not a shiny rock from space but instead a beautiful girl named Yvaine (played by Claire Danes).
Gaiman and Charles Vess first created "Stardust" as an llustrated novella over a decade ago. Later, it was expanded into a fully prose novel before transforming into the major motion picture released this Friday. Being familiar with both the graphic novella and the novel, I was interested in how the film would capture the imagination of Gaiman’s prose and Vess’ images, and was ultimately delighted in the filmmakers’ ability to adapt and evolve such a rich work.
The chemistry between Yvaine and Tristan was seamless. An agreement begun in hate slowly changes their feelings for each other, and you can actually witness and appreciate the characters’ growth as you watch them on screen.
Fans of Gaiman’s work already know of his affinity for this genre and love of Shakespeare, and this movie retains that affection mostly in the character played by Robert De Niro, the evil pirate Captain Shakespeare. Possibly the single most entertaining character in the film, De Niro stretches his famously flexible acting legs even further and plays the funniest pirate you may ever see (with all due respect to Johnny Depp and his Captain Jack Sparrow).
As fun as De Niro was, Michele Pfeiffer stole the movie as the evil witch Lamia. Watching her recklessly weave spells and pay for it with her youth was at every step enthralling. It had been some time since I’d seen Pfeiffer in a new film, and still had Catwoman images in my head when she captivated me at the initial “Stardust” previews. She was so convincing that at one point, when you think she is going to let her prey go, Lamia’s evil reaches its peak and had the audience gasping.
These are just a few of the main characters, which were all enjoyable. Nearly all the peripheral actors played their part perfectly, usually resulting in laugh-out-loud humor. Certainly, one or two lines had a few members of the audience groaning, as if the cheese-factor had gotten momentarily too high, but I saw those moments more as necessary plot points that quickly passed and lead to more action. That was what I took away from this film, that even with the underlying romantic theme (not always what drags me to a film) “Stardust” is enjoyable for its action, humor, and adventure.
“Stardust” is a film that has evolved from one format to another and somehow manages to succeed on all levels. Take a date, take your kids (if they are of age, it’s a PG-13 movie), or take a friend to see this film and you won’t be disappointed. “Stardust” is a feel-good fantasy film that will put a smile on your face.
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