| The Red Right Hand
Robert De Niro
Neil Gaiman is a pretty cool author (this is a picture of us three years ago). The 'prestige' edition of Stardust was released in 1997 but first hit book stores in 1999. On arrival, it won critical acclaim and various awards. The tale itself is not dissimilar to William Goldman's The Princess Bride, chronicling the classic fairytale element of a young man's quest for *insert generic item* to prove his love for some undeserving broad but discovers his true love along the way; aww. Despite its genre, the story is very original, mixing lightning-hoarding sky pirates, witches, curses, unicorns, anthropomorphic stars and all sorts. Despite the great source material, many adaptations have been crucified by the novel-to-screen transfer. Two of the important elements to the success of Vaughn's (director of Layer Cake) adaptation is the balance of swashbuckling for the guys and mushy romance for the girls and the phenomenally impressive cast.
Most of the actors in this film may appear to be unknowns but almost every character was portrayed by someone that I (as a British citizen and a film critic) recognised: a healthy mix of new faces [Charlie Cox, Ben Barnes, Henry Cavill], British comedians and favourites [David Kelly, Sienna Miller, Nathaniel Parker, Mark Strong, Jason Flemyng, Mark Heap, David Walliams, Julian Rhind-Tutt, Adam Buxton, Sarah Alexander, Mark Williams, Dexter Fletcher. Ricky Gervais] and heavy weights [Ian McKellen, Peter O’Toole, Rupert Everett, Michelle Pfeiffer, Claire Danes, Robert DeNiro]. Hmm... just listed the majority of the cast; maybe that wasn't the wisest of things to do. The only issues I had with the casting were Ricky Gervais, because I think he's a humourless pratt (but in this role he managed to produce some laughs) and Claire Danes' eyebrows (for whatever reason, Danes wasn't considered blonde enough so they dyed her eyebrows blonde... unfortunately it just made them transparent and at times looked as if she was without eyebrows).
Like most fairytales, the story is simple - bordering the village of Wall is the mythical kingdom of Stormhold; the only thing separating the two lands is a 5 foot stone wall. Tristan [Cox], a nobody shop boy with a mysterious past, makes a promise to the local tart, Victoria [Miller], that he will cross the wall and bring back a fallen star. On arrival in Stormhold, Tristan soon discovers that the fallen star is in fact a young lady named Yvaine [Danes]. As he makes his way back to Wall, the star in tow, Tristan learns that he is not the only one looking for Yvaine. The two other parties in question are three sisters (witches to be accurate) who desire eternal youth, obtainable by cutting out and devouring the heart of a star and the unscrupulous heirs to the throne of Stormhold, who are seeking a necklace that will determine who shall reign.
This film may not receive the accolades that were bestowed upon The Princess Bride but it certainly deserves hearty praise. The visual were largely stunning (bar a two-headed elephant, which was pretty naff) but most importantly was the exceptional use of the rolling British countryside which offers a healthy rival to New Zealand's Middle-Earth. All-in-all, this film takes an unashamed approach to the fairytale world and offers something that is neither cutesy nor false. It's a wonderful achievement that shines amid the trash riding on the Harry Potter/Narnia/Lord Of The Rings success.
19th October 2007
The Scene To Look Out For:
Mark Strong's character, Prince Septimus, is ruthless, cunning and pretty mean. Unfortunately, he is rather impressively disposed of by Lamia [Pfeiffer] using a clay voodoo doll. Tristan, protected by a charm, is impervious to magical harm so the witch harnesses Septimus' corpse to fight Tristan. The whole scene was very entertaining and astoundingly choreographed. Either that or Norwich's 2 second moment of fame - two seconds of on-screen footage that shut down half of Norwich for five days; my friends and I sit under a tree and eat pizza there... and for a week, we couldn’t! Outrageous!
As always, I thought Mark Strong was great, creepy to see him with hair, but still great. I've highlighted his character in almost every film he's appeared in simply because I think he's a great actor that receives so little credit. Secondly, the bright young upstart, Charlie Cox as Tristan. About half an hour in it becomes clear that this role could easily have been written for bloody Orlando Bloom but Cox proves that he is above and beyond the abilities of that namby-pamby pretty boy.
"Nothing says romance like a kidnapped, injured woman"
In A Few Words:
"Stardust is an original fairytale minus the contemporary cynicism of modern efforts; namely the Shrek series"