Like many other initiates in the Cult of Neil, I went and saw Stardust on Friday. I’m going to try and sum up my initial impressions here but I know I’m going to have to go back and see it again to finalize my thoughts and clarify a few things. I’ll hide my review behind a cut so as not to spoil it for anyone who has yet to see it. So don’t read any further if you enjoy spoilers. See, I am a nice guy sometimes.
First and foremost: The movie is not the book.
If you’ve read the book, ignore it. The two are seperate entities that share commonalities. Fraternal twins if you will. They’re related, but not identical. You don’t need to read the book to enjoy or understand the movie — but you should!
Now with that out of the way, let’s try to discuss what we do have. The movie, in and of itself, is highly enjoyable. It’s a fun-filled good time that has the energy and creativity to carry you along with the story from beginning to end. You can understand the basic plot and empathize with all the characters motivations as they’re presented but it never goes much deeper than that.
One of my problems was that there was a shallowness present in quite a few of the “major” characters that gave us only the briefest sketch of them and that felt like an injustice. I understand that within the time limits of the medium some sacrifices have to be made but I’m of the personal opinion that they could’ve trimmed some other scenes and shored up the character development a bit. The first one that comes to mind that needed it was Primus. I think he could’ve been better defined. He came off as too incompetent to have lasted as long as he had with Septimus as his brother.
There was also a feeling of rushing near the end that wasn’t brought on by the culmination of the plot. It was as if they spent too much time on the build up and realized they only had x minutes left to wrap up the story, so there were a lot of scenes thrown in hastily that felt a tad disjointed and out of place to me. I also found that the ending came as a bit trite and rushed in my opinion. I could’ve done without the happily ever after. It just didn’t feel quite right to me, like it was tacked on by the studio at the end because all feel-good movies have to have happy endings.
Now, I’ve tried desperately to seperate the two incarnations of the work and to view the movie by itself and while I like the movie very much, I just can’t quite do it. I love the original work a little too much for that to happen. I’ll freely admit that there was a high level of dissapointment when certain scenes were changed or removed and others were added. I can understand how some had to change due to the limitations of the visual presentation, but inside it felt too much like a betrayal to me. These scenes and characters are integral to the flow of the book and they just can’t be replaced in my opinion. The movie is brilliant and it has a certain magic about it that makes it thoroughly enjoyable, but it’s not magical.
There is no moment of spine-tingling emotional attachment (a la Fellowship’s bridge of Khazad-dûm scene). There is an ephemeral, almost surreal quality that the book posesses that the movie is missing. Gaiman’s words (and Vess’s pictures) perfectly capture the Victorian Age and the romance of exploration and adventure that pervaded that time. The book nails the emotive pulse dead on whereas the movie just stops short. It’s there, but it’s never fully realized and I think that’s what dissapointed me most.
No, let me correct myself on that, the biggest dissapointment to me was the ending and not because I felt it was hasty but rather because it was happy. In the book, the ending and epilogue have a beautiful sad poignancy to them that gives me absolute shivers every time I read it (and I’ve gone back and re-read it just to feel that again). The movie ending is just so trite and too tidy. There needed to be that moment of “We’ve been unavoidably detained by the world.” That was my dissapointment.
Alright. Enough of this. All this griping might make you think that I didn’t like the movie. Quite the contrary. I loved the movie. It wasn’t the movie I wanted, but it was enjoyable all the same. I’ll give it 4/5 stars. It’s not perfect by any means, but it’s still very good.
Now if you’ll excuse me… I’m going to be unavoidably detained by the world.