True love, magic, witches, pirates, transvestites and unicorns. Wait a minute, transvestites?
If you saw the woefully mis-marketed trailers for Stardust this past summer, you might have thought that it was just your typical fantasy film for kids. But don’t let those Hollywood marketing executives fool you; Stardust is a tale with cross-generational appeal.
The film, based on a novel by Neil Gaiman, is on the surface the simple story of a boy named Tristan Thorn (newcomer Charlie Cox), who journeys into the magical kingdom of Stormhold to retrieve a fallen star to prove his devotion to his love, Victoria. However, if you delve a little deeper, this simple story unfurls into a complicated epic that is heartwarming, original and comedic.
Tristan finds that the fallen star is not a lump of rock, but an ethereal girl named Yvaine (Claire Danes). Tristan forces Yvaine to come with him so he can offer her as Victoria’s birthday present, with the promise that afterwards he will help her return to the sky.
In the magical world of Stormhold, the heart of a star brings its owner eternal life, and as a result almost everyone in the film wants to capture Yvaine.
Of the many contenders, the most vicious are a trio of haggard looking witches who wish to use Yvaine’s heart to return to their former youthful appearances. The leader of these witches is Lamia (an equally seductive and repulsive Michelle Pfeiffer).
Another contender is Prince Septimus (Mark Strong of Syriana), a cunning man who has no problem with the prospect of murdering his six brothers and stealing Yvaine’s heart in order to forever be king of Stormhold.
As Tristan and Yvaine try to evade these foes and make their way across the kingdom, Tristan begins to realize that his true love might be the girl right in front of his eyes.
Now that we have the basic plot outline it’s time to introduce what really makes Stardust, and please excuse the pun, shine. While it is undoubtedly a fairytale, there are elements of Stardust that clearly mark it as a 21st century entity.
Element number one: transvestite pirates. In one of the most surprising moves of his career, screen veteran Robert De Niro takes on the role of Captain Shakespeare, a sky pirate with a penchant for silk dresses and feather boas. As he and his crew of pirates help Tristan and Yvaine on their journey, Shakespeare tries to keep up his dastardly reputation, but in the end realizes that his entire crew has always known that he was, as one crewman states, a “whoopsie.”
Element number two: ghostly princes utilized as comic relief. As mentioned before, Prince Septimus murdered his six brothers. In most films, the deceased princes would no longer be on screen. In Stardust they stick around, acting like sarcastic commentators at a football game, until the next king of Stormhold ascends to the throne.
These and other quirks are what make Stardust more than your average fairytale. While the film is entertaining and original, there are some scenes that fall flat. In a prime example of overacting, Claire Danes resembles a child doped up on one two many pixie sticks as Yvaine confesses her love for Tristan.
Despite a few instances of bad acting, Stardust is undoubtedly enthralling. The countryside shooting locations of Iceland, Scotland and England make the kingdom of Stormhold visually stunning.
The romance between Tristan and Yvaine manages to be predictable yet charming, and the numerous villains and secondary characters breathe comedic life and originality into an already inventive tale.
For those of us who are already jaded by existence, especially with the upcoming crunch of finals and the holidays, Stardust provides an escape and the opportunity to experience something completely different than the usual fare. With the recent slew of fantasy films like the Harry Potter series, Stardust might seem like small potatoes, but this unassuming film has enough originality to send J.K. Rowling running for the hills.
Stardust will be shown tonight and Sunday night at 7:30 p.m. in the BLC Theater.