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HD DVD Review: Stardust

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Stardust is the brainchild of Neil Gaiman. His novella of the same name was first brought to illustrated life by Charles Vess. The novella and the graphic novel enjoyed a lot of commercial success before being brought to life again as a high-concept movie with Robert DeNiro, Peter O’Toole, Sir Ian McKellen, and Michelle Pfeiffer in pivotal roles.

Comparisons to another cult favorite, The Princess Bride, are unavoidable, and I’m going to make them as well. Both of these movies sing of fantasy and enchantment, and true love and evil. (Ever notice how those two seem to always go hand-in-hand?)

The HD DVD version is spectacular and really brings the brilliance of the visual aspect of the movie to home entertainment systems. The images look like windows to other worlds that you can just reach into, and it shows how seamless the special effects are. The colors, especially the magical way they’re used in the film, are revealed in stunning array. The lightning ship looks both absolutely amazing and real at the same time. This is the way movies should look.

With the uncompressed sound format available on HD DVD, it’s no surprise that the audio portion of the movie is outstanding as well. If you’ve got even a semi-decent surround sound system at home, you’re going to feel as though you’re back in the theater watching the movie again (if you watched it there the first time). All that’s missing is the scent of popcorn (unless you’ve popped some up), and people talking on their cell phones in the background.

The story is wonderful and gentle and, at times, scary. I have to admit that the screenplay done by Matthew Vaughn and Jane Goldman in some ways outshines the source material. Gaiman maintained an even-handed fairy tale approach to the story, but Vaughn and Goldman gave scenes and dialogue to the characters that really allowed the actors and actresses to play them bigger and more meaningful than the prose version.

I read the novel in a single sitting, which speaks strongly of it, but I had my breath taken away at times by the movie. The story of Dunstan Thorne’s first foray into forbidden territory and his one night of love with a mysterious woman quickly turned into the delivery of a child nine months later on his doorstep. With something like that taking place, you know something important is about to happen.

But Tristan Thorne had an inelegant life. No one really liked him and most people made fun of him. Worst of all, he fell in love with a shallow young girl. The only thing she did for him was cause him to make a promise that forever changed his life. When he saw a falling star plunge earthward, he promised her that if she asked, he would go and fetch that star.

The viewers knew, though, that the star – even if it had been a comet or asteroid – would have been difficult to find. Given the fact that the star was actually an immortal being made it even more so.

There are a lot of things going on in the movie. Tristan’s promise, the Star’s need to find her way back into the heavens, the search of the princes for the ruby that would allow one of them to become King of Stronghold, and the three witches looking for the heart of a star to regain their beauty and youth could all have been spun out into their own stories. But Gaiman, and the film crew that followed, mixed them all into one exotic blend that provides plenty of adventure and entertainment for the whole family.

In addition to the film, there are several special features. “Good Omens” (actually a name of a novel written by Gaiman and Terry Pratchett) describes the making of the movie. Then there are deleted scenes and a blooper reel that is absolutely a laugh riot.

If you have the choice between a DVD and an HD DVD, the HD DVD is definitely the way to go. This movie deserves it, and so do you.

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