Before I went to see Stardust the movie, I had read the illustrated book by Neil Gaiman. I didn't really care about the characters all that much (the main character was too much of a doofus, and the star was too bitchy), but I will admit to liking the story and some of the magical twists - such as the main character finding his way out of a forest by flying from one spot of light to the next using a magic candle.. It was somewhat convoluted, but not a total waste of time.
The movie struck me in almost the exact same way. It was fun, but it wasn't great, and I didn't expect it to be. I had read one newspaper review before going to see the film and the reviewer had been strangely perplexed by the film. He thought it was weird that a star was a woman, that a witch rode in a cart pulled by goats, etc. Why he thought a goat chariot was strange I'm not sure (because, they aren't horses??) but after I saw the film, I read a lot more reviews and realized that a lot of other people had similarly strange critiques: bad special effects, convoluted characters (most were turned off by Robert DeNiro's mincy pirate) and a bad score (??).
I can only think many of the reviewers were not fantasy fans, or that they were looking for the next "Lord of the Rings." It was a fine movie. I guess I give a lot of slack to fantasy films as far as special effects go - so the green smoke coming out of the witches finger looks like ectoplasm slime from Ghostbusters - so what? You get the point that it's magic. I will say that there ere were far too many sweeping "look at what we can do now that we are not tied to cranes and dollies to move the camera" shots - where a CGI view starts in space and ends up focused on a tiny spot on Earth. I remember in college learning about tracking shots and how Hitchcock was a master of the long take, but this is getting a bit ridiculous. I didn't find anything not to like about the score (I don't remember anything except the cheese ball song at the end credits), and I thought the pirates were a good addition, as was the fast-talking trader (some critics called DeNiro a "scenery muncher" and criticized the trader, played by comic Ricky Gervais, as "putting on his own show".)
If anything, I would say Clair Danes was sort of a drippy star, and the way her hair glowed at certain parts was sort of annoying. I would also say that I didn't find this movie any more gruesome than the one most critics have been comparing it to, The Princess Bride, which I watched as a kid, and so I'm not sure why Stardust is continually referred to as a "Fairy Tale for ADULTS." One critic explained that moments of violence (the death of a number of princes) were immediately quashed by a moment of humor (the prince's ghosts remain in the scene after dying.) Well I really enjoyed those parts - what's wrong with laughing at a bathtub death scene?
The things that got to me were continuity (sometimes the witch looked old sometimes not, then oh look she's young again, oh look, she used magic but it didn't make her old... When you create a rule of magic, it must be consistent.) And --- the love story. I didn't buy it. I understood it, but I didn't believe it. But still, I didn't buy it in the book either.
Stardust gets 3 stars in my book. Which is three stars more than Mirror Mask :-P