Stardust: film and novel

Stardust won the 2008 Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form, beating the first season of Heroes, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Enchanted and The Golden Compass. It was way ahead at nominations stage and while it had a closer run on the final ballot, it was ahead on every count. I have seen none of the other finalists; from the long list, I have seen the Zemeckis Beowulf and Vadim Jean’s Hogfather, and would confidently put Stardust way above both.

It rates 6th on one IMDB ranking but only 28th on the other. Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End and Transformers are both ranked ahead of it by IMDB users but were way down the Hugo ballot. No Country for Old Men won that year’s Oscar.

Lots and lots of crossovers with Doctor Who and with previous Oscar and Hugo winners. The one actor who ticks all three boxes is however invisible here: Ian McKellen is the narrator, having previously been Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings films; he would go on to be the voice of the Great Intelligence in the 2012 Eleventh Doctor story, The Snowmen.

Here after appearing in two Oscar winners is Peter O’Toole as the dying King, having previously been the tutor of The Last Emperor in 1987 and Lawrence of Arabia in 1962.

The bishop is played by Struan Rodger, who had been the voice of the Face of Boe in the Tenth Doctor stories Gridlock (2006) and New Earth (2007), went on to be the voice of Kasaavin in the Thirteenth Doctor story Spyfall (2020) and appeared on screen as Ashildr’s butler Clayton in the Twelfth Doctor story The Woman Who Lived (2015); but many years before was also Sandy McGrath in Chariots of Fire.

Rupert Everett, who plays Secundus, the first prince to be bumped off, was Marlowe in Shakespeare in Love.

David Walliams, who is Quintus, another dead prince, here, played the cringing alien Gibbis in the Eleventh Doctor story The God Complex.

Mark Williams is the man-who-is-really-a-goat here, was in both Shakespeare in Love as Nol and in several Eleventh Doctor stories as Rory’s father.

Spencer Wilding, one of the pirates, has played several roles in Doctor Who but is heavily masked in all of them.

Last but definitely not least, Robert de Niro is Captain Shakespeare here; we have previously seen him in two other Oscar winners, Mike in The Deer Hunter and the young Don in The Godfather II.

For once, I had actually seen this in the cinema when it first came out. It is great fun, even if all of the speaking characters are white and almost all of them are slim and beautiful. Claire Danes and Michelle Pfeiffer do convincing English accents. The cinematography is lovely, the acting spot-on, and the script sufficiently funny that we almost accept the skeeviness of much of the plot – that our hero forcibly abducts our heroine in order to trade her, as property, to buy his way into a relationship with the woman he thinks he wants; and how come Una can’t rule Stormhold in her own right as the only surviving child of the old King?

Robert de Niro completely steals the show as the cross-dressing pirate airship captain, making us wonder why we care about these young folks, just about managing to rise above the stereotypes. I really enjoyed watching it again.

The second paragraph of the third chapter of the original novel is:

The eighty-first Lord of Stormhold lay dying in his chamber, which was carved from the highest peak like a hole in a rotten tooth. There is still death in the lands beyond the fields we know.

When I first read it in 2007, I wrote:

A very enjoyable fairy tale by Gaiman. As ever I find myself spotting similarities with Sandman (in this case, the supernatural siblings, and the half-human heir), but I felt he had rung the changes here rather effectively, and the story combines lovely incidental detail with a good sound (if traditional) plot. Great fun.

I had forgotten just how different it is from the film. It’s darker and sexier, as you would expect from Gaiman; the fallen star breaks her leg as she lands at the start of the story, and is disabled for the rest of the book; there are many more diversionary adventures and no big fight scenes; the pirates play a much smaller role; and of course it feels more English than you get from the Scottish and Icelandic filming. I still enjoyed it though. You can get it here.

Next up is WALL-E, followed by Slumdog Millionaire.

3 thoughts on “Stardust: film and novel

  1. I rather enjoyed Enchanted, which I haven’t seen many movies like.

    The Golden Compass was rather anemic, and the TV version of the books is rather better, if a bit too BBC.

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  3. I have only seen the film, but it very much seemed to be made for me.
    I have theories about why not Una but they are very much fantheory rather than anything useful (presumption that Stormhold is male rulers only).

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