The Not-Very-Timely Movie Review – Stardust

Stardust was released last summer so…spoiler warning?  If you haven’t seen it yet, don’t read this I guess.  Or better yet, read the book and then read this and then don’t see the movie.  Seriously though, if you haven’t read the book just skip this entirely, it won’t mean anything to you.

I actually kind of liked the movie.  Kind of.  Mostly I just wonder what they were thinking during script development.  I understand that film and literature are different media with different requirements or restrictions.  But given those differences, the changes they made to the story made absolutely no sense to me while I was watching it in the theater and three months later, they still don’t.  I think this must be what the crazy-ass Harry Potter fans (Do we have a cute name, like Trekkies, for them yet?) must feel like when they watch the Harry Potter movies.

Where to start?  I guess with the beginning.  Ian McKellan provides the narration and his talent is absolutely wasted here, as the narration serves absolutely no purpose whatsoever.  Nor is his dialog particularly good.  It’s just sort of cut-and-paste fairy tale dialog, which is always offensive to read or hear, especially when Ian McKellan is the narrator.

The movie starts off with this completely pointless opening sequence about a scientist in London who gets a letter from a young man in a small town called Wall.  He writes the young man back and tells him his question is without merit and to move on with his life.  That’s the first and last reference to this character and the letter he receives, and given the ending it doesn’t even make sense that Dunstan or Tristan (I believe it’s Tristran in the book, not sure why they changed that too.) would write a letter to him in the first place.

Cut to Dunstan running through the gap in the wall and going to the market.  Notice I said market and not fair.  The market is a permanent place/structure and not at all an event that happens every X number of years.  Why?  Because the entire story takes place in a week.  A fucking week.  And there are only two scenes in the market and only one of them is at all important.

Skipping ahead a bit (but not nearly enough since the movie just leaves out a ton of shit), we have Tristan, sitting in the attic with his father, who finally tells him where he comes from.  He gives him a bit of silver chain, a Babylon candle and a letter from his mother.  He lights the candle and next thing you know, he’s sitting next to the star.  Oh and he has no other family apart from his father.  Why?  No reason, really.  Time, I suppose.  Like it’d eat up a whole chunk of film to just do it right and have his mother in the background.

Skipping further ahead, we’re left wanting (a lot) more when it comes to the unicorn bits, there’s virtually no travel/bickering between Tristan and Yvainne, the little mole dude is completely done away with, as is the Tori Amos tree.  So we come to one of the big scenes in the book, the scene at the inn where the witch almost kills Yvainne.  Poor.  At best.

The Stormhold brothers are treated mostly as comic relief, which is annoying.  Peter O’Toole was great as their father but they still got the tone of the character (really all of the characters) wrong.

Robert Deniro is awesome as the pirate captain, but they screw around with his character like mad.  He’s so good you don’t care all that much, but still.  They fuck with Michelle Pfeiffer’s character less so, and she’s wonderful.  The two of them actually steal the whole movie as far as I’m concerned.

Let’s just skip to the end of the movie.  Tristan leaves Yvainne asleep in the inn and goes to talk to Victoria Forester (Forster?).  He meets her and he sweeps her up in his arms and then drops her in the dirt, telling her to grow up and get over herself.  Because if there’s one impression I have of the character after having read the novel three times, it’s that he’s a dick.  Yep.

Back through the gap in the wall and…we blow the market off completely, never seeing it again.  Instead the witch takes Yvainne and Tristan’s mother back to her home where she and her sisters prepare to kill Yvainne.  Tristan shows up to save the day along with Septimus, who shows up to get the stone and the star so he can be king forever.  What follows is special effects horse shit that has fucking nothing in common with the book and nothing to do with the characters.  Absolute crap.  And the best part?  The part where Yvainne hugs Tristan and tells him to close his eyes and then she shines so bright the witch explodes.  Because she’s allergic to light apparently.  I actually rolled my eyes at this point.

Post anticlimactic climax, we find ourselves in the giant castle of Stormhold – which reminds me, the name of the entire land they’re in is Stormhold, and not Faerie and I have no idea why – and a million thousand people are there and Tristan gets crowned and his father is there…from Wall…and apparently is now fucking Tristan’s mother again (I guess that’s why Tristan doesn’t have a mother earlier in the film come to think of it), who gives Yvainne and Tristan a Babylon candle as a coronation present.  Ian McKellan chimes in with, “And they ruled for 80 years.  But men can’t live forever…unless they possess the heart of a star,” and then Tristan and Yvainne light the Babylon candle and ascend to the heavens where they take their place as two stars and the movie ends.


Oh, and the music throughout the entire film is so bad it’s distracting.

And all of this, from someone who halfway enjoyed it.  Holy ass cheeks, what a letdown.

Neil Gaiman was talking about the movie versus the book on his blog and basically said that in the movie version, you had to get Septimus, Tristan, his mother, Yvainne, and the witches all together at the same place and time for the final scenes of the movie.  I disagree with that and if I ever get the chance to speak with him again, I’ll absolutely ask him why he feels that way.  After all, I thought one of the lessons learned from the success of The Lord Of The Rings films was that you can successfully make a longer-than-average movie, allowing enough time for the story (and in the case of the LOTR movies, a much longer and more complex story than Stardust) to tell itself.

Ah well, maybe Neverwhere will be good.