UK / USA 2007, running time 128 min, directed by Matthew Vaughn. Starring Charlie Cox (Tristan), Sir Ian McKellen (Narrator), David Kelly (Guard), Kate Magowan (Slave Girl/Una), Melanie Hill (Ditchwater Sal), Sienna Miller (Victoria), Henry Cavill (Humphrey), Nathaniel Parker (Dunstan Thorn), Ben Barnes (Young Dunstan Thorn), Peter O'Toole (King), Mark Strong (Septimus), Rupert Everett (Secundus), Julian Rhind-Tutt (Quartus), Michelle Pfeiffer (Lamia), Claire Danes (Yvaine) and Robert De Niro (Captain Shakespeare). Writing credits screenplay: Jane Goldman and Matthew Vaughn. Based on the novel of Neil Gaiman and Charles Vess.


Plot summary

Let's start with the young hero's father, Dunstan Throne, whose curiosity makes him cross a forbidden wall that separates merry old England from a magical kingdom called Stormhold. Shortly after his arrival he meets a seductive enslaved girl. Well "meet" wouldn't be the proper word for it. It's enough to say that after nine months Dunstan receives a "souvenir" from his romantic trip to elsewhere. He's called Tristan. As the boy is a lot like his father, he is a bit well, clumsy when it comes to courting his girl (Victoria), who seems to be one of the popular girls in town and doesn't care for boring shop-boy Tristan. Dunstan persuades his son to give it one more try after a devastating humiliation from Humphrey his rival.

Victoria gives in and lets herself be treated with Champagne and fine food. While Tristan talks her head off and Victoria's trying to make him realize that he'll never win her heart, a star falls and our little dreamer promises to get her that star as a birthday present. He has a week to keep his promise, else Victoria will marry Humphrey. We all have that notion, right? She'd marry him anyway, but hey, Tristan still thinks he can impress that girl.

On the other side of that magic wall the king of Stormhold is about to die. He had twelve sons and one daughter (Una), four sons are still alive and the daughter has vanished to God knows where. Tradition requires it that only one male heir may survive and become king. So just to be sure, the king with the help of one son kills Secundus. He is subsequently joining his dead ghostly brothers who observe the whole scenery. Since three siblings are still alive, and the king is dying, he sends off his royal necklet into the night sky. This thing flies off and hits a star (Yvaine) that is consequently falling down on the solid soil of Stormhold.

The falling star is also observed by three really evil witches who have seen better days. They almost lost all their magic power and are in urgent need of new energy. This fallen star - especially her glowing heart - will renew their resources for many years to come. One of them sets out to tear the heart out of the star's body - she's Lamina queen of Stormholds witches.

The hunt for Yvaine starts. Some want her as a gift, some want just her heart and others want her jewels. She's a very popular girl - but for the wrong reasons.

Tristan back in his small-town on the other side of the wall listens to his father's story of his strange inheritance and gives his Moses-basket to him. He finds a letter and a black candle, a small metal chain and a glass snowdrop. Now that he knows that his mother lives in Stormhold, he's even more decided to cross the wall. Coincidentally, he doesn't have to move one feet, because as his father sets fire to mum's black magic candle. He's off and being transferred to the place where the star has fallen.

Yvaine has hurt herself during her landing and is almost unable to walk. Tristan chains her and tries to take her back home to his town. This is where our odd couple starts out on its adventurous travel.

Of course they meet evil witches, crazy princes, strange merchants, too friendly innkeepers and a pirate that really is a bit different from other pirates you might have encountered. Tristan and Yvaine eventually fall in love and after one last battle against the three evil witches they finally marry and "live happily ever after".

They even become Stormhold's sovereigns because Tristan's mother, the slave girl from the beginning of the story actually is Una, the long lost daughter of the gruesome dead king with his twelve (now also deceased) sons. A big Happy End for our heroes and heroines.

General Review

What do we have here? That was my question after I saw this movie for the first time. And I'm not talking book into movie things - a useless debate. A rose isn't a daisy and when one is comparing books to movies one should consider this though for a while. Honestly my first perception of it left me totally cool. When I go to see a movie like this I usually expect something to happen - which for me are two basic conceptions of a classic fairy tale. Either it's pure entertainment and works as such or I have a tale that works on several levels, that tells more stories than just the one that is apparent to the eye.

The funny thing with Stardust is that it tries to work on several levels, but it has no hidden message in it. What's to be found is visible from hundreds of miles away: go your own way in life, become a man, stay true to your being and thinking, and most importantly listen to your heart and try to find your "one true love".

It also tries to be funny, no even more so, ironic. But how do you tell simple truths in an ironic way without betraying the deep romantic streak this movie is desperately trying to communicate? Don't get me wrong. There are lovely allusions and really fine lines in there. But somehow I got the eerie feeling that someone's been trying to drive a formula one car by continually using both feet for the breaks.

Loved Yvaine's way of reasoning, her hilarious soliloquies in Tristan presence. "Hmmm. Murdered by pirates. Heart torn out and eaten. Meet Victoria. Can't quite decide which sounds more fun." She is the role model for a modern woman. Make no mistake she isn't the blonde "Star" (oiii where's my make-up) type. She's got a lot of irony in her that has to be overcome.

Allusions en masse. Captain Shakespeare, our beloved pirate captain from another world. Of course he's cross-dressing, but he's a god-darned swordfighter as well. His troupe - sorry his pirates - they adore him although they know he's a "whoopsie". All the world's a stage, eh? His explanation for himself:
"Even chose the name specially. Took me ages.
See, I'm thinking: legendary British wordsmith.
My enemies and crew are thinking: Shake! Spear!"

