Stardust (2007)

Rated: PG-13
Grade: A+CAA=A
Budget: $70 million
Box Office: $39 million US, $96 million Int’l, $16 million DVD

Directed by: Matthew Vaughn, whose previous work was directing Layer Cake and producing Snatch and Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, none of which tells you what you want to know about this movie.
Starring: Claire Danes, Sienna Miller, Ricky Gervais, Jason Flemyng, Mark Strong, Rupert Everett, Charlie Cox, Michelle Pfeiffer, Robert DeNiro, Peter O’Toole, and narrated by Ian McKellan.

There’s a secret magical land within England hidden behind a wall with one breach. As humans cross over and return, all sorts of amazing adventures ensue including magic, war with witches, dying kings, and of course romance. I’d love to describe it, but I’d rather just let you watch it.

Entertainment Value: A+
I found this to be fabulously entertaining. At the risk of overstating the case, if the Wizard of Oz had never existed, this would have been the movie that occupied that position, although it’s not a musical and it’s PG-13. This is based on a novel by the comic book genius Neil Gaiman, and it has vivid characters, excellent acting, amazing effects, and a wonderful richness about it as well as what I thought were Oscar caliber performances by DeNiro and Pfeiffer. Think Princess Bride meets Time Bandits with a little Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark thrown in. I know this sounds over-the-top, but I REALLY enjoyed this movie that I almost didn’t watch, and I’ve been recommending it to everyone.

Superficial Content: C
Drugs/Alcohol B, Sexuality C, Violence C, Language A, Illegality A
I think PG-13 is a bit harsh, but I also understand why it’s there. The concern here is with violence, including people being killed in a variety of ways, sometimes bloodily, witches wielding very scary knives, spell-casting, pirates, ghosts, fratricide, and, well you get the picture. All that said, I think this fits well within the fairy tale genre and isn’t unacceptable for most children. Remember, the Wizard of Oz has houses killing people, melting witches, and some pretty scary moments too. No, this isn’t quite as clean, but it’s not in a different category either. Many of you will be bothered by the magic, which is constant. And one extra note, the plot is predicated upon a one night stand, and there are sexual elements to it, including Robert DeNiro playing a cross-dressing pirate.
Significant Content: A Real love is something that is given freely, not earned. There is real evil in the world, and people do not always appear as dangerous as they are. Power corrupts, and the temptation to perpetuate power corrupts absolutely. Nobility and virtue are matters of the heart, and they can overcome evil with a little supernatural help. You don’t know what you love until you’d risk everything for it. The purpose of romances is to get married. Your secrets aren’t usually as secret as you think they are.

Artistic/Thought Value: A
I felt like this film did something quite extraordinary. It managed to bring a fantasy world to life in a tremendously unique and authentic-feeling way while still paying homage to some of the great movies in the genre without actually ripping any of them off. It’s the kind of movie that makes you thrilled that movies get made by reminding me of what they’re capable of. The last movie like this for me was Big Fish. There was only one minor plot discrepancy having to do with whether thing could or could not retain their magical qualities outside the wall when returned behind it.

Discussion Questions:
~Which side of the wall would you rather live on?
~What is the symbolism of the wall with just a single broken-down area in it? Why doesn’t this ever get repaired? Are there any Christian interpretations of this wall?
~If you had a Babylon candle, what would you use it for?
~In this movie, the stars are always watching us, how might this fit with a Biblical worldview?
~What do you make of the ghosts of the deceased princes? Does this portrayal of the dead bother you? Do they seem to be heading for any sort of eternal judgment?
~Do you think watching this movie cultivate any unhealthy interest in magic?
~What do you make of the relationship between DeNiro and his pirate crew?
~What symbols and metaphors can you discern in this movie? Consider the chain, the flower, the ship, and the candle, for starters.
~Does anyone in this movie represent the Devil? What restrains that character’s power? Does anyone in this movie represent Christ? Do you see any elements of redemption here?
~One theme of the movie is that being a boy who works in a shop is not the same as being a shop boy. What do you think of this concept?
~Was Tristan’s love for Victoria real? What does Yvain teach him about real love? What if he had not met Yvain? Could he have been happy with Victoria?
~Does the opening romantic event seem plausible to you? Why doesn’t Dunstan stay in Stormhold?
~What’s wrong with wanting to hold onto your youth forever? Is this a problem for Americans?
Overall Grade: A
For whatever reason, my enthusiasm has not been shared by most American audiences, judging by the box office, and Jeff Overstreet thought it was only 2 ½ stars, but I think this was marvelous, as should be obvious by now.

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