Given that Charlie Cox is currently having a moment with the revival of interest in Daredevil, I thought it was the perfect time to watch his previous projects. This was my first time watching Stardust (2007), a fantasy romance adventure about a boy named Tristan (Charlie Cox) who seeks a fallen star in return for his love’s hand in marriage.
This movie is quirky, to say the least. In the town of Wall (conveniently named for being surrounded by a wall), a young Dustan Thorn (Ben Barnes) breaks the rules and crosses the wall. He discovers a magical realm called Stormhold where he encounters a witch’s slave who’s truly the princess Una (Kate Magowan). After he fails to liberate her, they sleep together.
Out of all the wacky things that happen in this movie, this is the thing I questioned the most. I guess Una was really bored and looking for some action. Whatever the case, this isn’t a classic fairytale romance. Dustan and Una are one and done. Dustan returns to Wall and nine months later, a baby Tristan appears on his doorstep.
Skipping to the present, Tristan is now a young shopboy in love with the much wealthier Victoria (Sienna Miller). Unfortunately, she clearly doesn’t care for him as much as he does for her. One night, he and Victoria see a falling star. Tristan vows to bring the star back to her in return for her hand in marriage. Victoria, being a stereotypical materialistic woman, accepts. Tristan transports to the fallen star who has landed on Earth in the form of a woman named Yvaine (Claire Danes). Tristan decides to present her as a prize to Victoria.
Meanwhile, the king of Stormhold (Peter O’ Toole) has died, pitting his sons against each other for the throne. They must go on a quest for the King’s necklace and somehow turn the gemstone back into a ruby. This necklace is currently sitting on Yvaine’s neck. After a bit of murder, Septimus (Mark Strong) is the last brother standing. (And a group of annoying ghost brothers tag along for the rest of the movie.)
At the same time, three old witches send their leader Lamia (Michelle Pfeiffer) to catch the star so they can eat her heart to maintain their youth. I have a lot of problems with the depiction of the witches in this movie. Women doing terrible things to stay young is a staple of classic fantasy and a harmful trope. The witches’s aging is depicted as horrific. Each time Lamia uses her magic, suddenly her skin wrinkles, she gets age spots, and her hair falls out. In the most appalling part of the entire movie, as she uses some of the last of her magic, her breasts suddenly sag downward.
As a woman, it’s terrible to see the natural aging process of women exaggerated and turned into body horror. The “aging women are horrifying” trope can be found everywhere, reflecting our misogynistic society’s impossible expectations for women to remain youthful and beautiful, otherwise we’re disgusting and valueless. But if we care about our beauty and youth too much, we’re evil and deserve to be punished by losing those things. Lamia is the epitome of this trope in Stardust.
Back to Tristan and Yvaine: their arguments and later flirtations are very cute. Charlie Cox as Tristan makes for an adorable protagonist, sensitive and sweet and very likable. Claire Danes as Yvaine is a spunky star who wants nothing more than to return to the sky. Though, she begins to want Tristan, too.
The pair then spend time aboard the flying ship of the charismatic Captain Shakespeare (Robert De Niro). He’s a pirate with a fearsome reputation to protect, but in reality he’s a crossdresser who loves art and music. It was nice to see a dash of queer representation in this film. De Niro steals every scene he's in. Shakespeare plays matchmaker with Tristan and Yvaine before they leave for Wall (and he fixes Tristan's terrible haircut). It's also later revealed that Shakespeare's crew knew all along about his true nature and still accepted him anyway. This was a nice twist.
Yvaine and Tristan eventually confess they love one another and finally get together. It’s all very sweet. But then Tristan leaves to break it off with Victoria without telling Yvaine what he’s doing. Thinking he’s left her, she walks to Wall. Tristan discovers that if Yvaine crosses the wall, she’ll die.
Luckily, Yvaine is saved by Tristan’s mother. Both are then captured by Lamia. Everything concludes in the final battle: all the antagonists are killed, and the power of Yvaine and Tristan’s love literally explodes Lamia. Finally, Tristan, being the last living male heir to the throne of Stormhold, becomes King.
Overall, Stardust is cute. It’s a fun watch without the ghost princes and decrepit witches. When it comes to diversity though, it's noticeably lacking. There isn’t a single person of color in the entire movie. The depiction of all women but Yvaine is shallow and objectifying. The most diverse thing is Robert De Niro’s Captain Shakespeare who doesn’t get much development. If you’re a fan of Charlie Cox, though, I’d still recommend watching Stardust to see him as a very lovable leading man.
Stardust is currently streaming on Netflix.