Based on the novel of the same name by Neil Gaiman, an author well known for Urban Fantasy stories. I’ve heard of him, considering my preference for fantasy stories, but I have not read him. Though I did enjoy this movie. It’s also an example of “hey it’s that guy!” with an all-star cast. The film opens with narration by Ian McKellen. Ben Barnes (titular Prince Caspian) is the young Dunstan Thorn. His older counterpart is played by Nathaniel Parker (uh yeah, that’s Agravaine from Merlin, and he apparently briefly appeared as the remembered father to Prince Caspian in Voyage of the Dawn Treader. So old Dunstan plays father to the young Dunstan). Henry Cavill (the newest Superman, Charles Brandon from Tudors, and Melot from Tristan and Isolde) is almost unrecognizable as Humphrey (it’s the colored wig). The great Peter O’Toole has a few scenes as the king. He has seven sons. Primus is played by Jason Flemyng (who is surprisingly Azazel in X-Men First Class and Vadim in the Musketeers). Also from Musketeers is Rupert Everett (he was decrepit Feron) as Secundus. The featured brother is Septimus, played by Mark Strong (definitely should be familiar to my followers; he’s a bad guy in Tristan and Isolde, the bad guy in Sherlock Holmes with Robert Downey Jr., and the bad guy in Robin Hood with Russell Crowe; he’s not terribly nice in this film either). Michelle Pfeiffer is Lamia the witch, Claire Danes stars as Yvaine, Ricky Gervais makes an appearance, as does Mark Williams (Mr. Weasley). Robert De Niro pops in as Captain Shakespeare.
The story explores the notion that there is a secret, magical realm that exists alongside England, called Stormhold, that is only separated by a wall. Dunstan Thorn is the first to cross over and finds a bustling market going on. He meets a beautiful young woman, the captive of a witch. He would free her, but only the witch’s death will bring that about. Instead, the woman pulls Dunstan into her wagon. Dunstan returns to England, but nine months later, a baby is left for him, Tristan. Eighteen years later, Tristan hopes to win the heart of a stuck-up snob, Victoria. Of course, to him, she’s the most beautiful and most lovely lady. He doesn’t really stand a chance against a traditional gentleman like Humphrey. Dunstan counsels his son that it is a good omen that he does not fit in with everyone else. Tristan tries again to woo Victoria, planning a romantic dinner under the stars.
Meanwhile, in Stormhold, the king dies. Their tradition is that the younger sons all kill each other off, so the only one left standing becomes king. At this point, there are four left. To decide the succession, whichever son can restore the ruby to the king’s pendant will get the throne. There is mention of a single sister; but she cannot inherit. One brother is pushed off the balcony. Another is poisoned before the quest begins, leaving now Septimus and Primus to compete. Incidentally, the ruby that fled the pendant hits a star, causing it to fall to Earth. Victoria and Tristan see the star, and Tristan vows to bring it to her to prove his feelings. So Tristan ventures past the wall. Well, it takes two tries. The old guard beats him off the first time and Tristan comes to find that his father had ventured past the wall. His mother had left a Babylon candle (terribly useful for travel) with him as a baby.
There is another group that hunts the star; three elderly witches. If they consume her heart, they retain their youth and life. (They’re a bit creepy, keeping animals around to sacrifice. I avert my gaze during those scenes). Tristan finds the crater of the fallen star and comes to realize that the young injured woman is the star. She’s kept the necklace that hit her and Tristan intends to march her back to Victoria. Yvaine, the star, is not as keen on the idea, particularly since Tristan had landed on her. But he starts back. He does have to leave her for a bit to get supplies. A unicorn comes along and helps the fallen star, but unfortunately leads her to an inn created by the witch to trap the star. Tristan ends up at the inn eventually with Primus. The witch is about to kill Yvaine when they knock. When Primus becomes too nosey, the witch kills him and advances on Tristan and Yvaine. There’s a bit of a mix up in their escape and they end up in the clouds during a storm.
They’re rescued by Captain Shakespeare and his band of pirates. Shakespeare loudly interrogates the pair and seems to throw Tristan overboard. It was all an act for his crew; Shakespeare is actually a kind man, but has to keep a fearsome reputation to stay in command. He grew up on tales of England, like Tristan grew up on tales of the realm on the other side of the wall. Shakespeare passes Tristan off as his nephew and teaches him to properly sword fight. Over the course of the week they are traveling together, Yvaine falls in love with Tristan. And Tristan realizes that Victoria is not the woman for him. Shakespeare sends the couple on their way.
The morning of Victoria’s birthday, Tristan leaves Yvaine so he can take a piece of hair to fulfill his oath and deal with Victoria quietly. Sadly, the message is garbled when it reaches Yvaine and she believes he left her for Victoria. Tristan gets a chance to intimidate Humphrey and tell the spoiled pair they’re perfect for each other. Then realizes that Yvaine is in danger if she crosses the wall. He rushes back. But Yvaine is already making her way to him. The woman from the beginning of the film (who slept with Dunstan and thus Tristan’s mother) rushes to help Yvaine, realizing she’s a star. The witch meets up with them, killing the woman’s captor, an opposing witch. She takes the two young ladies with her to her castle, where she plans to sacrifice the star with her sisters.
Septimus in on their trail as well (the brothers, who are all ghosts and follow about since they cannot pass on yet, had noticed that Yvaine was wearing the pendant and Septimus plans to use that to his advantage). He and Tristan pair up outside the castle. Septimus attempts to fight off the witches, but is ultimately killed, though he did take out one of the three witches. He is magically drowned, only to be brought back to fight Tristan. Tristan takes out the other witch, leaving only the main witch. She seemingly lets Tristan and Yvaine goes, but tries to bring the castle down on them. Yvaine uses her shine to take out the witch in the end. When he picks up Yvaine’s pendant, the stone becomes a ruby again. The woman, who is actually Una, the king’s long lost daughter, informs him that he is the last male heir of the king of Stormhold. Tristan is crowned, Yvaine is his queen. It seems that Una and Dunstan may get to be together. Overall, a happy ending.
Again, I find this to be just a fun movie to watch. It has nice fantasy elements. I like when Shakespeare trains Tristan. There is a hilarious scene to the tune of Can Can between Shakespeare and Septimus; my favorite scene of the film. The fight between the pirates and the guards is excellently timed to the music. And the crew always knew that their captain was a little…different (he has a closet full of costumes, including dresses). There’s times it gets dark; the brothers murdering each other; the witches. But it ends with a tidy happy ending. At least the young couple had a week to get to know each other. Since they were around each other constantly for a week, it did give them significant time (unlike Tristan’s parents: like, a minute? Really?).
Up Next: Eragon