What’s the most powerful force in the universe? Well, it depends on whom you ask. A physicist may state that it’s the scientific forces of the known universe like gravity that keep the cosmos spinning without everything spiralling off in different directions to face a cold, cold death, A capitalist may state that it’s the dollar bills y’all. Andrew Ryan may say it’s the sweat of a man’s brow, the point is it varies.
What do I think the greatest force in the universe is? After watching 2007’s adaptation of one of author Neil Gaiman’s most fantastical novels, Stardust, I feel like the only answer it could be is love. Now, before you roll your eyes, just listen, and give me the chance to sell you on how good this movie is if you haven’t seen it.
Tristan Thorne (Charlie Cox) is in love, yes love! With whom, I hear you ask? Why the lovely Victoria (Sienna Miller), the most beautiful girl in the village of course. After scenes of Tristan declaring his love for Victoria only to be shown up and humiliated by Humphrey (Henry Cavill) and fired from his job in the village store, Tristan vows to recover a falling star that he and Victoria spot during an unromantic picnic in exchange for her hand in marriage.
The only problem? The English village of Wall in which Tristan resides has an eponymous magical wall that borders the fantastical kingdom of Stormhold that no one can cross. Well, that’s not strictly true. There’s a guard that stops people from crossing, but he can always be tricked. Want to know how I know that? Because Tristan’s father did just that eighteen years ago and ended up meeting Tristan’s mother, Una. Una gives Dustin a flower, the glass Snowdrop, and they spend the night together producing Tristan in the timeless tale of the birds and the bees.
Unfortunately, Tristan was unable to do what his father did all those years ago. His father bestows upon him the Babylon candle bundled with him as a baby with a letter from his mother from beyond the wall. Lighting the candle, Tristan is excited to meet his mother but is sorely disappointed when he’s delivered straight to the fallen star, personified as the beautiful woman Yvaine (Claire Danes). Like the start of all good relationships, Tristan uses a magical chain to claim her so he can deliver her to Victoria.
Meanwhile, the last king of Stormhold is on his deathbed and decrees that his successor shall be the first of his fratricidal sons that retrieve the ruby jewel that is the symbol of the monarchy. The two remaining princes Septimus and Primus set off to search for the stone. It turns out this is what knocked Yvaine out of the sky in a nice bit of interwoven narrative.
Three ancient witches, having ensured their immortal youth by devouring star’s hearts have been running low over the centuries. Sensing the new falling star, the leader Lamia (Michelle Pfeiffer) eats the scraps of the last stars’ heart and ventures out to trap Yvaine.
The three groups collide together throughout the movie and it ends up with Tristan and Yvaine stuck in clouds, getting captured by lightning pirates only for those pirates to turn out to be awesome and teach them swordplay and how to dance and eventually leading to Tristan and Yvaine falling in love and living out their remaining days together in Stormhold.
Now apart from omitting a particular scene from the beginning of the novel and some other minor adjustments, this is one of the most faithful adaptations of a written work I’ve seen since Peter Jackson’s Lord of The Rings series. The best part of the novel for me is the clear and strong character arcs that Gaiman wrote for the characters in Stardust, especially Tristan and Yvaine.
So often with love interests in novels, movies, tv shows and pretty much all other media they’re simply there for the main character to rescue, find or for lack of a better word “earn”. They’d have no agency of their own and removing them would change nothing.
Yvaine is not like that, she’s as integral to the movie (and novel) as Tristan is as both of their characters arcs are interwoven with each other. As the great YouTube channel Cinema Therapy discusses in their video on this movie, the two characters bring out the best in each other and let the other truly discover who they really are.
At the beginning of the movie, Tristan has eyes only for Victoria which we have been taught to believe means they are destined to be together through the power of true love. Only once he meets Yvaine, he slowly realizes that he knew nothing about Victoria, and more importantly, that Victoria didn’t care or respect him enough to even get to know him. Only by spending time with Yvaine does Tristan begin to believe in himself and develop into the man that his father saw all the way back in Wall.
For her part, Yvaine has spent centuries far removed from the world high above in the night sky. As she herself has said she’s watched people fall in and out of love time and time again, but she can’t understand why people would fall in love. When she meets Tristan and throughout their adventure together, we see Yvaine open up and become freer with her emotions toward Tristan. She discovers why people would fall in love and can be honest with herself.
The beauty of it is that both Tristan and Yvaine build on each other throughout the movie and it’s just so much fun to watch these characters develop along with their feelings for each other. The other characters are a lot of fun to watch as well, especially the scheming Prince Septimus (Mark Strong) and Captain Shakespeare (Robert De Niro). These characters don’t get the most screen time (in the case of the good captain) and don’t get a happily ever after (in the case of Septimus) but they make the most of their screen presence and I love it.
The cast of this film is nothing short of phenomenal. We’ve got future blind lawyer Charlie Cox, Catwoman Michelle Pfeiffer, the raging bull himself Robert De Niro and even Superman as a fencing Victorian gentleman, what’s not to like about that? Everyone is clearly having a great time chewing the scenery and inhabiting the world and the characters in it.
Talking about scenery, we can’t go past just how pretty the world is and how the cinematography is used to great effect. They showcase the fantastical elements of Gaiman’s world spectacularly. While it looks like your typical fantasy world, it’s got that unique Gaiman quirkiness that leaks through the screen, and I love it. The soundtrack and cinematography are understated, yet it works. They don’t need to be flashy, they’re just working in the background and letting the characters and the world take center stage.
Overall, Stardust is my favourite fantasy movie (apart from Lord of The Rings) with a great cast, wonderful character arcs and writing, stunning setting and it’s just an absolute blast to watch from start to finish. If you haven’t seen it, give it a crack.
What are your thoughts on Stardust? What Neil Gaiman property do you want to see adapted onto the big screen next? Let me know down below.
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