So, the good news is that Matthew Vaughn’s adaptation of Gaiman’s ‘Stardust’ isn’t horridly embarrassing. I had worried that, in an effort to play it safe, genuine emotion would be traded for cheap laughs, but thankfully this isn’t the case.

StardustLike much of Gaiman’s work, the novel (and presumably the comics that preceded it) is at the same time utterly sincere and hilarious. Above all else, Gaiman has tremendous respect for his creations, so to hand over any film rights must be terrifying for him. The novel felt like the apogee of fairy tales, drawn from stories of old without feeling too derivative. The film is, however, a little self-conscious. The marketing people made the silly mistake of trying to compare it with the postmodern classic The Princess Bride, which was a mistake (could anything ever compare?), but it seems clear that the powers that be couldn’t let this film be released without some heavy handed, literal humour.

It’s still a strong enough story, of the luckless Tristan’s attempts to win the heart of the woman of his dreams Victoria (Sienna Miller), even if it means crossing the wall that separates his village from the magical realm of Stronghold. Stardust is Charlie Cox’s first major leading role, and he’s well suited. Seeing Tristan’s change from hapless suitor to dashing hero is a bit of fun. Danes gets to play Yvaine, a fallen star, and it takes a while to get used to her very contemporary delivery. When her plot takes a more romantic turn, however, she’s certainly in her element, and as likeable as she was back in Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet. It’s a big cast, and perhaps the biggest name is Robert de Niro, who’s woefully miscast as the lightning-harvesting sky pirate Captain Shakespeare. His turn as the air conditioner repair man in Brazil may have been a stroke of genius, but here it feels like he’s reluctantly taken part in a dodgy pantomime. Michelle Pfeiffer is adequate as the evil Lamia, and Rupert Everett certainly stays within his comfort zone as heir to the throne Secondus, but neither are remarkable.

The production values suit the film – it isn’t too extravagant, but isn’t exactly aiming at realism, so I can’t complain about the overabundance of particle effects. Ilan Eshkeri’s music certainly aims for grandiose, but at its best moments too closely resembles Wojciech Kilar’s classic 1992 Dracula score.

Director Matthew Vaughn (one time producer of Guy Ritchie’s films) has managed the balance between mainstream and edgy a little too well, resulting in an entertaining yet thoroughly average experience. Thus far, no film has captured the true spirit of Gaiman’s writing, though Mirrormask was much closer than this.

Rating: 3 stars
Review by Stuart Wilson, 16th September 2007
Hoopla Factor: 3 stars

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