Rating 3¾

Directed by Matthew Vaughn

Written by Jane Goldman and Matthew Vaughn from the novel by Neil Gaiman

Starring Charlie Cox (Tristan), Claire Danes (Yvaine), Michelle Pfeiffer (Lamia), Robert De Niro (Captain Shakespeare), Mark Strong (Septimus), Jason Flemyng (Primus), Rupert Everett (Secundus), David Walliams (Sextus), Sarah Alexander (Empusa), Joanna Scanlon (Mormo), Nathaniel Parker (Dunstan), Ricky Gervais (Ferdy), Sienna Miller (Victoria), Henry Cavill (Humphrey), Kate Magowan (Una) and Peter O’Toole (King)

Narrated by Ian McKellen

“But of course, nothing says romance like the gift of an injured kidnapped woman!”

Young Dunstan Thorn crosses a wall that divides England and the kingdom of Stormhold. During his single night in Stormhold he chances to meet a princess who is held captive by a witch. Nine months later a baby in a basket is left at the wall with a note asking that the baby (named Tristan) be given to Dunstan to care for.

Eighteen years later Tristan is in love with Victoria, but she does not return his affections. When they see a falling star he promises to retrieve it and present it to her as a demonstration of his devotion. He finds himself setting out on an extraordinary adventure that takes him into Stormhold, where the King has recently died without naming a successor and three witches seek the fallen star to restore their youth and beauty.


“Right here, this is where I got hit by a magical flying moron!”

Claire Danes is Yvaine, the fallen star, Michelle Pfeiffer is Lamia, the witch who seeks the star, and Mark Strong and Jason Flemyng are the two princes who compete to be the new King, seeking the Monarch’s ruby stone, now worn by Yvaine. Robert De Niro plays Captain Shakespeare, the captain of an airborne pirate ship that captures lightning for sale on the black market.

‘Stardust’ began life in 1998 as a comic book by the English science fiction and fantasy writer Neil Gaiman, published by DC Comics. It was turned into a novel with illustrations in 1999. I was not familiar with Gaiman’s work before watching the film. With its all-star cast, this film adaptation was shot in England, Scotland and Iceland. It had a $70 million production budget, but its box office gross in America reached only a little under $39 million. However, the worldwide gross was just below $136 million.

The reviews were in the main very positive. 176 reviews collected at Rotten Tomatoes result in a 76% fresh rating. A lot of attention was paid to the presence of Michelle Pfeiffer, who had returned to acting following a five-year gap. She gives a very enjoyable performance in the role of the dark witch Lamia – and I say this as someone who had never been particularly a fan of hers in past, although I certainly did not dislike her in any way.‘Stardust’ is a family fantasy film that I assume would appeal equally to children and fans of films like ‘Lord of the Rings’ and ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’. It is a much better film than the latter, which ultimately disappointed me, despite some nice touches – I was a huge fan of the C S Lewis ‘Chronicles of Narnia’ books as a boy.

‘Stardust’ is great fun. It is not especially original, but it contains all the ingredients one would expect in a film of its type. There is plenty of knockabout action, sword and sorcery elements, fairytale romance, and some nice moments of clever humour directed at the audience. It is, perhaps, a touch too long.

Stephen Fry was apparently originally considered for the role of Captain Shakespeare. I have to admit I am not much of a fan of Robert De Niro, who seems rather horribly miscast here, and I think Fry would have been a better fit for the role.

Sarah Michelle Gellar stated in an interview prior to its release that she had turned down a role in the film, generally assumed to be that of Yvaine. I like Gellar a lot, but having seen the film I cannot help but think Claire Danes is the better choice. I think she is very good in the role (although I am not entirely convinced by her limping technique) and I am not sure Gellar would necessarily have been right for part. However, I do wonder if in fact Gellar was actually offered the role of Victoria, which was eventually taken by Sienna Miller. We will probably never know.

Review posted 25 April 2008; updated 9 May 2009


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