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Film / Stardust

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Stardust is a 2007 film adaptation of Neil Gaiman's book of the same name, directed by Matthew Vaughn. While certain liberties were taken, it remains a relatively faithful adaptation.

When a star falls from the sky, Tristan Thorn (Charlie Cox) sets out to find a fallen star for Victoria (Sienna Miller), the girl he's in love with... only to find that the "star" is a humanoid woman named Yvaine (Claire Danes), and that three evil witches, led by the scheming Lamia (Michelle Pfeiffer), want to capture her. Yvaine is also being chased by heirs to the throne of the magical kingdom of Stormhold who seek Yvaine's ruby necklace, Prince Septimus (Mark Strong) foremost among them.

Stardust contains examples of:

  • 11th-Hour Superpower: Yvaine can only shine bright enough to destroy Lamia utterly when she is filled with pure love for Tristan in their darkest moment, just as Lamia is about to kill them. Lampshaded right after:
    Tristan: Couldn't you have done that earlier?
  • Abduction Is Love: Tristan starts out trying to force Yvaine to come back to England with him to show her to Victoria, and then the two subsequently fall in love. Of course, by that point, Yvaine isn't Tristan's captive, and she's going with him as a favour to a friend (and part of their agreement is Tristan using the Babylon Candle to let Yvaine go home as soon as Victoria meets her). Yvaine gives us this gem when Tristan first tries to convince her to come with him:
    Yvaine: But of course! Nothing says "romance" like the gift of a kidnapped injured woman! I'm not going anywhere with you!
  • Actor Allusion: When talking to Yvaine, Primus has a throwaway line about his father the King having been such a skilled equestrian in his youth that he took to riding camels, a reference to Peter O'Toole's famous role as Lawrence of Arabia.
  • Adaptation Dye-Job: In the book, the eldest of the Lilim has black hair and wears red. In the movie, Lamia has blonde hair and wears green clothing.
  • Adaptation Expansion: The Lightning Pirates get only a brief mention in the book, but have a significant subplot in the movie.
  • Adaptational Alternate Ending: The book ends with Tristran dying of old age and Yvaine mourning him for eternity while remaining the immortal ruler of Stormhold. The film has them ruling for about eighty years, then leaving the realm to their children and lighting a Babylon candle to ascend to the sky and live together as stars. Neil Gaiman actually suggested this ending, feeling it fit the film better.
  • Adaptational Badass: Tristan learns to swordfight in the movie and the witches use more combat-oriented spells, and Septimus was a poison master in the book, while in the movie, his preferred weapon is a knife (using poison only once), and he fights with blades.
  • Adaptational Jerkass: Lamia cheats when the witches draw lots to decide which of them shall go to capture the star. In the book, there is no indication the eldest Lilim cheated in the corresponding scene.
  • Adaptational Timespan Change: In the book, the adventure lasts six months, with Tristran setting out in October and returning in April. In the film, it's only a week. Among other things, the trip on the flying ship lasts several weeks in the book, giving Tristran's hair time to grow out without magical assistance.
  • Adaptational Villainy:
    • Septimus and Lamia were both villains in the book, but are more so in the movie: Septimus kills more people and is more ruthless, with the ending implying that while all the other brothers, despite their sins, are going to Heaven, he's going to Hell, while Lamia is considerably more sadistic.
  • Adaptation Name Change:
    • Tristan Thorn was Tristran Thorn in the book. The director has said that this was initially a typo that they decided to run with.
    • Captain Shakespeare of the Caspertine; in the book, the ship Tristran and Yvaine travel on is the Perdita, and its captain is named Alberic. They were renamed to acknowledge that the captain in the film is effectively a new character, with a different personality and backstory and a larger role in the plot.
    • In the book, Ditchwater Sal was her original name, but she now goes by Madam Semele.
