Monday, June 1, 2009

Book & Movie Review: Stardust

Title: Stardust

Author: Neil Gaiman

Book Published: 1999

Number of Pages: 333

Genre: Fantasy

Stand Alone/Series: Stand Alone

Movie Rating: PG-13

Movie Released: August 2007

Why This Book/Movie: I went and saw the movie and really enjoyed it. Later discovered it was also a book so naturally I had to read it.

From the Author Site: In the tranquil fields and meadows of long-ago England, there is a small hamlet that has stood on a jut of granite for 600 years. Just to the east stands a high stone wall, for which the village is named. Here, in the hamlet of Wall, young Tristran Thorn has lost his heart to the hauntingly beautiful Victoria Forester. And here, one crisp October eve, Tristran makes his love a promise -- an impetuous vow that will send him through the only breach in the wall, across the pasture... and into the most exhilarating adventure of his life.

Hero: Tristran Thorn grew up in the village of Wall in England thinking he was a ordinary resident of Wall but that was not true. Once every nine years a festival and market is held on the other side of the wall and it is the only time people from our side of the wall are on the other side of the wall. During one such festival, Tristran's father met and spent time with a woman and Tristran was delivered to his father nine months later. Tristran never knew he was different until he crossed the wall to bring back a fallen star to win the hand of fair Victoria, the village's reigning beauty. During his journey, he discover sides to himself that he never knew he had and also of his other heritage, that which came from his birth mother.

Review: I enjoyed this fanciful tale of young love, adventure and self discovery. Tristran starts out as a fairly average village boy, loving the fair Victoria and wanting to make her his own. He doesn't really know her very well but since she's the "best" girl in town, he naturally sees her as a bit of a status symbol. One that would proclaim that he was truly a man. But during his travels to fetch the fallen star, he learns to be a man and finds that maybe settling down with a "good" woman wasn't everything in life.

His journey is one of self discovery as well as a physical journey. Tristran begins his quest as a naive young man who sees a quick way to obtain his desires and disregarding the feelings and desires of others. He only sees the what he wants and needs and not what others may want and need. But as he journeys with Yvaine, the fallen star, he begins to see that not everything is about him and his needs.

The secondary plot revolves around Yvaine and the jewel that knocked her from the sky. The jewel is important since it will determine the next king of Stormhold. All the remaining princes of Stormhold are after this prize as well as plotting the death of all his brothers and the competition. Yvaine, herself, is pursued and her life is in danger since the heart of a star will grant youth. This is well woven into the first storyline and adds some great characters as well as nice depth to a wonder crafted tale.

This fairytale-style story was fast paced with a delightfully whimsical air. Full of fantastical creatures: witches, unicorns, giants, flying ships and princes on a quest. It has many elements that make for a great fairytale. The hero has a unknown and mysterious background and goes on a quest to win the hand of a fair maiden. He must over come many obstacles, a perilous journey, overcome his evil foes and triumphantly return with his prize. And there is also the story of a throne to be won and an evil witch to be defeated.

All the elements of a great fairytale are there but it seemed to fall a little short. The happily ever after wasn't what I was hoping for. Maybe it was because I saw the movie first, which had a lovely happily ever after where everyone has a happy ending, so I was hoping for a wonderful big fairytale ending only to be disappointed by a rather different ending. And there were storylines introduced that didn't seem to go anywhere like that of the fellowship of the castle in which the captain of the flying ship and the strange little man are members.

What I liked best: The names of the princes of Stormhold. They are just a hoot. Primus, Secundus, Tertius, Quartus, Quintus, Sextus and Septimus. Its so much more fun and interesting than naming all one's children alphabetically or beginning their names with the same letter. Loved the whole naming by birth order, it's simple and elegant as well as amusing.

What I least liked: The strange little man. I am not quite sure what he is supposed to be and how he figures into the story other than as a prop to help Tristan in his journey. He's a mostly uninteresting character but keeps popping up throughout the story. A bit of a nuisance in my very humble opinion.

Keeper?: Yes

Movie Trailer: Here

Review: The book translated well into a movie. Naturally some changes were made but overall I would say that it was a wonderful adeptation. The changes that were made, made for a better movie with a more dramatic ending with a big confrontation between all the characters involved in the story. All the main characters were there, minus the annoying little man (a good thing in my opinion), and very well cast. Robert De Niro made a wonderful captain of the flying ship that rescues Tristran and Yvaine from sky. Michelle Pfeiffer as Lamia was delightfully wicked and fun to hate. Claire Danes as Yvaine, the fallen star, was perfect. Her distain for Tristran and his quest was on the spot.

The basic story of Tristran and his reason to crossing the wall are the same as well as that of the princes of Stormhold and the pursuit of Yvaine by the witches. Tristran's change and growth are highlited more visually, as expected. His physical transformation, helped by the wonderful Captain Shakespeare, highlites his more internal transformation and growth from awkward little shop boy to hero extraordinaire.

What I liked best: Captain Shakespeare played by Robert De Niro. He was a wonderful character, more lively and entertaining than his counter part in the book, Captain Alberic. In the book, he is simply a captain of a flying merchant ship. In the movie, he is a lightening trader with a fearsome reputation that he doesn't quite live up to in person. Only his stalwart crew, led by Dexter Fletcher, keeps his reputation in place.

What I least liked: There wasn't much that I didn't like about the movie. It was entertaining and light-hearted fun where all the characters were well cast and delightfully portrayed.

Recommendation: It is rare that I would pick a movie over a book but in this case the movie was so wonderfully fun and characters were portrayed so well that the movie out shines the book. Maybe it was because I saw the movie before I read the book or that I like the completely happily ever after. But whatever the reason, I truly enjoyed the movie more than the book. Hard to believe but there you have it.

Book Grade: B
Movie Rating: A

5 comments:

orannia said...

I had completely forgotten that I wanted to see this movie, so thank you :)

BTW, I really like your movie/book reviews!

Aymless said...

Thanks Orannia!

It is a really cute movie, I went out a bought it. Happy feel good little fairytale. And I still think Robert De Niro should have won some kind of award for his performance.

william said...

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Aymless said...

William: Thanks for the complement.

Sarai said...

Okay thanks to you I finally watched the movie and I have to say I LOVED IT!!! B/c of that now I have to buy b/c I want to watch it again.
Now I'm going to borrow the book and see what I thought I will let you know!

 

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