drcpunk (drcpunk) wrote,

Stardust Rocks

I had pretty much the reaction that Gaiman was hoping for -- the movie is wonderful. I want to see it again. And, yes, Mr. Gaiman, the book is better.

I've been on the Mythcon committee that selects the work of adult fiction that gets an award since, um, 1995. Had to recuse myself then (hadn't read all the works on the finalist list, and was getting used to the list and how to pace myself), and in this year (had a paper to finish for Mythcon 38). But, I've voted in the other years. One of the few years where I was absolutely convinced that the right thing had won was 1999, when Stardust took it. It was a good year, with four other very respectable finalists. I disliked only one of them, and that one I placed third in my list. Stardust was first, hands down. I let out a somewhat muted cheer (I was at work at the time) when I learned that it had won.

I think I passed that information on to mneme, who was at GenCon at the time. This was when I was doing rpg reviews more regularly, and we'd discovered that he could get review products for me, since people knew who I was, and who he was.

Things are a lot stranger than in 1999, and fantasy is now In at the movies. There's going to be a movie of The Golden Compass, and the trailer looks good. There's going to be a movie of The Dark is Rising, about which I have mixed feelings. Judging from the trailer, there's a lot of stuff I think is just plain stupid. Still, I enjoyed the movie Constantine, merely reminding myself that it wasn't anything to do with the comic. Perhaps this will also be a good movie, if one understands it has nothing to do with the book.

There was a trailer for the Spiderwick movie, which looks good. And there was one for Beowulf, which Gaiman worked on. I'm not sure about that one. I mean, I'll see it, of course. I trust Gaiman. And, what I was was not at all bad, merely very strange.

But, first, I want to see Stardust again, and read the book -- the one with Vess's illustrations.

The movie is not faithful to the letter of the book. That's okay. It really couldn't be. Well, maybe it could have, but it isn't.

It's pretty much faithful to the spirit of the book, with one possible exception in the ending. I am very ambivalent about this. On the one hand, it fits the mood of the movie. On the other, one of the things mnemex and I both liked about the book was the painful, bittersweet ending, with the star trapped on Earth, immortal, though her husband had died. On the third hand, part of me wishes the star in the book had had the happy ending of the movie. I'm not sure.

I know that the flying ship was very different, and I'm okay with that. Maybe I shouldn't be, but I am.

I'm okay with the condensing of time. That's fine.

I'm sorry the situation was so simplified -- no 9 year festival where folks on both side of the wall mingle, no scene where Dunstan's wife-to-be is touched because Dunstan kissed her -- but, okay, I understand that's how movies nearly always do it.

I'm very sorry that the condition whereby Una is freed has changed, and I suspect it would have bugged me less if there had not been a character named Mr. Monday in the movie.

I do miss the subtlety of the scene from the book where the star is ready to cross the wall until Victoria reveals who she will marry. I miss the lilim boasting that the oak tree that will form the cradle for the babe that will kill her has not been planted -- and a squirrel, who may be a prince in disguise, hearing this, and planting the acorn he was about to eat. I miss the oddly poignant scene between the star and the lilim when the lilim concedes defeat.

But, I am okay with taking on its own terms the chase to and from the wall at the end. I am delighted that the guard of the wall does not fall for the same trick twice, 97 years old or not. I am delighted by his horrified realization that he should have kept things in, not out.

Given the early parts of the movie, not only does the happy ending work, but so does the way the Lamia is defeated, turning a minor running joke into a perfectly obvious in retrospect -- and not at all obvious beforehand -- plot point. And, I like how Pfeiffer and the movie get to have it both ways, showing a pitiful, grief stricken woman who is going to let her prey go, now that she has lost everything, and then showing a truly cunning evil woman whose grief was but a pretense.

I like the battle between Tristan and Lamia. A friend of mine, Chris Murray, has fallen in love with the combat system from the game Dogs in the Vineyard. A strength and weakness of this system is that it doesn't matter what you call your Cool Things; what matters are the numbers you roll and the descriptions you give. Stardust the movie put both my problem and a potential solution into context, with gorgeous visuals.

So, I'm Tristan, and I've a charm against all magic. That's what it does. It shouldn't matter what I roll. This is how the charm works.

And, as we must, via the Chekhov's Gun principle, we see the charm work when Lamia tries to cast a spell at Tristan.

Actually, it's an even longer sequence of payoffs. We see her use magic, successfully, on Septimus. So, she has to try to use it on Tristan. Tristan has the charm, and we see it fail. And, by conventions of this film, he has to show her -- and the audience -- why it failed.

She cannot then try to use magic directly against him again. It won't work. But, she does the obvious clever thing that just about any gamer would do -- she uses magic indirectly, throwing heavy objects at Tristan.

In terms of the game system, this is all covered by the description. I'm not quite sure how to guarantee the wonderful results one gets with a top grade movie like Stardust, but it helps to know what I'm aiming for.

The dead princes are great.

The movie also mostly avoids the common flaw of most movies, deflating grand moments. I have no trouble when one of Lamia's sisters rolls her eyes at Lamia's display of vanity and skin. This isn't just because it's in character; it's also because the movie goes beyond that with Lamia's delighted laugh, well aware of her sister's reaction. Who cares if she's rolling her eyes? Lamia is young and gorgeous.

I liked the pageantry at the end. Oh, I could have done without the Victoria / Humphrey thing, but, okay. I feel sorry for the movie's Victoria, since she seemed to want Tristan, and I'm left unsure with how much her life will suck, and whether she deserves that. But, okay, it's not her story. I just miss the flawed, but bravely honorable Victoria from the book.

And, just what is the new relationship between Wall and the lands beyond?

But, given the changes from the book, I am delighted that Dunstan and Una wind up together. It's beautiful, even if I do miss the more ambiguous Una from the book, and the line, "Nothing says 'Get out of the way' like an elephant!"

A woman a couple rows behind me said that she was in the place where the movie was filmed, a small place called Castle Combe, if I recall correctly, with just two streets, one crossing the other. She said that it was the same place where the movie Doctor Doolittle with Rex Harrison, was filmed.

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