  • Adaptation Personality Change: Victoria. In the book, she's Spoiled Sweet, and issues her Engagement Challenge without realizing how serious Tristran is being; she's genuinely remorseful when he takes her at her word and goes off on a quest that will likely get him killed. When he returns, they have a proper conversation about where they stand with each other, and part as friends. In fact, Victoria's marriage to Mister Monday is one of the two conditions of Una's Curse Escape Clause. In the film, she's a Spoiled Brat whose only sweetness is that she's nice to Tristan out of pity, and stops being nice the minute she actually expects something of him. Otherwise, she only thinks of herself. She's no better when he returns from his quest, and their conversation quickly becomes him telling her exactly what he thinks of her.
  • Adaptation Relationship Overhaul: In the book, Tristran's parents came together briefly in a relationship that was good for both but wouldn't have developed into anything long-term even if his mother hadn't been in constrained circumstances; his father moves on and ends up in a more settled relationship, and when Tristran finds his mother, she's pleased to meet him but not interested in renewing her acquaintance with his father. The movie streamlines things by giving them a more conventional relationship arc; in the movie, Tristan's father never marries, and he's seen sitting with Tristan's mother in the big crowd scene at the end, suggesting that they're going to get together now that she's free to make her own life choices.
  • Alas, Poor Villain: Lamia. It is played with — imagine the scene in the castle of the witches, after Lamia's sisters die, and how the film would have ended if she truly were regretting it.
  • All Men Are Perverts: Bernard is ecstatic when he gets to help Yvaine undress for her bath. However, it's subverted when Tristan and Yvaine admit their love and presumably sleep together; one of the ghost princes tells the others to come and watch, but they're not interested.
  • Animorphism:
    • Lamia stops by a goatherd's hut and offers to buy his goat. When Bernard points out that one goat isn't strong enough to pull her cart, she quips, "Hmm. You're quite right," turns Bernard into another goat, and takes them both. The hapless goatherd gets dragged along by the villains for most of the rest of the film. It does turn out well for him in the end, though, as he's seen sitting next to Captain Shakespeare and cheering when Tristan is crowned.
    • Ditchwater Sal similarly turns Tristan into a mouse for the journey to Wall Market, keeping her Exact Words by changing him back when they arrive.
  • Author Appeal: The director of the movie, Matthew Vaughn, liked the original story so much that he thought it could be a movie a lot like The Princess Bride.
  • Auto Erotica: It's all but stated that Tristan was conceived as a result of his father sleeping with Una in the back of Ditchwater Sal's wagon.
  • Award-Bait Song: Rule The World by Take That.
  • Awesome Moment of Crowning: Tristan gets the throne and his queen while his mother, father, and Capt. Shakespeare look on approvingly.
  • Barred from the Afterlife: The dead princes can't pass on until a new King of Stormhold is chosen. They're understandably unhappy about all of them dying before getting crowned — luckily for them, they have a long-lost nephew in Tristan.
  • Bathtub Scene: Yvaine has two, one at Lamia's inn where she narrowly avoids a Deadly Bath, and another when Tristan walks in on her bathing in his bathtub.
  • The Beard: Victoria may be one to Humphrey, who receives and seems responsive to a wink from Captain Shakespeare during the crowning.
  • Berserk Button: You really shouldn't betray Septimus, or mock him for that matter. To be fair, Ferdy can't make it clear that he isn't trying to mock Septimus, given that he was cursed by Lamia to only be able to communicate with monkey sounds.
  • Betty and Veronica: Played with. Victoria seems like she's the Veronica, since she's something of a Rich Bitch and rather materialistic, in contrast to Yvaine's more down to earth and insightful Betty. But Victoria is a small-town human who's rather passive, while Yvaine is more active with a sassy side, and as a supernatural creature, is far more exciting.
  • Big Bad Ensemble: Lamia and her sisters are a Big Bad Triumvirate who must also contend for Yvaine with the various competing princes. By the end, though, Lamia is the last villain standing, so she probably takes precedence as the Big Bad. Septimus and Tristan also work together in the final battle to try and stop the witches.
