While arriving to a fair amount of critical acclaim and much fanare on television and internet ad campaigns, Stardust didn’t fare so well in American cinemas. Taking in a little over half of its production budget in the states, Stardust made near double that overseas, finding a much stronger audience abroad. It’s not an uncommon story and considering the film market has been oversaturated with fantasy films since the success of the Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings films, not to mention success that The Chronicles of Narnia experienced, a little fantasy fatigue was bound to set in. With all of this aside, however, it must not be forgotten that underneath it all, Stardust is one of the more imaginative tales to come out among the sea of fantasy films.
“Scheming princes, wicked witches, flying pirates, celestial love, a pure-hearted hero, all in a magical land. What more do you want?” raves Today’s Gene Shalit for Stardust, an epic adventure starring Claire Danes with Michelle Pfeiffer and Robert De Niro. In Hopes of wooing a beautiful girl (Sienna Miller), Tristan (Charlie Cox) promises to bring her a falling star. But he’s in for the adventure of his life when he discovers the star is actually a celestial beauty named Yvaine (Danes). When an old witch Lamia (Pfeiffer) attempts to steal Yvaine’s youth, Tristan must protect her at all costs. This magical fairytale like no other will make you laugh out loud and believe in love again.
When young Tristan (Charlie Cox) is attempting to win the heart of young Victoria (Sienna Miller), only to find out that another man seeking her heart is about to propose marriage, Tristan makes a promise to Victoria to go retrieve the fallen star for her, is she only promises that she’ll wait for him. Setting out, Tristan can think of nothing else but Victoria; that is until he meets the fallen star Yvaine (Claire Danes). While the two do nothing but detest each other at first, the pair quickly begin to fall for each other as they avoid the dangers around them, from the evil old witch Lamia (Michelle Pfieffer) who wants Yvaine’s heart so that she may remain young and beautiful, to a collection of brothers out seeking Yvaine’s necklace that will grant one of them the power of the throne of Stormhold.
Stardust is certainly a unique take on the “happily ever after” fairy tale. Written by Neil Gaiman, the story was first thought of as an adult fairy tale, both in terms of how our main characters came to be as well as the situations and humor that they’re put in. By no means is it purely adult for objectionable purposes, it just doesn’t dumb down certain things for children, nor does it sugarcoat any of the more risqué elements, such as how Tristan came into the world. This isn’t to say this is something young kids shouldn’t watch (although the PG-13 rating is undoubtedly the reason for why it didn’t receive a stronger box office intake in the States), because by the large there isn’t anything that is incredibly objectionable and that of it that is is shown in the first fifteen minutes of the film.
As for the story itself, while it’s predictable, it does leave a smile on ones face. It’s a cute tale and actors Cox and Dane are the ones solely responsible for creating some of the most tooth-rottingly sweet on screen romance I’ve seen in a long time. On top of their chemistry with one another are the roles played by Robert DeNiro and Michelle Pfeiffer. DeNiro has found a nice little niche in comedy lately, no doubt stemming from his roles in the Meet the Fockers films, and he brings his brand of tough-guy humor with finesse. His role in the film isn’t terribly large, but it is memorable, if only for his impact on our main characters. Pfeiffer also commands her role as the evil witch of the film with great ease as well, never once faltering or causing the audience to pause and wonder if she truly is evil. And, of course, Ricky Gervais’s role is hilarious as always; hopefully we’ll get to see more of him in future films.
Even with all of the fine performances, directing and special effects in the film, there was still something lacking in the end. For all the chances the story took in the beginning, what with Tristin’s father rebelling against the rules of his village and running across the wall that separated them from the other world and having a one night stand with a woman who he never saw again (until the end of the film, at least), the film didn’t ever really play up to its “adult fairy tale” portrayal past this aspect. While it was an integral part of the film, it just didn’t seem entirely necessary to have that one element if the rest was going to be your standard fairy tale fare.
Still, for what it’s worth it was a cute film that will likely find a stronger audience on DVD. Like the rest of the film going community, I’m just a tad burnt out on the fantasy thing after the hours spent in theaters for the Lord of the Rings. So much so that even unique films such as Stardust become lost on me as I just don’t have the desire to watch any of these fantastic old world adventures anymore. I know full well I’m not the audience for this film, but even through the fantasy elements I can see the films charm. Recommended.
Arriving in a single disc elite Blu-ray case with no slipcover and no insert, Stardust sports the standard Paramount grey disc art with the film title and disc details carved in. Main menu is animated with music, while submenus are static and devoid of music.
Video for the film arrives with a standard AVC encoded transfer that is appropriate for this kind of film. By appropriate I mean that it’s not exactly the most clear of transfers—there’s a lot of soft imagery here, but that goes hand in hand with the mystical and magical elements that the film brings forth. There are moments where the blacks swallow up the rest of the scenery, but truth be told it’s a pretty entertaining and enjoyable transfer from start to finish. The audio is undeniably a highlight of the whole Blu-ray experience though, with a DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix standing front and center. There is nary a moment when the surrounds aren’t kicking up some kind of dust and the LFE output is always a properly deafening thump when the mood calls for it.
Onto the special features we have a making-of featurette (five parts, 1080p) which runs over forty minutes in length and it’s your standard making-of fare, with the original concept of the film and comments from cast and crew. Neil Gaiman is heard throughout with his thoughts on the original novel he wrote as well as the film. After this making of is a series of five deleted scenes (5:32) all in an unfinished state and all of which were cut from the film for obvious reasons, not to mention the films over two-hour run time already. Finally a round of bloopers (5:25) is collected, which consists of Ricky Gervais flubbing his lines (and those around him flubbing theirs because of his presence), as well as Peter O’Toole, who apparently can’t remember his lines despite being in only one scene.
New to this Blu-ray release is a Commentary by Writer and Director Matthew Vaughn and Writer Jane Goldman and while it’s not an overly impressive track, it serves its purpose well and fills the gap that the previous DVD release left. There’s also an additional Nothing is True… featurette which is only a few minutes and in standard definition which is another kind of behind-the-scenes style expedition. Overall this is a Recommended release and a worthy upgrade over the DVD edition if you truly enjoyed the film.
Stardust is now available on Blu-ray.