September 20th, 2007 Film, Film Reviews

Fantasy movies are already getting as boring as comic strip heroes. On the back of the long-lingering profit fever of Lord of the Rings, studios are rushing every possible project to the screen that could possibly emulate its grand themes and titanic CGI battles.

The Chronicles of Narnia, Nanny McPhee, Harry Potter and Eragon have all taken strong cues from the Tolkein/Jackson spectacle, and there’s no stopping them yet, with The Golden Compass, The Seeker; The Dark is Rising and probably plenty more on the horizon.

So it was with some excitement that Stardust offered a point of difference. Not only was it directed by ‘the gangster guy’ Matthew Vaughan (director of Layer Cake and producer of Guy Ritchie’s Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatched), it was written by Neil Gaiman, such a fantasy fanboy hero he’s almost a modern Tolkein.

It’s the story of Tristan (Cox), a young man with little to sustain him but his love for the beautiful but self absorbed Victoria (Miller) and his determination to escape his surroundings. When he and Victoria see a falling star land far off in the woods beyond the magical border of their town, he pledges to return with it to win her over.

But it’s no ordinary star, it’s one that takes the comely form of Yvaine (Danes), knocked from her celestial home and stranded on Earth by a magical ring with special powers (something familiar about that).

Tristan takes the girl captive and means to drag her all the way back to his village, but forces conspire against them and more than one nefarious group has its sights on Yvaine and the magical ring she now wears around her neck.

From skybound pirates led by a camp Robert De Niro to evil witches led by a hammy Michelle Pfeiffer, the return journey becomes an adventure that could only have come from the mind of Gaiman and studio executives with enough foresight to not try and just emulate the Rings trilogy again.

Stardust is good fun at times and there are some inventive visuals and ideas, but unfortunately it has the grubby handprints of too many moneymen on it and you can see where the more visionary ideas, characters and situations have been compromised by several star or producer egos or special effects budget quotas. If you’ve seen one battle between two nemeses with CGI coloured light beams, you’ve seen them all.

Fans of Gaiman can take heart in his upcoming adaptation of the myth Beowulf, being directed by Robert Zemeckis. If Stardust proves itself at the box office they might just give his script the leeway it deserves, but there’s nothing special to see here.

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