Screenwriter: Jane Goldman, Matthew Vaughn, Neil Gaiman (Novel)
EIFF Screening: Sun 26 Aug, 16:30, Cineworld
Neil Gaiman has had mixed blessings in screen adaptations of his books and graphic novels, the last EIFF film to brandish his name was Dave Mckean's Mirrormask which failed to live up to its potential with a surprisingly weak and derivative story line. Ten minutes into Stardust and fears are already growing that the over complicated, under developed premise to this fairy tale is going to lead to more disappointment. Basically there is an ancient wall separating our familiar, if biscuit tin looking home lands, and a magical kingdom 'Stormhold' in which there are witches, kings in tall castles and an abundance of magic.
The voice of Sir Ian Mckellen sets the scene by describing a most unromantic union between a witch's slave and a curious village boy which produces Tristan, who quickly grows into a love lorn young man (Charlie Cox). This narrative is done in a hap hazard style as director Matthew Vaughn seems keen to get over the exposition and on to the death of the Stormhold King (Peter O'Toole) and the task of ascension for his four battling sons. From this point on it's a thrilling adventure and race to the finish for three vying groups chasing the same star.
The narrative doesn't suffer from simplicity and trying to explain all the ins and outs, incidental and sometimes morphing characters is quite complicated. Suffice to say that Claire Danes is the North star who has fallen to earth and the king's sons want the enchanted ruby around her neck, Tristan wants to impress a village girl by capturing her and nasty witch, Michelle Pfiefer, wants to eat her heart to become young. Its a heady potion of fantasy which is reminiscent of the best of the genre from the humour of The Prince's Bride to the interplay of A Midsummer Night's Dream with some of its own crazy invention to keep things fresh.
Add to this a crowd of comic British faces including Ricky Gervais, David Walliams, Adam Buxton, Mark Heap and even Dexter Fletcher and it becomes a fun and engrossing story. And that's all without mentioning the true gem in the crown; a bit part flamboyant pirate played by Robert Deniro. Deniro's quietly successful comedy career has always been at the expense of his tough guy reputation and Stardust breaks the convention by parodying exactly this. Stardust is an entertaining romp which showcases Gaiman's wit on a grand scale; it keeps on the right side of sentimental and isn't too clever to be heartless.