Saturday, March 24, 2007

Stardust (Talking 'bout That Trailer)

This past Friday Yahoo unveiled the first trailer for the summer fantasy epic Stardust. I've watched it several times now. Not because I loved it but because I've read the book and was trying to place certain scenes in--oh forget it...y'all know why I have it on loop. But more on her in a minute.

"My what green CGI you have!"

This preview does a good job of outlining the basic jumpoff of the story: Tristan (Charlie Cox), a lovestruck spontaneous young man vows to bring his wouldbe girlfriend (Sienna Miller) back a fallen star (Claire Danes). She doesn't take him seriously (no one ever leaves their village for the magic kingdom beyond its borders!) but he is quite serious about the vow. Unfortunately, retrieving the fallen star won't be easy and Tristan isn't the only one looking to possess it. Cue all sorts of shady characters including an evil sorceress (Michelle Pfeiffer) who needs the star to recapture her youth. Guess what will happen to that star should the witch prevail? Let's just say it won't be pretty. Adventure, chases, and battles ensue.

The trailers cutesy narration is actually less offputting than it might seem to those unfamiliar with the source material. The movie is based on Neil Gaiman's richly funny adventure novel of the same name. The book is not really in the somber bloodline of recent literary fantasy adaptations like Lord of the Rings or The Chronicles of Narnia. It's closer in spirit to something like The Princess Bride though his novel does have darker undercurrents than that film.

Though the comic tone of the trailer didn't surprise me at all, I worry about the abundant CGI. This is clearly overkill. Take a simple scene in a merchants shop wherein the sorceress shushes a merchant who is bothering her. Her magical silencing is accompanied by a green CGI thingie shooting from her fingertips to his lips. This is rather as pointless as visualizing the force in Star Wars. The wow effect should be in your head. Even George Lucas, whilst pissing all over his original Star Wars trilogy with needless f/x updates, didn't think to put glowy green CGI effects around the use of the force --imagine how silly it would be to see Yoda's levitation of a spaceship at Dagoba accompanied by colored energy or see Obi Wan's mind control illustrated with CGI. "These are not the droids you're looking for"

Pfeiffer pays homage to her Ladyhawke entrance 22 years ago.

When you've cast great actors (Stardust has a fine cast from top to bottom) and you've got a great story, a lot of your work is already done for you. When you cast an actress as exceptional as Michelle Pfeiffer as your villainess you really don't need to "help" her performance by making her face go all monstery to scare people. Had the filmmakers never seen White Oleander ? This bitch will cut you.

Matthew Vaughn sat in the directors chair for this adaptation and though the trailer's abundant special effects give me a haunting The Haunting vibe I am still somewhat optimistic. Vaughn's debut feature Layer Cake was tense, cinematic and clever. He also knew just how to use his terrific leading actor (Daniel Craig). But whether this new film is good, bad, or mediocre ... I hope everyone will read Stardust before seeing it. The very best thing about Neil Gaiman's writing is his prose: it's fanciful, witty and deliciously flavored with competing tones and wonderful turns of phrase. Great prose can't really transfer to the screen but great acting, direction and general visual creativity can achieve similarly dextrous moods, humor, and spirit. CGI on the other hand? That's a less supple filmmaking instrument.

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

Wow, that caused goosebumps! Thanks for pointing that out; I had only seen the crappy Russian version. I have to add that I may have only one line of dialogue to go by, but I think Sienna Miller's acting sucks. She sounded bored.

J said...

well, there is some CGI overkill, but maybe they will tone it down, there is still time to go back and change things, especially if they listen to public opinion, alot of blogegrs have said the same thing, or that it looks like a tv movie.

I hate to go just by the trailer, but for now, Claire Danes looks all wrong for this part, she looked awful in the trailer, and is nothing like the Star I know from the book. Sienna and Charlie Cox look bland as well.

Pfeiffer does look fantastic and wicked here, but Nat, did you notice her british accent kind of just...disappears as the trailer goes on? how weird...or bad is that?

this is only the first of I believe 2 or 3 trailers they will put out, so i'm anxious to see more, or if they go back and change some things.

I still have very high hopes for this, but I think it will be a marketing nightmare for Paramount.

J.D. Judge said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
J.D. Judge said...

So, you've read the book and are worried about the excessive use of CGI in the trailer? This sounds like something I've yelled about many, MANY times.

God, randominity is just.

adam k. said...

Yeah, I second the annoyance with Bridge to Terabithia. But that one was just kind of lazily directed in general. Not a good film. But I didn't read the book, so I can't compare.

WickedScorp said...

Two more trailers? Are there any more scenes left to show or are they just going to screen the complete film online?

