This is great- I can tell you about both at the same time!
Of course, this brings up the old debate. The book's better than the movie. The movie's better than the book. I can tell you right now, they are just different.
The book is deeper, obviously, more detailed, and more magical. It has serious undertones of sinister bloodiness which really got sucked out for the movie. I'd even go so far as to say that the movie dumbed it down quite a bit, but it had to be done. Any book will have to streamlined to compact it into an hour+ of visual storytelling.
The book is fascinating and horrifying and gives a contented ending.
The movie is a sweet fairy tale with a bit of mild scariness, and gives us the perfect happy ending.
I recommend both. Book first, then movie.
My biggest complaint is that in typical Hollywood movie style (yeah, I know, the director is English) the movie had to climax with a) a chase scene and b) a girl strapped to a table helpless about to get her heart cut out waiting for her boy to rescue her scene.
Robert DeNiro's flouncy lightning pirate was obviously played for cheap laughs. Obviously. What other kind of lightning pirate could there be? This was barely a blip in the novel. I didn't really get why the screenwriters would cut out a lot of the book's nuances in favour of a cheap laugh...but...I guess we all love the cheap laugh, don't we? Don't we? He was kind of cute. Doncha think?
Other than that I really enjoyed it.
As far as casting goes, I believe Claire Danes was the right choice to play the star. She has harsh features, beautiful without being pretty, and very expressionate.
Young Charlie Cox played Tristan as innocent and dumb as a box of rocks, but finally smartens him up enough that we want to cheer for him. He manages to stop looking so stunned and get his mouth closed.
Peter O'Toole got his five minutes to play the magnificently crusty deathbed King.
Sienna Miller as the shallow, materialistic, pretty and totally unlikeable tease, Victoria, was genius, because...well, she was perfect.
Watch for Jason Flemyng as Primus. Very understated. I think he's a great actor that we don't see enough of over here. Although we did see quite a bit of Primus. Here's what really jolted me about him: all of these comparisons to The Princess Bride, and I really only saw it in Primus. He reminded me of the Six Fingered Man.
I loved Melanie Hill as Ditchwater Sal. So uncouth. So trashy. And I want a yellow caravan like that.
And as for the performance everybody's talking about...Michelle Pfeiffer as Lamia the Witch. Brilliant. In real life, she is 49 years old. I'm so glad they didn't opt to have a chick in her 20s play the young beautiful witch. She is gorgeous, with depth.
Although she does't look like the print version of the witch, she got the perfect mix of pretty on the outside and evil on the inside. It was great fun watching her desperation increase as her looks withered.
Suddenly, I very much want two billy goats and a chariot. Maybe I always did want that.
If you want to move beyond a few chuckles and some knock-down, drag-out magic duels, I highly recommend the book.
Of course, I'm a fresh new recent convert to Neil Gaiman's work. He's got a seamless blend of horror and fantasy. Do check it out.
Every time I see a movie based on a novel, I feel anxious that the whole thing will be ruined for me. Once you've seen the movie, your brain sees the actors when you read the book. Your imagination has been hijacked. At least this movie didn't totally stink up the story for me. It could have gone terribly wrong...