PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.
Reviews

Stardust

Daynah Burnett

What Stardust wields in star power, it lacks in original, or even interesting, storytelling.


Stardust

Director: Matthew Vaughn
Cast: Charlie Cox, Claire Danes, Michelle Pfeiffer, Robert DeNiro, Ricky Gervais, Sienna Miller
MPAA rating: PG-13
Studio: Paramount Pictures
First date: 2007
US Release Date: 2007-08-10 (General release)
Website

What Stardust wields in star power, it lacks in original, or even interesting, storytelling. Adapted for the screen by Jane Goldman and director Matthew Vaughn, Neil Gaiman's graphic novel sloshes around onscreen like a blender full of leftovers from Tolkien, the Brothers Grimm, and Shakespeare.

The focus would be Tristan (Charlie Cox), who seeks a fallen star to win the heart of the village hottie, Victoria (Sienna Miller). It's never clear why he's in love with this flagrant golddigger, and she prefers the bland but rich Humphrey (Henry Cavill), who effectively woos her with the promise of a ginormous diamond ring. Nevertheless, Tristan toasts his wished-for love with champagne (a luxury that costs him a week's wages) and sets off to bring her a piece of the star from across the wall that separates the 19th-century British village of Well from a magical parallel world called Stormhold. That Victoria wants her star before her birthday, just one week away, makes her seem demanding. That Tristan blazes a trail towards Stormhold (and certain death) just to please her makes him stupid.

Almost right away he uses up most of a Babylon Candle, which magically transports its owner to any place he envisions. It's significant that he sacrifices the candle for Victoria, because it's a last gift from his mother, the only thing she left for him, tucked in his blanky on his father's doorstep before she was enslaved by a witch (read: Tristan's a Mommy's boy with no Mommy). The candle takes him to Yvaine (Claire Danes), a persnickety blonde in a shimmery dress laid out in the center of the star's crater. She explains that though she was once a star in the sky, her form on Earth is that of a woman, now injured from her fall. Tristan drags Yvaine back to Well against her will. What's a little kidnapping in the name of true love?

It turns out that others would like to have hold of the fallen star as well. Lamia (Michelle Pfieffer) is one of three witchy sisters who can restore their youth and beauty if they jointly ingest the star's heart while it's aglow. Lamia ventures alone to capture Yvaine, but her determination is less terrifying than pathetic. Chasing down Yvaine across Stormhold seems a lot of trouble to go through for a facelift. Still, Lamia's pursuit brings to Tristan's effort a constant mortal danger and -- oh yes -- lots of special effects.

Tristan and Yvaine must also evade the power-hungry heir to Stormhold, Prince Septimus (Mark Strong), who just can't wait to be king. Of course there's a catch: on his deathbed, Septimus' father (Peter O'Toole) explains that the only true heir is one who can recover and restore his ruby necklace, which he then throws out the window, up to the heavens, where it lands around Yvaine's neck. Even once it's revealed to all that Septimus wants the necklace and not Yvaine herself, she continues to wear the big target. It's just so big and shiny, and it goes with her dress.

Even though it appears that everyone wants a piece of her, Yvaine remains staunchly unsympathetic, even when at last she stops complaining and falls in love. This shrew's taming seems owed to Captain Shakespeare (Robert Deniro), a gay pirate who must remain in the closet to maintain the respect of his crew and ruthless reputation. DeNiro's portrayal of a character so ripe for complexity is sadly (and frankly, shockingly) reduced to stereotype: limp-wristed, lisping, and dancing in drag, the Captain uses his queer eye to give straight guy Tristan a manly makeover.

Stardust is thus a kind of "fairy tale," but it is also lazy and often offensive. Like Snow White or Cinderella, it shamelessly reinforces physical beauty as the only kind of acceptable measure of a girl's worth, its grandiose CGI and contemporary jokes never challenging the genre's well-known sexism. Women are either ugly and manipulative or pretty and pliable, while men do their best to protect and/or woo them. When Yvaine, left tied to a tree by Tristan (why she cannot simply untie herself is never explained), is finally rescued by a unicorn, she clutches its phallic horn to ride her way safety, all bareback and breathless and boring.

4

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.

Film

15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.

Music

Sixteen Years Later Wayne Payne Follows Up His Debut

Waylon Payne details a journey from addiction to redemption on Blue Eyes, The Harlot, The Queer, The Pusher & Me, his first album since his 2004 debut.

Music

Every Song on the Phoenix Foundation's 'Friend Ship' Is a Stand-Out

Friend Ship is the Phoenix Foundation's most personal work and also their most engaging since their 2010 classic, Buffalo.

Music

Kevin Morby Gets Back to Basics on 'Sundowner'

On Sundowner, Kevin Morby sings of valleys, broken stars, pale nights, and the midwestern American sun. Most of the time, he's alone with his guitar and a haunting mellotron.

Music

Lydia Loveless Creates Her Most Personal Album with 'Daughter'

Given the turmoil of the era, you might expect Lydia Loveless to lean into the anger, amplifying the electric guitar side of her cowpunk. Instead, she created a personal record with a full range of moods, still full of her typical wit.

Music

Flowers for Hermes: An Interview with Performing Activist André De Shields

From creating the title role in The Wiz to winning an Emmy for Ain't Misbehavin', André De Shields reflects on his roles in more than four decades of iconic musicals, including the GRAMMY and Tony Award-winning Hadestown.

Film

The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.

Music

British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.

Film

Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.

Music

​Patrick Cowley Remade Funk and Disco on 'Some Funkettes'

Patrick Cowley's Some Funkettes sports instrumental renditions from between 1975-1977 of songs previously made popular by Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, the Temptations, and others.

Music

The Top 10 Definitive Breakup Albums

When you feel bombarded with overpriced consumerism disguised as love, here are ten albums that look at love's hangover.

Music

Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language Digs Deep Into the Jazz Quartet Format with 'A Time and a Place'

Restless tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi runs his four-piece combo through some thrilling jazz excursions on a fascinating new album, A Time and a Place.

Television

How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.

Music

Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.

Music

CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.

Music

Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.

Music

While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.