(Second review: I’m going to leave the first one in place, because it just goes to show you. I didn’t remember seeing it, didn’t remember not being impressed. And THIS time through, I liked it a lot. It’s at least partly the result of how you’re feeling on a particular day. I must have been in a sour mood the first time. And so, here’s the new review:)
I don’t know how I missed this one when it was new, six years ago. For some reason I can’t recall any publicity, though there must have been some, as it did okay at the box office. And I’m glad I finally found it, because it’s a lot better than most fantasy/SF movies these days. Claire Danes and Charlie Cox (who?) got top billing, but that was because they put the bigger names, Michelle Pfeiffer and Robert De Niro, at the end, “and featuring,” which is also a prestige position.
There is also a “special appearance” by Peter O’Toole, one scene as a bedridden king who tells his three remaining sons (the other four have all killed each other off) that the one who captures a fallen star will be his successor. Their names were Primus, Secondus, Tertius … and so on to Septimus. The dead brothers appear as whited-out ghosts, each bearing the marks of his manner of death, and they are joined by the others as they are wiped out. They are a sort of comic Greek chorus.
Then there are the three ancient witch sisters, led by Pfeiffer in heavy old-crone make-up. They use up the last of their magic to make her young again, and she must find the fallen star to restore their youth.
And into the middle of all this intrigue come young Tristan, seeking the star to cement his engagement to the empty-headed and vain Victoria, and Danes, as the fallen star herself. Her hair glows fetchingly when she’s happy. Tristan falls for her, and the battles are joined.
Oh, right, can’t forget De Niro as the captain of the pirate airship Caspartine, and his crew, who are all about as fearsome as the Pirates of Penzance beneath all their bluster. The captain likes nothing more than dressing up in gowns and jewels and waltzing alone around his cabin. So in addition to a good story and good laughs, we get to see Vito Corleone in drag.
The production design is first-rate, and the special effects avoid some of the more common cliches we see every day. I thoroughly enjoyed this one. It won a Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation.