One unembellished shot of a beach in Roman Polanski’s Macbeth exudes a more mythic sense of grandeur and terror than any of the tawdry CGI gesticulations that wash over the eyes in Matthew Vaughn’s competent but uninspired adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s fantasy novel Stardust. A compendium of multifarious genre inflections seemingly intended for friends of Tori, the film dully storms through episodes in the adventures of Tristan Thorne (Charlie Cox) after he crosses the wall just outside his English village and into the very unkingdom-y kingdom of Stormhold. Years ago, Tristan’s father inseminated a princess in this fantastical realm, leaving her inside a traveling carriage that is her implausible prison; now the offspring of their lurid one-night stand journeys over the wall, trying to retrieve a shooting star for some bodacious dimwit (Sienna Miller) he wishes to marry. But the star has a name, Yvaine, and it comes in the shape of Clarie Danes, who wears a necklace the deceased king of Stormhold’s children inexplicably need in order to claim the throne, and whose heart promises at least a few hundred years of Aryan self-preservation for a trio of witches led by the very hungry Lamia (Michelle Pfeiffer), whose villainy all the stars in the sky are privy to except for Yvaine. An elaborate chase film of crisscrossing agendas and humungous plot holes, Stardust relies on broad splashes of CGI to suture the vessels of an elaborate soap opera that prominently features a group of pirates commandeered by a cross-dressing closet case (Robert De Niro), a fidgety merchant (Ricky Gervais) afflicted with a parrotty tongue, and a posse of princely ghosts (among them an obviously embarrassed Rupert Everett) who resemble attractions from Eddie Murphy’s The Haunted Mansion movie. A feeling of friction between the film’s human and fantasy realms might have given Tristan’s adventures a sense of gravitas and justified the ceremonial last scene, but Pfeiffer is memorable in her upstaginess, her couture evincing a fiercer sense of scale than Vaughn’s widescreen compositions. The climax is equally startling, but also instructive: Between the spectacle of flying glass and the unique, rather morbid twist given to your average swordfight, Tristan’s showdown with Lamia serves as an example of the wonder filmmakers can elicit without the fuss of overzealous special effects.
- Matthew Vaughn
- Jane Goldman, Matthew Vaughn
- Claire Danes, Charlie Cox, Sienna Miller, Ricky Gervais, Jason Flemyng, Peter O'Toole, Michelle Pfeiffer, Robert De Niro
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