  • Big "NO!":
    • Lamia gives a Skyward Scream when Tristan and Yvaine escape with a Babylon candle and her knife instead breaks against the wall of the inn.
    • Tristan does the same thing later on when he hears from the Wall guard that Yvaine was captured by Lamia.
  • Black Comedy: The princes drink a toast to their quest for the ruby, after which Tertius and the Bishop drop dead from poisoning, and Septimus pretends to, solely to screw with Primus.
  • Blue Blood: When Lamia cuts Primus's throat in the bath, he bleeds blue. It's unclear if it's just because he's royalty, or if all inhabitants of Stormhold have such blood, since nobody else in the movie is seen bleeding. Word of God states the decision for the color was made to avoid the "R" rating that red blood would have caused, with the added benefit of being a visual gag for the character.
  • Blonde, Brunette, Redhead: Lamia and her sisters — Lamia is the Blonde, Empusa the Brunette, and Mormo is the Redhead.
  • Blunt "Yes": The opening exchange between Dunstan and the Wall Keeper.
    Guard: I'm charged with guarding a portal to another world, and you're asking me to just let you through?!
    Dunstan: [as-a-matter-of-factly] Yes. Because, let's be honest, it's a field. Look, do you see another world out there? No, you see a field. Do you see anything non-human? No. And you know why? Because it's a field!
  • Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: Tristan says he would do the following for Victoria: bring her back her weight in gold, find a diamond the size of her hand, and/or chop off a polar bear's head. The last one acts as a Moment Killer.
  • Breast Expansion: Inverted. Lamia's breasts suddenly deflate after she uses too much magic.
  • The Bully: Humphrey. Maybe Septimus too.
  • Butt-Monkey: Poor Bernard. First he gets kidnapped by Lamia, who turns him into a goat to drive her cart, then he gets put into a girl's body, is almost trapped in a burning inn, then kidnapped and kicked around by Septimus, before finally making an appearance at the end sequence looking surprisingly happy for all he's been through — probably because everybody who did those things to him has died horribly, and the people who were nice to him just became King and Queen. Also, according to the DVD commentary, he was found by Captain Shakespeare and joined his crew.
  • Camp Gay: Captain Shakespeare of the Caspartine, but only in the privacy of his cabin. He puts on an act for his crew, though they saw through it long ago.
  • Cast from Lifespan: Lamia. Well, more "Cast from Youth," as each spell she uses drains a little bit of the good looks she gets from eating the last of the previous star's heart. This leads to a funny scene where she repeatedly tries to use magic to undo signs of age in one spot on her body, only for it to cause signs of age to appear on another spot.
  • Celestial Body: Yvaine is a star.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Loads and loads — the glass flower, the silver chain, the Babylon candle, the tube of lightning, the spell Lamia casts on Ditchwater Sal, and Tristan's mother.
  • Color-Coded Characters: The Princes of Stormhold all have outfits in different bright colours: Primus wears shades of purple, Secundus wears bright red, Tertius wears green and gold, and Septimus, naturally, wears black. It's impossible to tell what color the ghostly princes' clothes once were, but presumably they had their own individual color schemes as well.
    • Which are indeed revealed when they fly away at the end to each of their afterlives.
  • Combat Pragmatist: The Lightning Pirate crew. When facing Septimus's men, they bow, and when their opponents do the same out of courtesy, they take the chance to get the first strike while they're off their guard.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: The elderly Wall guard administers one to Tristan, despite being 97.
  • Dance of Romance: Tristan and Yvaine's dance on the ship where Yvaine starts glowing as she realizes her feelings for him.
  • Deadly Bath: Lamia kills Primus in her inn's bath by cutting his throat. Before this, she tries to do the same with Yvaine, but the arrival of Tristan and Primus interrupts her.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Tristan and Yvaine.
