STARDUST (2007)

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Director: Matthew Vaughn
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 127 min.

When Tristan Thorn promises a pretty girl that he will bring her a falling star, he returns to the magical land of his birth to begin his quest.  But he soon discovers that the star is actually a living girl and bringing her back to his home will be much more difficult than he imagined—especially since a witch and a ruthless prince also seek the star to gain immortality.

It is always necessary to make changes in a film adaptation.  The plot structures that work well in a book do not work the same way in a film.  Sometimes, film adaptations can be quite different from the book on which they were based, but still awesome in their own right—for example, The Princess Bride.  Unfortunately, the Stardust movie was no Princess Bride. 

Cuts were obviously necessary for a book as rich in detail as Stardust to become a two hour film.  But as often happens in film adaptions, they cut more than necessary and added things that–instead of telling the same story more efficiently ,as do truly good adaptations like Emma Thompson’s Sense and Sensibility–fundamentally changed the thematic framework of the film.  For example, the 20-30 minutes of action added at the end made it so that neither the witch queen nor Septimus were ironically defeated by their own pride—as was so brilliant in the book—and instead were defeated by violence, heroism, etc., etc.  I figured they would probably change this, since in general, filmmakers don’t usually like to put the major action sequence in the middle, but it really did change the film and the nature of Tristan/Tristran’s heroism.

In addition, the nature of the magic in the film was a little bit different from the book.  There less of the give and take—a kind deed is rewarded with a piece of knowledge, the chains can only be broken when the poetic conditions are met, servitude requires payment, a curse requires a sacrifice, etc.  The witch still sacrificed youth and beauty each time she used her magic, but her magic consisted of pointing at things and shooting green light out of her finger instead of the real work of magic that we saw in the book.  And so my favorite things about Stardust the book—the ironic endings, the quiet and noble heroism of the Fellowship of the Castle, and the adherence to the conventions of traditional faerie lore—were absent from the film.

Overall, an entertaining film, fun to watch, but lacking the depth and brilliance of the book.

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