The king of the magical realm of Stormhold (Peter O'Toole) is dying! As he departs, he drains the colour from his royal ruby amulet and casts it up into the heavens stating that only one of royal blood can restore it and whichever of his four, sorry three, surviving sons can retrieve it, then they'll inherit the crown. However, as the amulet soars higher and higher, it knocks a star out of the sky and both plummet back to earth, far from the castle walls. The scheming brothers waste no time in setting off after their destiny...but others have seen the star fall too.
In the little English village of Wall, so named for the old wall nearby that has, for eons, kept the villagers safely apart from the supernatural land that lies on the other side, a young man called Tristan Thorn (Charlie Cox) promises his beloved that he'll seek out the fallen star and give it to her as a gift for her birthday. The star is also noticed by the evil witch Lamia (Michelle Pfeiffer), who knows exactly what it is and how it can restore her and her two wicked sisters to eternal youth, beauty and power.
And so begins the chase for both amulet and star for the prizes of a throne, love and even everlasting life.
I haven't read the book but having read some of Gaiman's work, I'd suspect that director Matthew Vaughn and Neil Gaiman have done an excellent job of translating the story onto film. Narrated by Ian McKellen, the story unfolds beautifully as we learn of young Dunstan's adventure over the wall some 18 years before and the consequences of that visit that leads us into the main story.
The hero of the piece is young Tristan, a poor shop assistant who's infatuated with a local girl called Victoria (Sienna Miller) but she's more interested in marrying the far wealthier Humphrey (Henry Cavill). Trouble is, Tristan is blind to her disinterest in him and he pursues her relentlessly. Even when he sees the star fall to earth and vows to seek it out for her, he can't understand why she'd want to marry Humphrey at all. He's a sad case!
Gaiman's style of somewhat dark fanstasy mingled in with comic touches works excellently here and there are some gems in those occassionally amusing moments. Robert de Niro's portayal of Captain Shakespeare, the gay pirate, is classic. Add to that some good British comedy talent like Mark Williams, Ricky Gervais, David Walliams and veteran David Kelly. Even Ricky Gervais didn't seem so annoying as usual, even if he still can't play anything other than the same character, "actyelly". Mark Williams playing a goat turned human is hilarious.
On the darker side, Michelle Pfeiffer plays the wicked witch queen Lamia really well; she's just so nasty and well supported by her two sisters, Mormo and Empusa. Then there's Prince Septimus (Mark Strong), who's out to kill all of his brothers to get the throne; he has to do that as he's seventh in line. He also wants the star when he finds out that it can be used to get everlasting life and he quite fancies ruling Stormhold forever.
And in the middle there's Yvain (Claire Danes) but I'm not going to mention her role here, you'll just have to watch the movie. The cinematography is pretty good and it's not difficult to recognise the fact that they used Loch Lomond and the Quiraing on Skye for a few of the location shoots. Special effects are fairly good but not overly used and the score reminded me a bit of Howard Shore's work on The Lord Of The Rings so it was good too.
It's a fairy story romance with a few quests thrown in and an evil witch and an evil prince to thwart so it is a bit predictable in its simplicity of plot but defintely worth watching and well recommended. I might even try getting hold of the book as well.
Genre: Adventure, Comedy, Fantasy, Romance
My Rating: 8/10