February’s movie of the month is Stardust! This has been a favorite of mine for a long time now. It’s getting a little old now after coming out in 2007, but it has held up well and is still a funny and heartwarming coming-of-age tale. Yeah, it’s a little cheesy, and some of the jokes are a product of their time, but it’s still thoroughly enjoyable.
Originally, Stardust was a book written by the great Neil Gaiman before being adapted into a very different movie. It’s been a while since I read the book, but I do remember some big differences between the two. Surprisingly, though, this is one case where the movie is better than the book.
Despite the movie coming out in 2007, this will be a spoiler-free review (aside from minor details/information revealed within the first 15ish minutes), so I highly encourage anyone who hasn’t seen it yet to watch it now! There are tons of great actors who later became big names and are still making headlines today.
Like any good coming-of-age story, Stardust involves romance. In the beginning, our young hero Tristan (played by the Daredevil himself, Charlie Cox) is infatuated with hometown beauty Victoria. She’s pretty and doesn’t treat him too horribly. Yes, she takes advantage of him and lets her friends laugh at him, but she still gives him the time of day and is quite pretty. It’s understandable how someone struggling with their confidence could fall for her.
I never liked Victoria (you’re not supposed to like her, to be fair, so job well done there). It’s clear she doesn’t really care about Tristan and just enjoys the attention brought by two boys fighting over her. At the very least, we wouldn’t have the story without her, though. Without trying to impress her, Tristan wouldn’t have gone on his journey after all.
Also, the other guy fighting for Victoria’s hand is played by Henry Cavil apparently?! I only learned that while writing this blog because man does he look very different as a blond (and he was much slimmer back in 2007).
Without spoiling, it’s hard to say what exactly happens with Tristan and Victoria, but I promise it’s all worth it in the end, and everyone gets exactly what they deserve.
Rich story building
There are so many great characters and worldbuilding in Stardust. The filmmakers and writers do a fantastic job of showing and not telling, so there isn’t much time wasted with exposition. The audience gets enough of a glimpse to understand the information they need and enough to enhance the magical kingdom of Stormhold efficiently.
It doesn’t feel like you have to do a bunch of homework to understand the characters’ motivations. They take advantage of background details to fill in the story’s setting without launching into a wordy explanation.
Instead of just hearing secondhand the explanation for why the princes are trying to kill each other, we get to witness the king’s final act on his deathbed, which becomes the base for Tristan’s story. Instead of hearing the action that sets the story into motion, we get to see it.
I also love how the side stories are woven into the main plot. The first time I watched it, I was blown away by how things connected and was excited to re-watch to pick up the little details for myself and see how the end was hinted at from the beginning.
Mini two-headed elephant
Right from the get-go, it’s clear Stormhold isn’t a normal place. The narrator calling it a magic kingdom aside, seeing all the curiosities and oddities in the bazaar is enough to understand that magic is alive and well.
Strange trinkets and even stranger payments are enough for the audience to know we aren’t in Kansas anymore (or England in this case). There are also other little things like the royals of Stormhold having blue blood (get it? Because they’re bluebloods?) add to the otherworldly fantasy vibes and really immerse you in this world that doesn’t exist.
We don’t need to see someone casting a huge spell for it to feel like something magical. Little details painting a bigger picture is common in Stardust and one of the best parts of the story. Also, Robert De Niro.
Of course, you can’t talk about magic without bringing up the witches. The witches in Stardust make the movie 100% better. Even though they’re evil, they also often act as comic relief while still being a very real threat to Tristan. (On that note, this movie is rated PG-13 due to some violence and blood).
The source material
Like I mentioned earlier, the movie is based on a book by Neil Gaiman written in 1999. From what I remember, the biggest differences are that Tristan is actually named Tristran, the people of Stormhold are not human, and the story feels a lot more like a fairy tale in the book. It’s a little bit harsher and puts a lot of emphasis on being careful with your words.
There are some strange plot holes in the movie that the book fills in, so I think it is good to read the book if you love the movie. It answers the questions of why Tristan’s mother ages more slowly than his father, why Tristan seems to magically know where to go to get back to Wall, and it also gives Tristan’s mother a stronger personality at the end.
Blending pieces of the book and movie together is the ideal way to experience Stardust; if you only read/ watch one or the other, you’ll still have a good time.
Overall, it felt like the book and movie were almost two different stories. It was still a good book, though, and I would never disparage Neil Gaiman.
Overall, I give the movie 4.5 out of 5 fallen stars.
Stardust is available to stream on Netflix, so if you’re looking for a good fantasy or romance (or both) settle in with some popcorn and join Tristan on his journey. If you’re looking for something a little different, we have tons of movie recommendations from feel-good family flicks to heist films and even our favorite horror movies too!
Would you go on an epic and impossible journey for your true love?