  • Death by Adaptation: Lamia actually survives the book as something of a Graceful Loser.
  • Decoy Protagonist:
    • Inverted with a Decoy Villain. Septimus seems like he should become a major problem for the heroes. Not only is he actually Tristan's uncle, but the only time he actually meets the two main characters is in the film's climax, just in time to help fight the Big Bads and get killed.
    • Before him, there's Secundus — he gets a great entrance, only to be pushed out a window to his death a minute later.
    • Played straight with Tristan's father at the beginning, although he is important. To get the real protagonist, he and Una go into Sal's wagon and have fun...
  • Department of Redundancy Department: "You'll always be our Captain, Captain."
  • Destination Defenestration: Secundus's fate at the hands of Septimus during the King on His Deathbed scene —much to their father's delight.
  • Digital Bikini: The scene where Tristan cuts a lock off Yvaine's hair while she sleeps was originally shot with him shirtless, implying that they'd made love during the night. It was eventually decided that this was too racy, so a shirt was painted onto him in post-production to make the events of the previous night more ambiguous.
  • Distracted by My Own Sexy: Upon recovering her youth and beauty, Lamia strips naked in front of a mirror and eyes her new body appreciatively, even winking flirtatiously at herself, while her jealous sisters roll their eyes in the background.
    • When first transformed into a girl, Bernard takes a quick appreciative look down his own cleavage.
  • Doorstop Baby: Tristan's mother leaves him with his father to care for after he's born, since he can give their baby a better life in England than she can as a slave in Stormhold.
  • Dress Hits Floor: Lamia takes off her dress in this fashion so she can check out her newly rejuvenated body in the mirror.
  • Enemy Mine: Sort of. At the end of the film, we have a hero/villain team-up (between Tristan and Septimus) to take down a more dangerous villain (Lamia), but the two characters weren't enemies beforehand — in fact, they'd never met (though Septimus did beat up Tristan's mentor, Captain Shakespeare). Septimus lampshades it nonetheless, pointing out that while neither of them can trust the other, neither do they have much choice but to work together.
  • Engagement Challenge: From Victoria to Tristan. As Yvaine points out, this only shows that Victoria is a False Soulmate.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Una disappeared for years and was presumed dead, and Septimus is known to have killed several of his older brothers, but he is still deeply offended that everyone assumes he must have killed Una as well. As he points out, he would have no reason to kill her, given that Stormhold is an Heir Club for Men — as a daughter. she wasn't a competitor in the line of succession anyway.
  • Everybody Was Kung-Fu Fighting: The 97-year-old Irish shepherd guarding the Wall is proficient in Shaolin Kung Fu in spite of having lived in 19th- to early 20th-century England all his life.
    Dunstan: Tristan, he's ninety-seven years old.
    Tristan: Well, that's given him plenty of time to practice then, hasn't it?
  • Evil Old Folks: Lamia and her sisters, though the King is pretty sociopathic too.
  • Evil Prince: Septimus, and presumably most of his brothers, though none of them get a chance to perform evil acts onscreen. It's a tradition in Stormhold that the princes be evil — they're encouraged to kill each other off, proving that the survivor will be a strong king. Primus is an aversion, and the bishop supports him as the first potentially benevolent ruler, but though he takes precautions against Septimus's assassination attempts, he's killed anyway when he happens to get in Lamia's way.
  • Evil Versus Evil: Toward the climax, Septimus versus Lamia.
  • Exact Words: Ditchwater Sal promises Tristan that she'll get him to Wall Market, dropping him off there in the exact condition he is at that moment. She never said anything about his condition during the journey.
  • Fake Shemp: The inn scene was particularly tricky to shoot, as not all the actors were available at one time, so there was heavy use of this technique to give the impression that Lamia, Tristan, Yvaine, Primus, Billy, and Bernard were all in the scene together.
  • Fall-in Angel: The action kicks off with a young man finding a fallen star in the form of a girl.
