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Stardust Print E-mail
Friday, 01 February 2008
“Stardust” is the next evolution of the “The Princess Bride”. It is a film that bridges the gap between fantasy, romance, and drama. Director Matthew Vaughan takes us on an adventure that is sure to warm you heart and make you believe in another world filled with magical creatures and possibilities.

Tristan Thorn (Charlie Cox) lives in the village of Wall, which for the purposes of this film is located in England. He is smitten with Victoria (Sienna Miller), the stereotypical shallow, pretty girl of the village. Thinking he loves Victoria, he is willing to do anything to “win” her love and hand in marriage. While on a picnic, the two spot a shooting star. Victoria agrees that if Tristan were to bring her a fallen star, she would marry him. Their marriage is contingent upon Tristan bringing the star to her in one weeks time, before her birthday, at which time she will marry Humphrey (Henry Cavill), the stereotypical jock of the village.

Tracing the path of the fallen star, it leads him to the wall that divides the village of Wall and the magical kingdom of Stormhold. For some unknown reason, the wall is not very tall. It would be fairly easy to simply hop over the wall. However, to force things for this film, the only point of passage through the wall is at the guarded break in the wall. The guard (David Kelly) is a 90 or so year-old man, with the acrobatic and fighting skills of a young man. Tristan tries repeatedly to pass through the hole in the wall, but to no avail.
Tristan returns home, defeated. Unbeknownst to him, his father, as a young man, was the only man to make it past the wall and into Stormhold. Presenting Tristan with a letter written to him from his mother and a magic candle. The candle holds of the power of instantaneous transportation to any place by simply thinking of the desired destination. While he was supposed to use the candle to travel to meet his mother for the first time, Victoria suddenly pops into his head, and he is transported to the fallen star, which turns out to be a woman, Yvaine (Claire Danes).

Tristan uses a magic rope to bind her to him and lead her back to Victoria as promised. However, making matters more complicated are a few other uninvited guests. First there is Lamia (Michelle Pfeiffer) and her two sisters. They are extremely old witches that are on the hunt for the fallen star so they can cut out her heart and eat it and thus becoming young again.

The other parties involved are the remaining sons of the now deceased King of Stormhold (Peter O’Toole). As is family tradition, the brothers murder each other in order to be the last remaining son and thus be declared King of Stormhold. However, three sons remain and so they must set out in search of the sacred ruby jewel, which is what knocked Yvaine out of the sky and that she now wears around her neck.

The rest of the film deals with the obstacles encountered by Tristan and Yvaine on their journey back to Wall. Along the way, Tristan’s mother, Una (Kate Magowan), a slave girl is re-introduced to us, disappearing after the film’s opening sequence. And, of course it wouldn’t be a true fantasy film without the romantic element and thus Tristan and Yvaine begin to fall in love with each other.

“Stardust” contains a fairly well developed plot, with everything resolved in the end. The only problem I found is that the plots, sequence of events, and character developments were too cliché, simple, and above all predictable.

The acting was substantially well executed, which I would expect nothing less with such a stellar cast. Michelle Pfeiffer, looking more beautiful than ever as a young witch, is convincing and captivating as always. Robert De Niro has a brief stint in the film as a sort of Jack-of-all-trades entrepneur. While not an absolute necessity to the plot, his sequences were rather entertaining. Yvaine is a very dynamic character, evolving steadily over the course of the entire film. Claire Danes does a marvelous job in turning a celestial body into a lively character that is a pleasure to see on-screen. Newcomer Charlie Cox has all the qualities, both in physical type and acting abilities to be an Orlando Bloom or Johnny Depp.

Sadly, the video quality of the film is nothing spectacular. Being a new film and in the fantasy genre, I was expecting the transfer to be clean and vibrant. Instead the transfer was fairly lackluster. Vertical banding is extremely apparent in the blue, night sky sequences. The picture also lacked in details. Many times the foreground shots were soft and edge enhancement was very noticeable. The lack of great black levels made the picture look very flat throughout. While still extremely better than the SD DVD presentation, this HD DVD is not a source for video demo material.

The audio was slightly better than the video quality, but still disappointing. The dialogue is extremely uneven. I am not a fan of audio compression, but much of the dialogue becomes inaudible making me continually reach for the volume control. Sound effects were also unbalanced. Some of the more explosive scenes are lacking in presence because less important sounds occupied the same volume level.

All my favorite special features are included on this HD DVD. There are Deleted Scenes, a Blooper Reel, and a Making Of… featurette. Short of a director/actor commentary, usually most other special features are pointless. You will not find any revelations in the Deleted Scenes, but they are interesting. The Blooper Reel is surprisingly funny and enjoyable.

This film is an interesting take on the fantasy genre. It is not too childish. In fact it is a fantasy film meant for adults, but it is suitable for a family night. The movie is engaging, but the video and audio quality is nothing special. It may just be a rental for most of you viewers.

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