Monday, August 13, 2007

STARDUST: The book. The movie.

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...


Balloon Pirate said...

The thing is, most movies only have about a short story's worth of narrative in them. I don't know why we always feel compelled to make them out of novels.

Expressionate? Don't know if it's a 'real' word, but I love it.

It looks like I need to find me another Gaiman book. Do check out Gaiman's 'Anansi Boys.' It's a hoot. Scary and funny at the same time.

It's one of those books that I wish would be made into a miniseries, because there's too much there to leave on the cutting room floor.


Heidi the Hick said...

It's true- novels have a longer story arc that always needs to be cut down to movie size!

(let's just say that expressionate is a word now.)

I'm really getting into Neil Gaiman lately. I read Coraline last week. What a trip. Totally creepy and yet warmhearted. How does he do that????

mdmnm said...

The "book v. movie" debate is always tough. Personally, I've come to prefer seeing the movie first if I haven't read the book. If the movie is bad, the book may still be good. If the movie is good, the book will still have details and sometimes whole plotlines that the movie didn't deal with, which, to me, outweighs the imposition of seeing actors as certain characters in my mind's eye. On the other hand, if the book is good, it is terribly rare that all the stuff you think could be done really well shows up in the movie. Even worse, every now and then something like the "Starship Troopers" movie happens which both makes you want to pound your head on a hard surface and eschew movies for the next six months.

Bunny said...

I'd love to hear your thoughts on another book vs. movie - "Bridge to Terabethia". I have not seen the movie yet, but remember reading it in grade school...have you read or seen it?!
For some reason the pictures of the tree house reminded me of that book.
Best of luck with the book - can't wait to buy a copy!!

Heidi the Hick said...

mdmnmmdm- Love your name!

I've gotten into reading the book first, but it's not a rule. I just have to tell myself that it's not going to be the same, and not be let down if it's not what I pictured.

Bunny- one kid read the book, one kid saw the movie. She said it was too sad, and he said it was a chick flick!!!!

I do need to read it. It's a classic. I'm glad you liked the treehouse pictures!

Sheila said...

Right on with my thoughts. Neil Gaiman's book is a masterpiece. The movie was entertaining at best, but I could live without the cheap laughs, too, which weren't funny enough to work. If you haven't discovered this one yet by Gaiman, check it out: a kid's book that I fell in love with called "The Day I Swapped my Dad for Two Goldfish." It comes with a CD read aloud by Gaiman himself.

Heidi the Hick said...

Oh for sure! "The Day I Swapped my Dad for Two Goldfish." is friggin brilliant!!!!

Even though my kids are 11 & 13, I'll likely end up buying it. It's just...perfect!

Wayne Jones said...

See the Film, it helps pay the bills, i worked on the film from start to finish here in the uk.

dilling said...

haven't read it, haven't seen it...though I should because Peter O'Toole is(even at this late age) one of my very, absolute trinity of favorites... considering two of them are gone(steve McQueen and Richard Harris, Peter's longtime friend and cohort in dastardly and deliciously dirty deeds)...I don't even sit still for two hours anymore. It makes me crazy.