Movie poster: Stardust Stardust

I wasn’t at all sure what to expect from this movie. The trailers didn’t tell me a great deal about the movie beyond that it was a fantasy movie, but with so many other fantasy movies being released this year (Bridge to Terabithia, The Last Mimzy, Harry Potter & the Order of the Phoenix, The Dark is Rising, The Golden Compass…), this one just didn’t stand out among the crowd.

After seeing the movie, I’m not surprised. Throughout the movie, I couldn’t help but think of this film as being empty, hollow — even useless — whenever I heard the name of the fallen star, Yvaine.

The cast & crew tried in vain to tell an imaginative tale, yet there was nothing originally imaginative about it. Everything, it seemed, was lifted from other — much better, I might add — movies.

A fight scene drew upon a duels seen in various Star Wars episodes, and the witch Lamia (Michelle Pfeiffer) at times seemed to channel Star Wars’ evil Darth Sidious.

Lamia & her sisters seemed little more than slightly more competent updates of the Sanderson Sisters (bonus points if you can name their movie).

The ghosts would have fit right in at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft & Wizardry, and even the concept of a carefully guarded secret world of magic & intrigue within ours seems far too much like the underground world of witches & wizards found in the Harry Potter books.

And even allowing that Stardust was originally a novella published in ’98, all of the above “source” materials predate even that. In other words, if you want good escapist fantasy with better love stories, better fight scenes, funnier gags, wittier dialogue, and cleverer worlds … Look elsewhere.

Actually, there were times that I felt that this movie could have been parlayed into a great parody of the genre, and it’s a shame that it so often seemed so parodistic. It’s a shame that wasn’t their intention.

Not to focus entirely on the negative, the movie did have a couple redeeming qualities. I wasn’t expecting Ian McKellan’s narration, and it was perhaps the best delivered dialogue of the whole film. I also enjoyed some of the moments shared between Tristan & Yvaine; however, whatever entertaining on-screen chemistry they could have developed was hindered by a love story so predictable that it fell flat before even really getting underway.

The special effects & set designs were also well done, though they are easily overshadowed by those portrayed in any of a variety of other worthy fantasy films, with the Harry Potter films perhaps being the closest comparison.

This movie is a rental if you’re a glutton for fantasy. Otherwise, steer clear.

Rating: 3 out of 10

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