Stardust

StardustStardust

Best movie of 2007 (in my opinion anyway) now available at the library! It's based on the illustrated novel of the same name by Neil Gaiman. If you haven't seen it, put it on hold or rent it from our Zoom Lends today!

I was expecting to be supremely disappointed by this movie, but watching an interview with Neil Gaiman coaxed me into seeing it. I'm glad I did. I loved this movie. This was one of the best fantasy movies I've seen in years. Period. I really shouldn't have doubted Neil. Of course, to be fair, it was actually Hollywood I was doubting which I think is entirely fair. The God of movies is often fickle and cruel, but every so often true gems fall to Earth from his devilish workshop and Stardust is one of those gems.

The first thing I was skeptical of was the title: Stardust. It sounds...sparkly, just the sort of thing Hollywood likes to turn into a movie filled with princesses on unicorns, and admittedly there IS a unicorn but int's not too sparkly.

...and it's not as if we have some pretty boy Prince...

Okay that's a lie too. And he is very pretty. So pretty... But that's not the point! The point is the movie is good in spite of these conventions. Recently I've felt that Hollywood has figured that if it puts enough magical elements into a movie, it'll attract all the Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings addicts. Being one of these addicts this generally leaves me jaded. I love fantasy. That's why I hate seeing it abused by producers trying to make a quick buck. Many of these movies leave the plot behind in the process. It's as ifthey're saying: "What? It's got magic in. We even have good-looking actors! What more do you want? We don't have the budget left for a plot."

But I suppose it'd be a complete waste of money to give Neil Gaiman (as he calls it) "a wheelbarrow full of money" if you weren't going to use his ideas. Not that morons in Hollywood haven't done this to other authors, but luckily whoever bought the rights to Stardust knew better.

EDIT: Turns out Neil trusted the guy who wanted to do this movie so much that he gave him the rights for free. Always a good sign. If I was an author, I'd want money even if I did trust them. But maybe that's just me.

I hate comparing stories because it is my nightmare to see my book one day on a display reading "If you liked Harry Potter..." It's because this is a crass marketing tool that publishers use to cram all books of a certain genre together. But I say with the highest respect for both stories: Stardust is The Princess Bride of our generation.

EDIT: I've looked at Neil's blog and he doesn't seem to think it is like Princess Bride at all, but it seems many other reviews have said the exact same thing as me. Neil says:

"Which is nice. I've tried to explain to interviewers that, no, I don't think it has much in common with The Princess Bride, they're at present the only two things in that genre."

Well, yeah. The good non-franchised fantasy genre is rather small. So I'm sorry, Neil, but I'm gonna have to agree with the reviewers on this one. Ugh...I feel dirty just saying that...

But it's true. Stardust resembles Princess Bride in more than just genre and greatness. It's not quite as quirky or campy. However, its simple but brilliant hero's quest features high adventure and swashbuckling fun while still having dazzling character development. Sound familiar now? The romance in Stardust actually is a little more developed and interesting than in Princess Bride when you come right down to it. I was a bit skeptical of the lead male at first because he was so pretty. Too often they use that as an excuse not to develop a guy's character. But I had fallen in love with him by the end along with many of the other characters, and I was rooting for him even though I know, just like everyone else, how fairy tales normally turn out. The circumstances aren't new--murder, greed, true love. But the characters, and the heart that went into them, were what made it great.

Plus there's plenty of humor but it balances with the action. I have not read the book (possibly a good idea because, even though I liked the film, books are always better) but Neil's particular brand of dark humor (and light humor and all types of humor in between) was scrawled all over this movie. I laughed quite a lot.

Admittedly I was really skeptical of the flying pirates but they turned out to be some of my favorite characters. Yeah! Flying pirates! Take that in the eye Pirates of the Caribbean!

As for the special effects they are awesome and what give the film its visual adventure and scope. There's no lack for eye-candy and it's certainly worth seeing the airship on the big screen. I am sorry to make the comparison again, but this is less of a comparison and more of a highlighted improvement. This film is what Princess Bride would have been with about three times the budget and modern computer technology. Sometimes money and technology are a bad things, but I think this film had just enough and not too much. It does what it's supposed to do--enhances the story, not take it over.

In short, I highly recommend everyone go see this movie and fund good fantasy!

I don't want to twist anyone's arm or anything, but remember, the more people that go and see this film, the more likely more good films like it will be made (i.e. the more movie execs asking Neil Gaiman to write stuff.)

Number ranking: 9.8/10 (A couple decimal points shaved off only for predictability of certain events, but it is a fairy tale. Just a fairy tale written by a mad genius!)