Film discussion

Throwback 10: Stardust

Ten years since its UK cinema release, we cast a spell and look back at Matthew Vaughn's Stardust...

So, Daredevil and Carrie from Homeland go off on an adventure… Yes, it may sound like the beginning of some sort of joke based around characters from two of today’s biggest television shows, but Stardust has so much more going for it than just that.

Adapted from Neil Gaiman’s novel by screenwriter Jane Goldman and director Matthew Vaughn, to watch the film now will surely be a shock to anyone who hasn’t seen it before and is only familiar with the two frequent collaborators based on Mark Millar adaptations Kick-Ass and Kingsman: The Secret Service.

A lovely melting pot of a film that reminds one very much of The Princess Bride and Shrek, being that it is a sort of irreverent fairy tale, the film is such a lovely blend of humour, comedy, adventure and romance that it comes as a shock to realise that it came from the same filmmaking minds as the duo who had Colin Firth massacre a Baptist church full of patrons and Chloe Grace Moretz spout the “c” word and slice up a room full of bad guys to The Banana Splits.

Amazingly, the film was a genre turnabout of sorts for Vaughn, the film being his second directorial effort after the British gangster thriller Layer Cake. Having gained prominence as Guy Ritchie’s producer of choice on other British gangster comedies, it would make sense that Vaughn would follow suit. He surprised many when he directed a film a world away from the ‘cockney geezer’ school of gangster for something more in line with the work of Michael Mann, with it being shot in long anamorphic lenses, not to mention being intensely atmospheric, as well as boasting an eclectic soundtrack, and with a central performance that helped pave the way for Daniel Craig to play James Bond.

Starting his trend more into the realm of genre pictures, Stardust was a film less filled with threat and more with charm, comedy and romance, and whilst many of his collaborations with Jane Goldman have had plenty in the way of comedy and action sequences, none have had as much charm as Clare Danes as a star falling in love with Charlie Cox and meeting a gay pirate played by Robert De Niro along the way whilst doing battle with Michelle Pfeiffer’s witch.

Amazingly, for a director/screenwriter team famous for adapting Mark Millar properties into R-rated blockbusters, Stardust toned down some of the more adult elements of Neil Gaiman’s novel, thus ensuring a PG rating in the UK and being a lovely piece of family friendly filmmaking that frequently ends up on Film Four in an early evening time slot. The all-star cast makes the film a blast, with future Daredevil Charlie Cox and Claire Danes making for a lovely pairing at the heart of the film’s central romance, while Michelle Pfeiffer as Lamia makes for a devilishly brilliant villainess, part of a long line of scaly faced villainess’ who truly frighten in a brilliantly PG/Disney movie manner.

Narrated by Sir Ian McKellen and featuring performances from Mark Strong, Ricky Gervais, Dexter Fletcher, Peter O’Toole and Sienna Miller, there is a who’s who of British movie acting talent that could almost rival a Harry Potter movie. Best of all, the film is one of those you simply find yourself wanting to rewatch as soon as it’s over, its blend of charm and fantasy being the type of genre film that unfortunately seldom ever seems to get made any more.

Complete with its joyous Take That theme song ‘Rule the World’ and feel good atmosphere, at ten years of age, Stardust is still a wonderfully perfect slice of fantasy that has stood the test of time and is a high watermark for everyone involved.

Are you a fan of Stardust? Let us know what you think of the film.

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