Horrible, horrible trailer. I still want to see but that did nothing to boost my enthusiasm. To someone who has not read the book, it was not intriguing. Boring, banal choice of music. Fire the publicity team and hire the bootleg Russian dude.

Oh, by the way, the whole three witches recapturing their youth thing... I think I saw that movie. Carrie Bradshaw and Peggy Hill were in it with Bette Milder. =p

Beau said...

You know, a lot of trailers lately have been disappointing me. The third Pirates (I thoroughly enjoyed the second one, though I can see why some people wouldn't...), that Georgia Rule crapfest, No Reservations, even The Savages bored me.

So it's just wonderful to be able to watch something and have some faith in its abilities. Michelle looks fantastic, I'm loving Cox and Danes, De Niro looks bearable for once, and O'Toole...
is it just me, or did anyone else chuckle a bit watching him in this? Not because of his handling of the material, (perfectly adequate) but because I felt like he what he was doing here was exactly what he was spoofing in 'Venus'. Older gentleman laying down, spouting words and getting a paycheck for it.

Regardless, with this and (in my opinion) the excellent preview of Stephanie Daley, I was quite pleased with the recent slew of trailers.

...and does anyone else want to jump on the 'Waitress' bandwagon? I don't know, I like Russell. I like the idea behind it, I like the energy put into it... it just looks like it'll be one of those really great heartwarming pictures a la 'Little Miss Sunshine' where you just walk out of there smiling. (I wasn't the biggest fan of LMS, granted, but just putting into perspective.)

Anyways,
YAY for Stephanie Daley, Waitress and Stardust, in addition to Across the Universe and Knocked Up, both of which look fantastic, and will be.
So long as Revolution doesn't fuck with the final cut of the former like rumors have been floating around.

...yeah, I'm done.

Michael Parsons said...

Advance word has apparently been very very bad (AICN) and there may be some cut edits done to it. Loved the book, but think the all star cast is a little overkill as well.
then again it could turn out to be a msterpiece

Anonymous said...

look, I'd be happy to watch Pfeiffer slouch in a doorway reading the phone book. It's just good to see her on screen again.

As usual, though, this looks like another film in which her performance is far, far better than the film itself.

J said...

Michael Parsons: I only read 1 bad review of an early screening on AICN for Stardust, the rest were very, very positive, and it has been testing through the roof with test audiences.

J.D. Judge said...

Adam K - I read Bridge to Terabithia when I was 10 and it's a very special place in my heart. When the trailer for it came out, I actually started to cry a little in the movie I saw it in. But I saw it opening day, and it did not disappoint in ANY form of the word. I knew what would happen but it still hit incredibly hard, possibly more than I remember reading the horrifying twist. I think it was excellent with incredible performances by AnnaSophia Robb and Josh Hutcherson as Leslie and Jess.

Now, for the general public who have never read the book or at least know the set-up of it, this is NOT a CGI fantasy film. The advanced sorcery of the Disney Advertising Unit made it look like that to try and get more people to see it. BUT, if they just advertised it as it actually is, more people would not be disappointed at what they see. Excellent book, excellent film.

But, a question for Nat, did you like the book a lot? Because if you did, the same situation could unfold for you and you won't disappoint. If not, this could be sh*t. Who knows?

Anonymous said...

changing subject...


Though I would open one of these for Tribeca Festival...

QUOTE
A few highlights by category... First: Encounters:

--Most noteworthy is The Air I Breathe, Forest Whitaker's first film after his Oscar-winning turn in The Last King of Scotland. In Jieho Lee's take on an ancient Chinese proverb -- dividing life into the emotional cornerstones of Love, Happiness, Pleasure and Sorrow -- Whitaker plays Happiness. Kevin Bacon portrays Love, Brendan Fraser plays Pleasure and, quite brilliantly, Sarah Michelle Gellar has the role of Sorrow;

http://www.thereeler.com/

Anonymous said...

changing subject...


Though I would open one of these for Tribeca Festival...

QUOTE
A few highlights by category... First: Encounters:

--Most noteworthy is The Air I Breathe, Forest Whitaker's first film after his Oscar-winning turn in The Last King of Scotland. In Jieho Lee's take on an ancient Chinese proverb -- dividing life into the emotional cornerstones of Love, Happiness, Pleasure and Sorrow -- Whitaker plays Happiness. Kevin Bacon portrays Love, Brendan Fraser plays Pleasure and, quite brilliantly, Sarah Michelle Gellar has the role of Sorrow;

http://www.thereeler.com/

Kamikaze Camel said...

Having now seen the trailer I can't help but be a tad scared. Isn't the movie-going public usually terrified by movies that blend genres such as fantasy and comedy. What are audiences going to make of that trailer? Hmm...