I approached Stardust with apprehension, because of late, fairy tale movies like Pan's Labyrinth, MirrorMask and Brothers Grimm somehow didn't appeal to me, even though they are helmed by acclaimed directors, and critically praised by many. Moreover, the movie had premiered in the US for ages now, and the trailer has been played too often over here, while waiting for the movie to make its debut, that it actually looked quiet tired.
But I am extremely pleased to have stuck with my gut, and gone for the screening anyway, and boy, was I thoroughly surprised and entertained! Let me say this - the trailer did not do the movie justice, being overly long, and cut in a rather plain manner that seemed to harp on the big names, and made it look pretty ordinary. Doubt not Neil Gaiman's creativity in crafting an adult fantastical fairy tale filled with witches, pirates, sword and sorcery, and beautiful people too, in a fictional land area in England separated by a wall, where inhabitants from one side is forbidden to cross over.
For all the more recognizable names in this feature, Charlie Cox takes up the lead role of Tristan, a shopkeeper's assistant who is smitten with the lady in his life, Victoria (Sienna Miller), to whom he vowed to bring back a falling star they witnessed in order to ask for her hand in marriage, and in time for her birthday. Naturally the lady thinks he, being the olden day wimp, probably couldn't do it, so in jest strikes that deal with him. But little does Tristan know that in crossing the wall, and meeting up with the fallen star Yvaine (Claire Danes), his life will forever be changed through a series of adventures, involving a sisterhood of witches led by Michelle Pfeiffer (on a revival after Hairspray) who are after the heart of the fallen star because of immortality, Septimus (Mark Strong) in his quest to become King by retrieving a ruby now worn by Yvaine, and with allies such as Robert De Niro's Captain Shakespeare and his merry pirates aboard a flying ship.
At its core, this is a whimsical love story, and I thought while predictable, was delivered most excellently. though your goosebumps won't have that much of a field day (various characters were actually rolling their eyes at different junctures and situations in the movie). It translated the notion that one usually glows when one is in love and/or in the presence of a loved one, and here, it does so quite literally as well. It has a beautiful coherent story that you would expect of a fairy tale, and plenty of magical artifacts introduced through the course of the story, like any respectable and enjoyable story amongst its peers, do serve their purpose at the right time - there is no wastage, and everything impeccably planned out.
The strength is indeed in the story, with unexpected twists to characters, though in its structure some might complain that it is predictable to a T, but yet it met expectations, and surpassed them. Visual effects were top notch and serve their purpose, and there's a fair bit of comedy courtesy of the princely ghouls. What made it a blast, were the actors, most of whom are big names in their own right. Ian McKellen lent his voice as the narrator, and Michelle Peiffer you just got salute for taking on a villainous role which doesn't stop poking fun at aging. Claire Danes was pretty as the wide eyed ingenue angel from above, and Charlie Cox opposite her do make a pretty couple. Peter O'Toole, Ricky Gervais and Rupert Everett had bit roles, but the one who stole the limelight was De Niro's pirate captain. Not that he does it in Jack Sparrow fashion, but here's a man whose first and foremost principle is impression, and you've just got to see him in action to believe! Aarrr!!
Nicely paced and never a dull moment, Stardust has bits of everything that made it a delight to watch - star power, story, magic, comedy, effects, intense buildups and moments, and the list goes on. If I may, then I must say I do enjoy the tried and tested moments that it tossed about on its notion of love - that sometimes you meet someone special quite oft by chance, and it'll take some time for you to realize that hey, the person standing in front of you is really that soul mate you're looking for. Call me a sucker for such predictable scenarios, but I like what I like, and I was impressed with how Stardust was packaged as a whole.
It has been far too long that I've emerged from a fairy tale movie feeling so very pleased, and Stardust wins that honour of having put the faith for such movies back in me. As such, it wins a well deserved slot in my contender list for top 10 movies of the year. Don't miss this one when it premieres on Thursday!