I wanted to enjoy Stardust. It’s a good book and should have made for an entertaining movie.
I am definitely not one of those people who thinks that movie adaptations of beloved books should be faithful to the source material — in fact, that usually makes for a pretty crappy movie. Certainly there are always aspects of a book that make it magical and translate well to film, but often the things the fans cling to do not make for a good motion picture, so I never go into an adaptation expecting it to be like the book.
I also think that fantasy stories are hard to film. I have fairly low expectations for fantasy movies (really for most movies): I want to be entertained, and I want a little magic.
So it was a pretty big shock to me that I hated Stardust. And so did Will. So much that we turned it off a little more than halfway through and sent it back to Netflix. I know a lot of people enjoyed this movie and I am stuck somewhere between envy and incredulity.
I did like a few things about it: the lead performances were just fine, and even quite good in places; it was shot beautifully for the most part; I really appreciated the simplicity of making Dunstan a single father and eliminating the little hairy guy by having Tristran’s mother be the one to give him the candle; and I loved every minute of the Lords of Stormhold, especially the first murder when the dying Lord (Peter O’Toole!) laughed his ass off.
Almost everything else sucked.
Let’s start with the special effects: OH MY FUCKING GOD. It’s like they shot a perfectly fine-looking movie and then watched the rough edit and some guy with a cigar said, “Well, this movie’s all right but let’s make it flashier. Can we the magic be BRIGHT FUCKING GREEN? And how about some sparkles? I hear there’s a popular book full of sparkles, the kids love those.” Or possibly they finished the movie under-budget and said guy with cigar was all, “Let’s throw a couple million dollars at this shot here. And that one. Oh heck, let’s sparkle ’em all up!” And the dead Lords of Stormhold? They looked like the ghosts on The Young Ones.
Next: the narration. THE NARRATION. What the hell? Folks, just because you got Sir Ian McKellen to read it does not mean it was a good idea. IT WAS NOT. At first I thought oh, clever, get the backstory out of the way. Then I thought oh, hmm, unnecessarily changing the backstory… well, it’s an adaptation, I’m sure it will be fine. And then there was 15 minutes of backstory. Painfully boring backstory that we did not need because we could have had 30 seconds more narration instead. My only guess is that the narration was added after the movie was finished, by that jackass with the cigar when he finally ran out of sparkles and/or when he realized that he didn’t understand the plot so obviously movie-goers wouldn’t get it either, forgetting that he has the IQ of a lemming while the average audience member is actually perfectly capable of figuring out what’s going on given a few minutes and a decent script.
Oh, wait. The script sucked, or at least the movie they shot from the script was full of bad choices and I can only assume that most of those were in the script (since Matthew Vaughn wrote and directed it).
All right, I know I said above that I thought the performances were fine, but I have to kind of renege. In a vacuum, they were each fine, but holy hell. Charlie Cox and Claire Danes could not possibly have had LESS chemistry. The multiple scenes of manufactured conflict to make it seem as though they had even a shred of chemistry were insulting both as a viewer and as a person in a relationship. (Speaking of manufactured conflict, what the bloody fucking hell was the point of Humphrey? There is no reason for Tristran to know that he has competition for Victoria’s affection; she needs only to not be interested in him. I assume that in the end he defeats Humphrey in a swordfight, but I will never know unless one of you tells me.)
OK, and why on earth did they reveal that the star is a girl immediately? As the camera was swooping down I said, “Oh god they’re going to show it.” And they did. And we should have turned it off then.
And I can’t believe they wasted all those special effects when they could have had a unicorn-lion fight. Really, I’m pretty sure that was a smart cut, but it could have been awesome. It seems they only did it so Yvain could escape before Tristran trusted her — in the book he just leaves her with the unicorn while he goes to get food, and I think I actually prefer him chaining her up. But still. It seems that they picked and chose scenes to include based on coin toss or something, with no attention paid to story.
And lastly, Robert De Niro and the Pirates of the Cumulonimbus. Here is what I have to say to you, Mr. De Niro: go back to Analyzing Billy Crystal. The whole sequence was so fucking insulting. On every fucking level. We didn’t even finish watching it — we turned the movie off after the reveal.
Look, I liked Pathfinder. I liked Van fucking Helsing. You have to try really hard to make a movie I hate, and even harder to make one I won’t finish watching. Shame on Matthew Vaughn and Paramount.