Stardust – Neil Gaiman
I first watched the 2007 film version of Stardust many years before I read Neil Gaiman’s 1999 novel. I loved the movie then and I still do even after reading the novel, which is incredibly different. This is one of the instances where I am not sure if I would have felt differently about the movie if I had first read the book. At lot of the storyline is gutted from the film, and what is a grand adventure in the novel feels like a quick journey in the film. The film does a great job at compensating for this, though, through the development of the characters’ personalities.
As with many movies based on novels, watching the movie version of Stardust after having read the book felt like watching an eclipsed version of the full story. It is fairly obvious that portions of the movie were altered from how they were originally written in the novel simply because it would have been difficult and time consuming to keep them the same. I imagine this is why, for example, Tristan’s father seems to be single in the film rather than married with another daughter the way he is in the novel. While Dunstan’s backstory is an interesting part of the novel, it really is not pertinent to the main storyline, and nothing is truly lost by this alteration. Still, so many alterations were made between the book and the movie that it is hard not to feel like the movie is incomplete overall.
While the plot itself feels a little lacking in comparison to the novel, the characters are far more rich and complex in the film. Whereas I would say the novel is plot driven, the film is absolutely character driven. Robert De Niro as the lovable Captain Shakespeare is my absolute favorite character in the film, which certainly is not the case in the novel since not much information is given about the novel’s Captain (who is named Captain Johannes Alberic). Michelle Pfeiffer as the witch queen and Ricky Gervais as Ferdy the Fence are two other characters who really made the film for me. Even though Ricky Gervais’ role was a small one, both actors brought so much humor and personality to their respective roles that they really helped to fill out the movie. These three characters along with the ghost brothers, make Stardust feel like a comedy at times, which really provided the sense of whimsy that I often notice reading Neil Gaiman’s novels. So, while the movie was indeed very different from the book, I still got the same overall feeling from watching it that I did from reading the book, which is why I have to say that I loved them both despite their differences.
Book Vs. Film Facts
In the novel, the main character’s name is Tristran, not Tristan. I was not quite sure how one would wrap their mouths around ‘Tritran,’ so I am not overly surprised by this change.
Tristan’s father, Dunstan, marries a girl from his village before Tristan is delivered to him and they have a daughter, named Louisa, who is only 6 months younger than Tristan.
Men from the village act as guards for the wall and it rotates regularly with two guards on duty at a time.
In the film, Dunstan runs past the wall guard and finds a market, but in the novel, the market is held every 9 years and is open to people from Dunstan’s side of the wall.
Primus is the only brother who dies in the film in the same manner that he does in the novel. In the novel, Secundus is already dead, Tertius is poisoned by his brother at an inn, and Septimus is killed by the witch queen in the form of a snake.
In the film, the lightening pirate ship is captained by Captain Shakespeare, but in the novel his name is Captain Johannes Alberic.
Tristan is away from his home for months in the novel rather than one week.
In the novel, Victoria marries the owner of the shop that Tristan had worked in. By marrying Mr. Monday, Victoria also becomes a Monday, causing there to be two Mondays in one week, which is how Tristan’s mother is freed from the witch.
The witches are not killed in the novel; rather, they give up their pursuit of Yvaine when they discover that she no longer possesses her heart – she has given it to Tristan.
- Tristan does not live forever in the novel. Once he dies, Yvaine takes his place as ruler of Stormhold.
Rating (match to book) – 4
So many little and big details were changed in the film adaptation of the novel Stardust. I think the film did a commendable job at capturing the essence of the novel, though, so this was one instance where I had a hard time deciding which version of the story I preferred. I thought the plot was much more clever and complex in the novel version, but I enjoyed the characters in the film far more than I did in the novel. Overall, both are very entertaining even if it is for very different reasons.
Which was Better?
I’ve Seen the Movie – Should I Read the Book?
Yes! This is one instance where I think it is best to see the movie prior to reading the book. Watching the movie without having first read the book, you will not notice the gaps in the storyline and you will be better able to appreciate the beautiful character development. Then, when you read the novel, enjoy imagining the characters as having the same personalities as they did in the movie. I will warn you that the ending of the novel is drastically different than it is in the film, so do not be too surprised…
I’ve Read the Book – Should I See the Movie?
Yes! Although you should be prepared for several of the big details and almost all of the little details to be different, I think the movie is worth watching if you enjoyed the novel. The actors really breathe life into the characters and make for a new perspective on Tristran’s journey. The ending can also be more satisfying for those used to storylines that build in excitement since the ending of the novel is somewhat anti-climactic.