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Stardust

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So I just got back from seeing Stardust, the new film based on the book of the same name, by Neil Gaiman.

The book tells the story of a boy, named Tristan, who travels into the world of Faerie in order to fulfill a promise he has made to the woman he loves, to bring back a fallen star before her birthday. The woman has promised that if Tristan does this for her, she will marry him. And so he sets off on a quest full of magic and adventure.

If you are familiar with Gaiman’s award winning, and critically adored comic book series, Sandman or, even more so, his comic book mini series Books of Magic, you know how wonderful and amazing Gaiman’s Faerie stories are. In Gaiman’s hands, Faerie is a land of wonder and magic, but also one of danger. Where words take on new meanings and become critically important. His view of Faerie is so rich and detailed, it becomes a place that is fully real to the reader. Where finding the right gateway is all that separates us from our own adventures there.

The book version of Stardust is a modern fairy tale. Not in the sense of Disney movies which have mined these stories, but in the original sense. The book is full of magic and adventure, suspense and love, but most of all, it is full of wonder.

Those who read Gaiman’s blog have been warned that the movie was going to take certain liberties with the story. Neil himself admitted that the story, as it existed in the book, would make a horrible movie and needed to be retold in a way that worked for the screen. Neil consoled fans of the book though by telling us that the parts that were cut where only the parts that needed to be cut. And that the retelling of the story did not sacrifice the underlying story. After seeing the film, I can say that Neil was right.

Stardust, as told in the book, would not have made a particularly good movie. For one it would be too long, but more importantly, the nuances that work so well in the book, would not have translated into film. The team behind the movie have obviously understood this. Instead of simply cutting the book up into pieces and then stringing those pieces together though, the team behind the movie retold the story from scratch. In much the same way that two storytellers can tell the same story in vastly different ways. The real story is still there, whole and intact, it is just the flourishes that have been changed.

The story of the movie is set in a mystical land, but not in Faerie. At least not the Faerie that Neil has introduced us to. The most obvious comparison for the movie is to the Princes Bride. The comparison is a tad unfortunate, since the mark set by the Princes Bride is higher then perhaps any film can reach. The creators of the film appear to have realized this. The movie follows in the footsteps of the Princess Bride, but does not try to be a clone of it. Stardust is its own film, which uses some of the same elements as Princess Bridge, but only because those are the elements of a good story and an even better fairy tale.

There are two compliments that I can give this book.

1) At no time during the course of the movie did I find myself comparing the movie to the book. The story told in the movie, while the same as the book, is also its own story. And it tells its story well.

2) The only real complaint I had about the book, one section that I wished Neil had expounded on, is actually better in the film. And it does it in a way that does not violate the book’s story, but enhances it.

This summer has been full of fantastic stories. From the new Potter movie and the end of the Potter series, to the more futuristic stories of the Transformers movie. With all of the fantasy that has come to us this summer, it is fitting the the summer drifts into autumn with a film that returns to the roots of all fantastical tales. A really good story, told in a wonderful way.

Written by Matt

August 19th, 2007 at 2:46 pm

Posted in other,Reviews