Bruce Turnbull 23/11/2007
Straight from the Hollywood feeding pen comes another vacuous Christmas turkey in the shape of Matthew Vaughn's sprawling fantasy epic Stardust, a movie I had such high expectations for, and one I'd find hard to sit through a second time. In fact, it was hard enough to make it through the first. Based on the novel by renowned author Neil Gaiman, Stardust sees our plucky young nobody Tristan (Charlie Cox) embroiled in a hopeless love triangle, spinning rivalry between himself and another suitor for the woman of his dreams, Victoria. And in order to win her heart as it were, he is required to retrieve a fallen star and present it to her on her birthday. The ensuing problem arises when he crosses 'The Wall' - over which a fantasy realm dwells - and Tristan finds out that his fallen star isn't a portion of solidified light, but a young, beautiful naiad named Yvaine, played delightfully by Claire Danes. The narrative plods along merrily with numerous plots overlapping, but only when the dreadfully wicked Lamia (Michelle Pfeiffer) is informed of the fallen star's arrival does it become interesting, as she realises it is imperative to capture Yvaine in order to maintain her youth. And how does she remedy this exactly? By cutting out her heart. Indeed. The story follows an unwieldy path of fantasy clichés and narrative gimmicks until it concludes in the most ludicrous, unbelievably naïve finale that frankly had me - and many others - snoring in the aisle.
The issues I have with Stardust are not with the acting, or mise-en-scene, or music, or cinematography. Respectively, all of those things are of a high standard, as one would expect from a film of this scope. But the narrative is so ridiculously linear, and circumvents practically all the traditions of the fantasy genre that make it so universal. For starters, the basic principle of fantasy fiction is that it must be rooted in reality; otherwise it seems contrived and unconvincing. Tolkien's Middle Earth, as probably the most frequented example, is replete with believable characters, interesting history, and authentic culture. Feist's Midkemia is even more vibrant. Kerr's Deverry: even more so. But Gaiman/Vaughn's The Wall? How much thought has been put into this thing? One minute they are standing in a small, honest, British market town, the next, they cross a stone wall and boom - thriving fantasy empire. I just don't buy it. And it's not because I wanted to slam this thing from the word go; I was dying to sample Jane Goldman's screenplay; which is of a poor standard considering all the plugging her husband has rightfully done for her. The great Robert De Niro's character is so painfully unfunny that his career can be seen crawling from him like that of the greedy Hollywood producers that have flaunted their overflowing wallets to buy such cheap demographics.
Practically every British actor/stand up on the scene at the moment appears somewhat briefly in the film - Ricky Gervais manages to bring along David Brent in a tunic and cod-piece - and the performances of both Charlie Cox and Michelle Pfeiffer are rather credible, but despite all of its redeeming features, too much revenue and not enough thought has gone into the making of Stardust, and unless your children are dragging you by your feet to the local Odeon, this is one fairytale that is not worth telling.