Monday, August 13, 2007

Don't Judge a Book: Stardust

This can't be happening. I can't believe what I just saw.


I have spent most of my adult life trying to prevent books from becoming movies, mainly out of a steadfast sense of humanity.

Yet here, with one of my favorite author's novellas on the line, I was asleep at the watch.

And the world will reap the benefits.

Let's start at the beginning...

Neil Gaiman, a British writer of much renoun, decided to be a great man of the pen. In fact, I would say he is one of the best novelists out there today, one top of the heap with Chuck Palhanuik and Stephen-Freaking-King.

His works include American Gods and Anansi Boys, both epic tales of theology and magic in our modern world.

His wry humor and graphic visuals paint a vivid picture that stays in the mind long after the words are forgotten. I often quote his witticisms to my friends and claim to have been brilliant enought to conjour them on my own.

I'll admit to the lies later. I want my damn fifteen minutes.

Anyway, let's drag this conversation in a different direction for a moment.

Most books that become movies suck. This is common knowledge.

Look no further than "The Lost World," or "Dreamcatcher" for prime examples of how NOT to make a book into a movie.

I especially loathe what happens to Stephen King novels when they reach the silver screen. It's as though all the good is removied surgically, replaced by a boat-load of suck and bad dialogue.

Some movies do break the mold from time to time. "Never Ending Story" actually stuck to the original plot quite fairly, and both the novel and film can be considered quite magical and awesome. But examples like this are the exeption, not the rule.

But something very special has occured at theaters near you. A movie of unmatched potential arrived and you probably didn't even know.

Neil Gaiman, as I previously mentioned, is quite the writer. His mezmerizing film Mirror Mask was a familiar story wrapped in a completely original and beautiful package. His books border on the macabre and in the most brilliant sense of the word.

So you can imagine my sense of anxiety when I learned they were making a movie based on one of his novels, and my relief when I learned he would be penning the screenplay.

And with Michelle Pfieffer and Robert DeNiro in on the action as well, I had high hopes.

And this movie exceeded them.

Let's talk visuals, because that's what draws many to fantasy films. This movie has both the mundane (little villages that don't quite impress the eye) to extreme (castles that stretch the imagination to its limit. The effects are gorgeous without being overwhelming, so don't expect "Lord of the Rings" style CGI.

The dialogue was excellent, full of Gaiman's trademark humor, which translates very well from page to screen. Each character has a unique voice and a well defined role. There don't appear to be many superfluous players or scenes. In fact, the flow of the whole film is smoother than one could imagine, given the fantasy fair we've been given as of late.

The acting was, on the whole, good. You could honestly beleive most of the actors fit in their respective roles. The only exception was Ricky Gervais (From "Extras"). He basically played himself, but he was funny enough that you didn't care.

Finally let's take a look at the story.

Overall? Excellent.

This is Neil Gaiman we're talking about.

You start with a simple tale of a boy going on a quest for the girl he loves. Sure, she's kinda mean and doesn't respect him at all, but this is puppy love.

In the subplot arena, we have a kingdom where the heirs are chosen for brutality rather than compassion, three witch sisters who've let the years sneak up on them, and a fallen star with a bad attitude.

I honestly can't recommend this movie enough. I'll let it speak for itself.

I give this movie nine enthusiastically shaken ferrets out of ten.

Go on, watch carefully.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Uggg.... I can't believe it. Both you and Don loved Stardust, and me and everyone else I talked to thought it was a piece of crap. The common link between you two is that you both love Neil Gaiman.... So it must be that the books are awesome while the movie is quite lacking... a Pirates of the Carribean wannabe. I bet the book is great.... Anyways... If you are still watching these B-movies.. I'm renting Shark Attack 3: Magalodon, and I've heard it's the best worst movie there is... we should get the guys together and watch it and see.