Talkin' 'bout the Bard. There's loads of Shakespearian motives to be found. Yes, we got three witches and an absolutely "über" caricaturized King with his sons. Never have I seen more assassinations going on than in this royal family. Good to have an Inn that's rightfully called "The Slaughtered Price", not "The Slaughtered Dragon". No Lady Macbeth tho'. Hey, but we got Lamnia. She makes an absolutely evil and ruthless Lady, eh nope witch.

Wanna have more Shakespeare? Alright. Talking of Inns - the enchanted one which was build by Lamnia in order to trap her star (Yvainne). Now this one needs servants, right? What does she do? Poor Bernard is being turned into a girl and is called Brenadette from now on. Obeserve his / her eves when he / she looks at her own breasts for the first time or when he / she helps the star to get undressed. You choose one of your fav Shakespeare comedies - As You Like It?

More fun is to be had with Billy, the goat turned into a man. Could as well be A Midsummer Night's Dream, but the other way around:

"I have had a most rare vision. I have had a dream, past the wit of man to say what dream it was: man is but an ass, if he go about to expound this dream. Methought I was - there is no man can tell what. Methought I was, - and methought I had, - but man is but a patched fool, if he will offer to say what methought I had. The eye of man hath not heard, the ear of man hath not seen, man's hand is not able to taste, his tongue to conceive, nor his heart to report, what my dream was."
(Bottom; Act IV, Scene I)

Hilarious scenes when the murdered princes do the Statler and Waldorf comments on all murders and welcome each new dead member of the family with tongue-in-cheek lines.

Talking about animals, sure it's not nice being turned into a human when you're a goat. But serving as an animal oracle for three witches isn't very entertaining neither. Lots of animals are held captive by them, just to be killed in order to read the future. Yep, they do have their revenge on one of the witches in the final clash between Tristan and Lamnia. Being eaten alive isn't a nice death, really. But well deserved. That's a clear statement against cruelty to animals, agreed. Una, the slave girl is being turned into a blue bird when her mistress witch doesn't need her. I can hear myself whistling "Over The Rainbow". Political correct as well as the cross-dressing pirate who can lead his fiery men into battles nonetheless because he has "a fearsome reputation". But don't mention the Captain's good sides, he's worked a lifetime to achieve his die-hard status.

More? OK one more. The death of Primus (penultimate man standing in the list of would-like-to-be-King contenders list). He's killed in a bathtub. A woman slashes his throat. He's bleeding blue (!) blood. His carriage reminds us of a black catafalque. An idea which would come naturally, he's aristocratic as well as a ruthless treacherous swine. Don't worry this runs in his family. Allusion to? Jean-Paul Marat and the French Revolution.

Deeper truths - don't dig for them in a sub-text, they are up on the marquee in huge letters: What does Tristan say to Captain Shakespeare? "I don't understand… Surely it would make you happier to actually be yourself? Why fight to be accepted by people you don't actually want to be like?" Done. Allusions: loads of them and I'm pretty sure you'll find even more, depending on the cultural canvas you're travelling on.

This is what makes this movie feel "strange", it's entertainment with some intellectual puzzles in it. But it doesn't capture my imagination. The riddles are there, but there are too few clues to even find them - to solve them is a lot easier. Citations come by the minute, but they are not emphasized strong enough. That's why it might be hard for a fun-seeking teenager to even find out that there are allusions to something and for an impartial adult this movie might simply fall flat. It isn't kiddies stuff and yet it fails to trickle the mind of a grown-up well enough. It doesn't mock fairy tales and yet it does nonetheless. It's a nice and unusual fantasy movie with a great deal of potential - meaning that it isn't your average Hollywood fast food, but it's also not a European masterpiece. This indecisiveness is what might be breaking its neck. Since there are tons of intellectual quizzes to be had, it might become a sleeper, making it to some kind of cult status over the next years.

Great acting in every scene, loved DeNiro. What a man! What a comedian… Hugs & Kisses… Brian Cox is a very fine young Tristan. It's not too tough crossing your fingers for this fellow to make it to a happy ending. Claire Danes revels as Yvaine and obviously enjoys her becoming an almost human star a great deal. Michelle Pfeiffer looking just fantastically evil and lovely at the same time doing her witchy thing. Ohh and all those smaller roles, Sir Peter O'Toole as malicious dying king - a delight. As well as I've enjoyed Mark Strong as Septimus. A great dirty and slightly psychotic prince there. It's obvious they had a ball shooting this. Pure joy watching them all doing a great job. The set designs are a delight, as well as all the production details. Great sword fighting scenes and everything you'd expect from an adventure-fantasy movie is in here.

Nat Review

"Tristan, with the benefit of my years, I can tell you that all the men
I ever envied as a boy have lived unremarkable lives.
So you don't fit with the popular crowd?
I'd take that as a very good omen."

Nat's Dunstan is a small role like so many other roles in this are. They all build this remarkable collection of curiosities. Odd, strange and sometimes cartoonized people revive this movie. Dunstan is one of the nice figurines and one wishes that every child would have the great fortune of such a father by its side. It is quite an important role. His portrayal makes us comprehend why Tristan will succeed in his adventures. He's had a loving childhood, a very supportive father who obviously did all he possibly could to raise his only child without a mother.

His fatherhood shines through in all the scenes he has. His home is cosy and one can imagine that Tristan enjoyed a happy childhood there. Nat's Dunstan is the strong yet understanding man who tells his child to just go for it. It almost seems as if he's Tristan's beacon. He needs to have a safe haven to start out for his adventure - his dad is that with all his positive empathy he displays here. Without his kindness and love, he wouldn't have even had a clue on how to pass the 97 year old guard.

A sweet and tender role for Nat that I've enjoyed seeing a great deal. Of course Dunstan also receives his reward. In the end Dunstan and Una are reunited. Well deserved - they really did live happily ever after.


On DVD internationally

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