Thursday, October 02, 2008

Stardust


I read Stardust, by Neil Gaiman, two or three years ago, when I was ploughing through his books at a rate of knots (having only just discovered him). A friend lent me the DVD, and it only clicked that I knew the story when they started talking about the village of Wall. From then on in, it was pure enjoyment.
Roger Ebert is surprisingly fuddy-duddy about the movie. James Berardinelli much more equable. Furthermore it actually tells the story better than the book did, which must be highly unusual. I remember that the last stretches of the book were somewhat rushed, or underwritten, as though Gaiman had run out of time or energy. Here in the movie, they have room to breathe, and the climax is truly a climax.
I can’t say I’m overfussed about Robert de Niro’s turn as a gay Pirate ship captain; that’s definitely a departure from the book. But since Gaiman had considerable input into the movie, he must have been happy with it. And it works well enough in the context of a fantasy world where nothing is quite what it seems. I seem to remember too, that the last of the nasty brothers was despatched well before the end. Here he survives until the last scene, which is more appropriate.
Charlie Cox is an absolute delight in the main role of Tristan; he and the role are one. Clare Danes does an English accent pretty well, (and is wonderfully down to earth) as Gwyneth Paltrow has done in a couple of movies – in fact, there’s a considerable resemblance between the two. It was almost as if Paltrow had dubbed Danes’ voice – or maybe they both have the same person dubbing for them?
There are a host of other names in the cast, from Michelle Pfeiffer at her gorgeous nastiest to Peter O’Toole having a day in bed as the revolting old king. Ricky Gervais gets a double comeuppance, first having his voice turned into that of a chicken’s, and then being dealt to with a sword because he can’t speak properly. There might be certain customers who think both were appropriate! Cox gets turned into a mouse at one point, Kate Magowan is a bird as often as a woman, Jake Curran becomes a goat, then a woman and a goat becomes a man in the form of Mark Williams, who manages to retain a great degree of goatiness. This isn’t a world where you want to meet the wrong person.
Nathaniel Parker turns up briefly as the grown-up version of the young man we meet early in the piece – he’s played by Ben Barnes (Prince Caspian, for those who don’t recognise the name). Here he isn’t the handsome Narnian, just a good-looking young village boy, with a taste for adventure.
Berardinelli, for some reason, compares the movie unfavourably to the Lord of the Rings trilogy. They’re worlds apart: the humour is quite different, particular the black humour, and there’s a sense that anything could happen here, whereas LOTR has a much more focused logic about it. Perhaps it’s the old problem of Yanks not finding British humour quite so appealing. Ebert certainly seems to have had a bad lunch before he saw the movie.
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