Thursday, November 08, 2007


By Reymundo Salao

This movie based on the 1994 fantasy novel by Neil Gaiman tells the story of young Tristan Thorne who makes a wild-eyed promise to the prettiest girl in the village, whose heart he hopes to win: that he will bring her back a fallen star. But in order to make good on his promise, Tristan will have to cross the forbidden wall, and enter a mysterious kingdom lit by unending magic and unfolding legends of which he will quickly become a part.

In this fantastical realm known as Stormhold, Tristan discovers that the fallen star is not the meteorite he expected, but a beautiful, spirited young woman injured by her cosmic tumble. Now, she is in terrible danger - sought after by the King's scheming sons for whom only her secret powers can secure the throne; and hunted by a chillingly powerful witch desperate to use the star to achieve eternal youth and beauty. Tristan's adventure will never be an easy road to cross.

Considered by many of his fans as a literary god, Neil Gaiman weaves stories which have a timeless fantasy appeal. Oftentimes, his fans are very protective of their idol’s works, as they’re sometimes afraid when his stories are made into film because there is always a risk that it may not be translated well into movies, and may possibly just destroy the reputation of the original.

It seems unlikely that Matthew Vaughn would be the one chosen to direct this movie, considering that Vaughn’s previous work has only been the crime movie “Layer Cake” and his other credits include having produced the crime comedy “Lock Stock & Two Smoking Barrels… Nothing in his credits spell out that he would be a wise choice to direct a fantasy novel written by Neil Gaiman. It seemed like a risk. But sure enough, Vaughn pulled it off with flying colors. The film adaptation of STARDUST is a magnificent fantasy adventure that lets its audience soar into its wonderful universe of witches and sky-soaring pirates. Like all adaptations, changes and alterations may be expected, but the movie (according to fans of the book… they’re Gaiman fanatics…that I consulted) is more or less faithful enough to be considered a more-than-decent adaptation. According to the IMDB (Internet Movie Data Base) trivias, Gaiman trusted Vaughn both as a friend and as someone "who stuck to his word," something Gaiman considered a rarity in Hollywood. To complement Vaughn's style and better capture all the aspects of the book, Gaiman introduced him to writer Jane Goldman, and the two hit it off and wrote the screenplay.

At first one may frown at the minor flaw of the movie, which is the casting choice of Claire Danes as the Fallen Star named Yvaine (Sarah Michelle Gellar was the first choice to play the role, but she turned it down to spend more time with her husband). She just seems to be not as pretty enough to look like a human-form Star. But then again, as the story progresses, she metaphorically and literally shines at her part, the more you watch her in this role, the more you feel that she seems to be the perfect choice for the role. She does have that ethereal hippie-chick image to back it up anyway, and I guess many of us have already forgotten (& forgiven?) her offensive remarks about Manila from around ten years ago, which led the nation to hate her.

The narrator of the movie sounds familiar because that is Ian Mckellen (Lord of the Ring’s Gandalf himself). The lead character Tristan Thorne is played by Charlie Cox, who does a good job in playing a likeable hero. The rest of the cast includes a lot of familiar faces. There’s Robert De Niro playing the pirate Captain Shakespeare, Peter O’Toole as the King, Sienna Miller as Victoria, Henry Cavill as Humphrey, Rupert Everett as Prince Secundus, Jason Flemyng as Primus, & Mark Strong as Septimus. And of course, there’s Michelle Pfeiffer as the big baddie in this movie, Lamia, a witch determined to kill the Fallen Star so that she could be young again.

To those looking for a flick to share with the kids, the movie is family-friendly, although there are scenes which have some morbidity on it. But I’m sure its not as bad enough to upset families. It’s not something Pinoy kids can’t handle. The film is a high-flying adventure reminiscent of movies like “The Prince’s Bride” and “Willow” But this one promises to be far better than those two. Even its love story is chillingly sweet enough to excite killjoys like me. Its humor and sense of wonderful weirdness is delightfully spunky and impressive. This movie is indeed a fairy tale with modern sensibilities. It’s a must-see for lovers of beautiful magical escapist delight.