Director: Matthew Vaughn
Writer: Jane Goldman, Matthew Vaughn
Starring: Claire Danes, Ian McKellen, Charlie Cox, Michelle Pfeiffer, Robert De Niro
Runtime: 127 minutes
Rating: 76% Fresh
Views: 1st Viewing
Director Matthew Vaughn started his career with 2004’s indie-crime film, Layer Cake, which was released to both widespread critical and audience acclaim, and has gone on to become a cult film in the same vain as Guy Ritchie’s Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. Since Layer Cake, Matthew Vaughn has gone on to become one of Hollywood’s most interesting directors, and easily one of the go-to filmmakers for action and crime films. Stardust was Vaughn’s sophomore directing attempt, and Vaughn again manages to hit it out of the park.
Stardust is based on the Neil Gaiman novel of the same name, and is about a young man called Tristan Thorn (Charlie Cox). Tristan’s father crossed over the wall into the magical kingdom of Stormhold eighteen years previous, and met Tristan’s mother, an enslaved princess named Una. The King of Stormhold is on his deathbed, and after deciding to let his sons compete for the throne, throws a ruby into the sky for his sons to retrieve. The ruby collides with a nearby star, sending both crashing back down to the earth. Tristan Thorn travels to the star, and finds a young girl named Yvaine (Claire Danes) who he precedes to take with him. A group of three witches, led by Lamia (Michelle Pfeiffer) learns of the fallen star and decides to find the young woman and eat her heart, thereby recovering the three witches’ youth and magical powers. With the assistance of his mother and a flamboyant pirate of the sky (Robert De Niro), Tristan must win his true love and save Yvain from certain doom.
Going into a film like Stardust is always a very intimidating prospect, because most films in the fantasy genre simply don’t turn out very well in the end. In the years following Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, many franchises and stand-alone fantasy epics were attempted, and mostly failed (with the exception of The Chronicles of Narnia), and Stardust looked to be no different. Fortunately for audiences worldwide, Stardust is loaded with more than enough talent to make it work, and make it work well. Director Matthew Vaughn knows how to pace a film of this proportion, and his direction is remarkable throughout. His action scenes flow together incredibly well, and he commands his exceptionally talented cast to some very impressive performances. Robert De Niro in particular puts in a very fun performance as Captain Shakespeare, the flamboyant sky pirate, easily giving the film it’s most heartfelt and tear-inducing moment towards the end of the film.
The only elements that don’t work for Stardust are its score, composed by long-time Matthew Vaughn collaborator Ilan Eshkeri. It’s not that the score is particularly bad, just that it feels like and sounds very similar at times to Howard Shore’s score for the Lord of the Rings trilogy. It took me out of the film in a few moments, and I felt that a less inspired composition might have worked far better. Overall, Stardust is an incredibly fun and entertaining discovery for the fantasy genre, and a film that completely took many people by surprise. A talented director and cast help this film rise from a mediocre and forgettable film to a cult favourite that will continue to entertain for years. I highly recommend Stardust to anybody interested in epic fantasy films. 8/10.