Friday, 5 September 2014
This is a movie that in theory I should really enjoy: it's a fantasy, based on a Neil Gaiman novel, and it has an excellent cast. And yet, despite those seemingly "can't fail" ingredients, I feel it falls short of the mark. We'll get into why, but first a quick precis.
We begin with an overly long prologue to establish (a) the existence of a fairy tale realm known as Stormhold and (b) how the main character came to be born, and then leap forward 18 years. In a fit to impress a girl he likes, our 'hero' Tristan pledges to venture into Stormhold and recover a fallen star for her.
Shock! In fantasy land, the star takes the form of an attractive young woman. She and Tristan don't exactly hit it off to begin with, but if you're suspicious that we're going to see a romance between the two, well, you've probably seen a movie in the past. Tristan intends to take her to his paramour, and then let her go back to the sky.
Of course, there are a couple of villains out there who will complicate matters. One is a witch who wants to cut out the star's heart. The other is a prince who wants the gem that knocked the star out of the sky in the first place.
There are good moments in this film. Normally to do with humor. There's a sword fight in the climactic sequence that has some great physical comedy in it, for instance, and the wicked prince and his ghostly relatives are good fun too.
Unfortunately, on the dramatic front, things are not so rosy. Tristan, frankly, is kind of an ass. While we're supposed to cheer him on as he grows from being a boy to a man, the film doesn't portray this journey all that convincingly, and it also fails to make the inevitable romance between him and the star in any way plausible. Frankly, the villains (especially Michelle Pfeiffer's gleefully wicked witch) are far more entertaining to watch.
The film's also a bit too long, I think. It runs a solid two hours, which feels about 20 minutes more than it needs as it crams in a few too many set pieces en route to the inevitable showdown between "good" (for want of a better term) and evil. None of the set pieces are bad, and they generally do lead into the climax ... they just don't do so as efficiently as I think they should.
Something of a disappointment, in the end.