This week sees the release of a trio of films aimed at the half-term audience that are adapted from beloved books: Stardust, Nancy Drew and The Seeker: The Dark is Rising. It’s always hard to take something that’s so well known and well loved and try to translate it onto the screen. When it works, you have something as magnificent as The Lord of the Rings trilogy; when it doesn’t you have Eragon?
Unfortunately, the latter two on the list fall into the almost but not quite category, but Stardust remains the triumphant exception. Die-hard fans of the book may not like what’s been done to the material, but as a newcomer to Neil Gaiman’s fantasy world, I loved it.
The bare bones are this: in order to get the girl he loves to marry him, naïve Tristan promises to bring her the star they see fall from the sky. However, in order to do this, he must cross over to the other world that lies next to his village. But he’s not the only one who needs the star. Lamia, Empusa and Mormo, three witches, need it to gain eternal youth, and the princes of Stormhold need it to help them become king. So the chase is on and on the way, Tristan must protect the beautiful Yvaine, before discovering that nothing in Stormhold is as it seems – even love.
You can’t say you don’t get your money’s worth in star power (pardon the expression) – the sheer number and calibre of cameos is staggering. Sienna Miller, Nathaniel Parker, Peter O’Toole, Rupert Everett, David Walliams, Julian Rhind-Tutt, Sarah Alexander, Dexter Fletcher, Ricky Gervais – the latter in a dire appearance – to name but a few, and that’s without the leading stars of Michelle Pfeiffer (loving every second as the witch queen) and Robert de Niro. You haven’t lived until you’ve seen the Oscar winner camping it up, I can tell you!
I’m not always a fan of Claire Danes, but here she is utterly adorable. But the biggest revelation is Charlie Cox as Tristan – a definite star in the making, conveying Tristan’s innocence and sweetness and giving him enormous appeal (and it doesn’t hurt that he’s easy on the eye).
Jane Goldman helped director Matthew Vaughn adapt the story and has added enormous charm and romance. You’ll definitely be sniffing happily at the ending. And you’ll want to visit Stormhold, which comes across as a fully realised universe with its own quirks and rules. For example, the brother princes – Primus, Secundus, Tertius, etc – must kill each other to end up the only one and thus king. Until then, the ghosts of the deceased come along for the ride like a ghastly Greek chorus, each one still bearing the marks of how he died (I particularly love Secundus whose squashed face results from a fall from a high window). And Capt Shakespeare’s ship sails across the sky trawling for lightning.
Stardust on UK General Release from October 19.