Monday, August 27, 2007

Stardust

I finally saw Stardust last week, and I have very mixed feelings about the film. After leaving the theater, my friend and I spent the entire time it took getting over to Carney's trying to figure out what was wrong with the film. We agreed that it was too long, that it was quite shaky at parts, that it felt toned down. I think a lot of people were concerned about how this film would turn out- elucidated by Ken over at Giant Robots Make Me Nervous, Sometimes, who pointed at the beloved nature of the book and also posted Gaiman's reading of the story, so you'd better hop on over there.

TNT was showing Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings films this weekend, and watching them made me realize what was wrong with Stardust, from a fan of the book's point of view. Jackson had the opportunity to make a serious, graceful trilogy but instead opted for prolonged battle scenes, shots of people crying a lot, Cate Blanchett being weird, and jokes about Gimli's beard and height. As you guys know, I'm not fond of the films, but having only seen the first one, I figured I should give the others a try. I caught the last half of Return of the King (and watched Matilda on Disney during commercial breaks; I have not seen that movie since it came out), and I think one shot helps explain what he could have done and what he did do. When Arwen and Aragorn finally meet, we are treated to a passionate kiss (twice) that throws out a lot of the decorum that Aragorn has displayed throughout the film and also nullifies what was a fairly nuanced performance from Liv Tyler when she appears in this film. (I haven't seen Two Towers. I understand she shows up, for some reason.) After the kiss, they smile at each other in a much more intimate and touching way that says a lot more than their eating each other's faces. If they had opted for the hug/smile, we would have gotten a more mature, calm interpretation rather than a pg-13 "this is love, kids" treatment. And as an aside, if they had here and there cut out just a few of the shots of people staring off at nothing with watery eyes, I don't think the film would have had to have been 3 hours long.

Throughout the films, and throughout Stardust, you can feel and identify the effort to tone things down, to make it more appealing to a younger group. While I don't object to this in general, nor to great big fantasy films, if you have such fantastic source material that could give you a magical, dark film, it's a shame the opportunity is passed up. (You know it's a problem if you're opting for the Bakshi version.) Perhaps if we are showing the battles for the violence and devastation rather than how awesome it is that the elf (the one who bothers to show up) can climb up elephants and shoot the baddies. You get the idea. I want scary, not action-packed. Decisions made by Vaughan and Jackson work for Harry Potter and Narnia movies. They ring false when bringing Gaiman or Tolkien's work to the screen. (Though I noticed Jackson was able to strike a good balance between scary-action-fun-tragic in King Kong, which I thoroughly enjoyed) so I'm not sure why LotR turned out the way it did.)

My friend said that she had hoped they would make Stardust with the same approach that you find in Pan's Labyrinth, and I think that sums up a lot of hopes for this film. What we have is an admittedly fun movie that has glossed over the delightful and macabre details of the original, like the death of the unicorn, the leaves, even the simple fact that Tristan's sticking his hand in the fire burned his hand. A high body count does not a dark movie make. If Vaughan had give us a simpler, more stylized (in the direction of Vess) movie, it could have worked. Instead, we have a huge film that feels too big for the original story and with casting that is suitable for a great big movie but not for the source. In terms of criticism confined to the film as a film, I would say it is too long and feels too epic, but there are some good occasions of humor and some nice visuals.
Bride also didn’t have a pair of romantic leads who seem more interested in their clothes than each other (x).
This is nothing like The Princess Bride, and the comparison are confusing. As reviewer Ethan Alter says, "Mr. Vaughn, I know The Princess Bride and your take on Stardust ain’t no Princess Bride."

3 comments:

Jim said...

I don't much care for the LOTR films either. Can't take them at all seriously after seeing Clerks 2 anyway.
Not seen Stardust, probably won't, as I've not heard any good things about it really.
In a non-bastard role, Dalton would have been a great Tony Stark about 10 years ago. Downey Jr looks the part now though, so that's good.

ken said...

So I take off for a week and look what happens – a hyper-explosive glob of posting . . . okay, let’s address them in order:

Work
They fired you over an incident involving a box lunch that probably would have been thrown out at the end of the game?!? Jim has the right idea, they need to learn it’s not nice to bully folks – especially girls . . . Chairman Ralph is dead right when he says that time is a great avenger, but I don’t think those fellows will still be at the ballpark in 20 years – at some point, they’re gonna to pull this gestapo act on someone that’s got a connection and then THEY”LL be asked to leave. In 20 years they’ll be on their 5th or 6th gig, still impressed with the limited authority their job allows them . . .

Joe
My favorite post-Clash song is Coma Girl (my daughter loves it, too) . . . I always meant to see him with the Mescaleros, I always figured there’d be plenty of chances . . . I did manage to catch the Clash twice – the Dallas Palladium, Oct '79 (my friends and I were way too young to get in, but my cousin worked the door) and The Bronco Bowl, June ’82 (one of the best shows I’ve ever seen) . . .

Junk food
My weakness: home-made molasses cookies . . . around a stick of butter per dozen . . .

“Another Battle”
I’m not familiar with this movie . . . it’s now on my list . . .

Ella …
My favorite jazz vocal record is “Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Cole Porter Songbook,” I first heard it about two years ago . . . her take on “Miss Otis Regrets” is my favorite track . . . it beats out the version done by the Pogues/Kirsty, and I didn’t think that was possible . . .

Hot Fuzz
Simon, Nick, and Edgar make an incredible team – they posted a video diary (http://www.workingtitlefilms.com/featureVideoClip.php?featureID=167) during the production of Hot Fuzz – laugh out loud funny . . . local politics can really get weird - why do communities allow people with no credentials to sit on planning and zoning commissions and why do most neighborhood groups eventually slide into fascism . . .

Stardust
The mood and feel of Pan’s Labyrinth is exactly what I was hoping for!! . . . if only Guillermo del Toro had directed this!! I agree that the movie has its moments and maybe my expectations were too high to start with and I know that Hollywood doesn’t understand subtlety or gracefulness, but they COMPLETELY changed the ending and that just spoiled the story . . . unforgivable!!!

Caitlin said...

I like the new dino

 

© New Blogger Templates | Webtalks