There are some fantasy adventure films, based on literary classics like Lord of the Rings that keep you on the edge of your seat and challenge your imagination, while there are others that are unbelievably boring and put you to sleep. Stardust falls into neither of these categories, but falls somewhere in the middle. It is an adventurous film that holds your interest and attention, but doesn’t quite live up to your expectations. Nevertheless, it is an entertaining and enjoyable diversion.
Stardust is a whimsical fantasy based on the popular novel by Neil Gaiman. The fairy tale begins with Ian McKellen (Lord of the Rings) telling the story of a young man who has a yen to leave his hometown, the sleepy English village of Wall, and cross the forbidden cobblestone wall to enter into the strange, mystical land of Stormhold. Successfully distracting the gate guard, the young man enters into this forbidden world, where he becomes intimately involved with a desirable young woman, who claims to be a captive princess. Nine months later, he receives a basket containing the fruit of their union – his newborn son.
Fast forward eighteen years, and we see a naive and awkward peasant teenage boy, Tristan (Charlie Cox), who is unsuccessfully attempting to win the affections of a self-centered beautiful maiden (Sienna Miller). When Tristan finally manages to get her alone, together they see a falling star, which he promises to retrieve for her, to win her love. Like his father before him, Trystan also crosses the forbidden wall to collect his meteorite. Once there, he discovers that his fallen star is actually a celestial beauty in human form named Yvaine (Claire Danes.)
There are others who are after the beautiful Yvaine as well, including the King's (Peter O'Toole) scheming sons for whom only her secret powers can secure the throne, and an ugly old witch Lamia (Michelle Pfeiffer), who seeks to steal Yvane’s eternal youth and beauty for herself and sister witches, so it is up to Tristan to protect her.
In the course of their adventures in the mystical world, the couple encounters Captain Shakespeare (Robert DeNiro), a pirate who commands a flying ship, and assists them in their escape. While he pretends to be tough, putting on a gruff exterior, the Captain actually has a gentler, softer side. However, the director goes overboard on this, when in one scene, we are shown Captain Shakespeare frolicking about his cabin in women’s clothing. Of course, this is done for laughs, but I found this scene distasteful, offensive, and unnecessary. In fact, I found this pirate ship escapade to be a distraction that doesn’t seem to fit in well with the rest of the film.
The two leading actors, Claire Danes and Charlie Cox, their innocence and their romance are what made this film work for me. Charlie Cox did an excellent job portraying Tristan, the naïve, awkward, and lovesick peasant boy who grows into a confident young man, who learns how to love and what it is all about. As Yvaine, Claire Danes assists her leading man with this transformation as she herself effectively portrays a spirited and cranky star who learns to share her radiant inner light with him. Both follow their heart’s desires and go where the journey of life takes them, which lifts them to beautiful new heights. This is a film worth seeing, although it falls short of what it could have been.
Stardust is an adult fairy tale which I do not recommend for children or for young teens. In addition to the cross-dressing scene, it contains violence, a flamboyant homosexual in one scene, a child conceived out of wedlock, sexual innuendos, and implied sexual relationships between unmarried people. It is rated PG-13 for violence and risqué humor.