Storydome: “Stardust”

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Adventures are all very well in their place, but there’s a lot to said for regular meals and freedom from pain.

Tristran Thorn has made a promise to the love of his life: to find and bring back a star that they saw fall from the sky. Tristran journeys from his home, the town of Wall, to the world of Faerie to bring back a fallen star. A fallen star, named Yvaine. The world of Faerie is a world of old magic and here stars take on human form.

There will be no wall separating these two worlds from colliding, when the book and movie versions of Stardust face off.

Two stories enter, one story leaves when Stardust steps into the Storydome.

The Contenders

The Book
Title: Stardust
Author: Neil Gaiman
Published: 1999
Pages: 256
 
The Movie
Title: Stardust
Director: Matthew Vaughn
Released: 2007
Length: 122 minutes
Starring: Charlie Cox as Tristan Thorn
Claire Danes as Yvaine
Robert DeNiro as Captain Shakespeare
 

It should go without saying. There are SPOILERS ahead.

In the town of Wall there is a wall – imagine that – and in that wall there is a hole to the world of Faerie. This hole is always guarded by two citizens from the town and no one is ever allowed to pass through, except for one day every nine years for the Faerie Market. Of course this rule only applies to people crossing over to the world of Faerie, not the other way around.

Eighteen years before the bulk of the story takes place, an infant Tristran Thorn is left in a basket on the village side of the wall, to be raised by his father.

Meanwhile, in the kingdom of Stormhold, the 81st king of Stormhold is dying and in order to determine his successor he sends the jewel of the kingdom into the sky and tells his remaining sons that whichever son finds it will be the next king.

Unfortunately, the jewel happened to hit a star and it knocked her out of the sky. As the star fell, Tristran was walking the love of his life home from a shop, and he told her that if she wishes it, he would find her that star and bring it back to her for her hand in marriage.

But Tristran is not the only person who is after the star, all manner of creatures and villains are after it too, so if he intends to keep his promise, he must be quick.

Neil Gaiman is one of my favorite authors, so I have read this story before, but I tried reading it with a more critical eye this time around.

Stardust is a fantasy story, but what’s unusual about it is that it is one of the few post-Tolkien fantasy stories not to reference him at all. Stardust is more of a Victorian era fantasy that borrows from fairy tale creatures and nursery rhymes. I’m very thankful for this because if you read too many of those Tolkienesque novels, they all start to blend together. I’m pretty sure that if you read Stardust, you won’t be confusing it with any other fantasy novels.

You also won’t be confusing it with its movie incarnation either. While staying true to the books premise, the movie is its own story. Many of the characters from the book are left out of the movie, and some significant story elements have been changed as well. But this is not a knock on the movie.

I feel that is something I must continue to reiterate: just because the movie may differ significantly from the book, that does NOT mean that the movie is bad, or even that it was wrong to deviate from the book. There was nothing the movie did — as far as its deviation from the novel — that really bugged me. In fact, in some areas I believe it made improvements.

I can hear the collective gasp of Gaiman fanatics. I know that there is a wide following of loyal Neil Gaiman fans that would consider it almost sacrilegious to change any of his works, but I am not among them.

Right off the bat, one thing I can appreciate is that the movie changed the name of the main character from the hard to pronounce Tristran to the much easier Tristan. Removing that one little “r” makes pronouncing his name so much easier. That was probably my favorite change, but there is more to the movie than the removal of an “r.” It really is an entertaining movie. It is a bit more upbeat than Gaiman’s novel, but the movie is aimed at a family audience. Stardust is one of those movies that a family can see together because there are things that will appeal to both the adults and the children. However, in order to reach a more family-oriented audience there was a side effect: an over simplification of the characters and even the story.

Mostly, it is the simplification of the characters that is the biggest problem for me. One of the things I love about Gaiman’s writing is his ability to craft very complex characters. No character functions simply on a surface level, but in the movie it is the polar opposite.

I’m not sure if the writers were pressed for time or simply lacked imagination, but they turned Gaiman’s rich cast into flat, stereotypical, and — in some cases — just plain boring characters.

And once an audience realizes that these are the same characters they have seen a dozen times before, they’ll start spotting all the clichés. Like the sugar-coated Hollywood happy ending, where everyone lives happily ever after.

And yes, my biggest complaint about the movie is its ending, but that’s also my biggest complaint about the novel as well. But whereas the movie is that sugar-coated Hollywood stuff, the book is quite the opposite. So yes, the novel’s ending is far more original, but its not a great ending. The main problem is that you don’t know you’re at the end until you get there. The ending of the novel is so anticlimactic. The story just kind of goes along and you feel like there’s been a fair amount of build up for something, but then poof — it’s over.

What I like to do, in my head, is to combine the two endings. I try and find a happy medium between them and then that’s the ending of Stardust as I see it.

Winner of Storydome: The book, via a very hard decision.

While you’re reading the review it my not seem like this was a hard decision on my part, but it really was. In fact, the only harder fight to decide so far has been Children of Men. I try and keep my reviews rather brief, so sometimes it may seem like I didn’t have anything good to say about either the novel or the movie, and I’m afraid that may appear to be the case here. Well, it isn’t. I really do enjoy the book, and the movie as well. With the book, if I listed everything that I enjoyed about it this review would be about ten times as long, so I try and keep to the most relevant issues of the fight. With the movie, yes the characters can be flat, and the ending is a bit too Hollywood, but sometimes you want to watch a movie where you can turn your brain off and just enjoy yourself.

Stardust: I enjoyed both the novel and the movie. I own both the novel and the movie, and you should too.

Disagree with my assessment? Let me know about it in the comments section.

I’ll be back next week, as a new story steps into the ring.

— Tim Fitzpatrick, Editor

Editor’s Note: Tim Fitzpatrick is an English major at Lewis University with a focus on creative writing. Tim is 26 and is only just now starting college. He has always enjoyed telling a good story, and he is at Lewis to learn to do that better.

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