Monday, September 10, 2007

Stardust, 2007

Some projects are rather ambitious. Take, for example, welding together a power packed cast including luminaries such as Michelle Pfeiffer, Robert De Niro, Ian McKellan and Peter O 'Toole with an offbeat, somewhat bizarre story and making it entertaining without being overbearing. Stardust (2007) is exactly such a project.

In the first 10 minutes it has to establish the rules for a bizarre world, introduce and then cast aside a primary character, and interest you in the main character who begins his screen life as a bumbling, incompetent boob. Even worse, it then gets strange and introduces a complex yet humorous subplot.

Stardust is the king making tale of young Tristan (Charlie Cox), a boy who just happens to work in a produce store, and his future queen Yvaine (Claire Danes), a star fallen from the heavens. When she falls, Yvaine brings with her a pendant thrown up by the King (Peter O 'Toole) for his three surviving sons to find and battle over. Whoever finds the pendant and has it change color will be the new king. Yvaine simply wants to return home.

Tristan wants to marry Victoria (Sienna Miller). To prove his love for her, he sets off across the Wall to find the fallen star and bring it back to show his love for her.

Meanwhile, three aging witches find out Yvaine has fallen to earth. If they can find her and kill her they will have their youth restored. They send Lamia (Michelle Pfeiffer) off to bring back Yvaine for their ceremony.

Thus we find several story lines woven together:
The sons striving to kill each other, avoid being killed, and find the pendant.
Lamia and the witches trying to find the star and kill her.
Yvaine trying to return home.
Tristan trying to bring the star back to his village to show his love for Victoria.

Along the way he meets Captain Shakespeare (Robert De Niro), the cross-dressing swashbuckling pirate captain, and of course his real mother Una (Kate MacGowan). In the climactic finish a multi-way battle erupts between evil Septimus (Mark Strong), the witches, and Tristan with eternal ruler ship of the Kingdom at stake.

Director Matthew Vaughn does a magnificent job of creating a believable world of fantasy with just the right mixture of brutality and whimsy. Certainly that is a strange mix, so perhaps an example is in order.

The rules for ascending to the kingship are simple. The King produces numerous sons who then attempt to kill each other off. As they die, they appear as ghosts somewhere close to the survivors with the means of their death still axe in the head, a smashed in face, and so forth. The recurring scenes of the dead sons of the King as each falls prey to some gruesome fate are hilarious, and made all the more so because of the presentation.

We also get to see some different things from Michelle Pfeiffer. I am sure many critics are talking about her courage in taking on such a role...she loses her hair, ages hundreds of years, shrieks maniacally...but the truth is the average movie-goer is wise enough to appreciate a well-played role and will subsequently accept her in a role where she displays her beauty throughout. She was quite entertaining in this role and a delight to watch.

In a similar vein, De Niro had a great time with his cross-dressing role. He plays comedies well and has fun with running counter to his more typical tough-guy role.

Overall, this is not your normal fare but if you are willing to engage in a different universe and have some fun watching Tristan grow from bumbler to hero, this flick is for you. You will see some great performances, some magnificent special effects and an ending that is out of this world.


Al said...

Now I see the can't see it if you read it in a RSS feed which is what I was doing...

jrwoodchuckette said...

I loved it!