Wednesday, December 26, 2007


Unjust (adj.) 1. Not just; lacking in justness or fairness. 2. Epic Movie and License to Wed doing better box office business than Stardust.

This is the exact kind of fantasy film that we never quite got back in the 80s, no matter how many times various directors tried. Based on the comic book by Neil Gaiman, it follows a young man (Charlie Cox, such an unfortunate unknown that even though he’s the male lead, his name only appears on the back of the DVD case) who vows to catch a falling star to prove his worth to the girl he loves. This is after a series of other less promising gift ideas, such as a vow to go to the North Pole and bring back a polar bear’s head, which does admittedly complement my recent viewing of the Polar Express quite well. His efforts to retrieve the star are complicated by some unforeseen factors, first by the realization that he’ll have to venture over a wall into a magical realm just outside of England, and also by the fact that what he had expected to be a chunk of space rock turns out to be a woman played by Claire Danes, who does get her name on the front cover.

There are further complications, of course, including a set of actually interesting villains, as the film wisely eschews the standard fantasy film procedure of a stock “ultimate evil” in favor of the, well, equally standard scheming witches (led by Michelle Pfeifer, who still manages to look surprisingly attractive at times for a woman that’s about fifty) and villainous princes. Well hell, if it works it works. The film, as could be expected from a story by a legend like Gaiman, so overflows with ideas that you get the feeling that an entire film could be made about the exploits of at least half the characters. There’s also a ton of cameos to be had, with the likes of Ricky Gervais, Rupert Everett, and Robert DeNiro, who delivers the most entertaining performance he’s probably given since Analyze This, as a sky pirate with a penchant for playing dress up.

I’ve been spending a good deal of time this year trying to get into older fantasy films that I’ve either never seen or haven’t seen since childhood, and I have to say, outside of Clash of the Titans I don’t think there was a single legitimately good fantasy story made during the 80s. This film right here is exactly the type of fantasy tale I’ve been looking for. It’s funny, clever, romantic, well acted, well paced, the general threats are on a low enough scale that it’s conceivable the villains could succeed (seriously, when you get a story about the looming destruction of the world, like in Neverending Story and the Dark Crystal, there’s really only one way the story can turn out), it’s everything you could want from a film like this. I can tell by the business it didn’t do that very close to none of the people reading this have seen the film yet, so go and correct that now. Don’t worry, I’ll still be here when you get back.

Rating: *** ½

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