  • Falling Chandelier of Doom: Subverted twice, then played straight — when Lamia is controlling Septimus's dead body via Voodoo Doll and making it fight Tristan, he tries to take it out by dropping a chandelier on it, but severs the wrong rope twice before he finds the right one. When he does, he also uses the rope to lift himself up to Lamia's balcony before she can cut out Yvaine's heart.
  • False Soulmate: Tristan wholeheartedly believes that he and Victoria are meant for each other. He learns better over the course of the film.
  • Forced Transformation: Both instances of Animorphism are applied by witches to unwilling subjects: Lamia turns Bernard into a goat, and Ditchwater Sal turns Tristan into a mouse.
  • Four Lines, All Waiting: For a period after Yvaine initially falls to Earth, there are four storylines going on at once: Tristan meeting Yvaine and beginning their journey back to the Wall, Lamia seeking out Yvaine for her youth, and Septimus and Primus beginning their separate journeys to find the royal ruby.
  • Funny Background Event: After he's changed into a woman, Bernard spends most of his screentime staring at himself or sneaking looks at Yvaine.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: After Tristan finds the ruby, he sets the souls of the seven princes free. While six of them become white spirits and float upwards (presumably to Heaven), Septimus, the most evil of the brothers, becomes a red spirit, and heads downwards to Hell.
  • Foreshadowing: The mistake that leads to Yvaine and Tristan meeting the lightning pirates foreshadows that two people can use the candle to travel into the heavens with the rest of the stars, as the two of them do in the end.
  • Game Between Heirs: Before he dies, the king of Stormhold announces that his heir will be the one who manages to obtain the ruby necklace he threw into the sky. It gets complicated when it crashes onto Yvaine and she falls to Earth...
  • Game Face: Lamia delivers a brief but pretty creepy one to Ditchwater Sal after she realizes she's been fed limbus grass.
  • Gender Bender: Bernard, the goatherd chap, gets this treatment as part of Lamia's ruse to lure Yvaine into a trap. At least Lamia was good enough to give him a decent rack. He keeps his deep male voice, though.
  • Good-Times Montage: The sequence with the Lightning Pirates features both this and a Training Montage. In addition to Tristan learning how to swordfight, Yvaine gets to learn how to play the piano, and they both learn the waltz.
  • Greek Chorus: The dead princes, Barred from the Afterlife, have nothing better to do than follow their brothers around and comment on the action to each other.
  • Green and Mean: Lamia's dark magic manifests in the form of green light. Even when she conjures up the fire in the inn, the flames are green. Part of her dress is also dark green.
  • Happily Ever After: Tristan and Yvaine are crowned King and Queen, and rule for eighty years before finally returning to Yvaine's home in the heavens.
  • A Head at Each End: A miniature elephant with heads at both ends is seen in a cage when Dunstan makes his visit to the market. When Lamia calls Ferdy a "two-faced dog," he takes no offense and merely offers to sell her one.
    Ferdy: I can get you one of them. Very good guard dogs; they can watch the front door and the back door at the same time.
  • Heart Is an Awesome Power: Yvaine's ability to glow as a humanoid star later turns out to be able to be used as an offensive attack to defeat Lamia. Quite literally too, as she can only do it when her heart is happy.
  • Heir Club for Men: The fact that only males can inherit the throne of Stormhold means that Princess Una isn't a target of her other brothers, who are busy killing each other off because the law also demands that there be only one male contender. It also helps they have no idea where she is. This is also the reason that the throne passes directly to Tristan once his relation to her is revealed.
  • Hero-Tracking Failure: During the final Boss Battle, Lamia hurls spells and makes rows of windows dramatically explode one after the other, but seems persistently unable to hit Tristan or Yvaine as they run away in a straight line, staying just in front of the explosions. They don't even get a scratch from the flying shards. This is probably intentional: given that she needs to cut out Yvaine's heart and eat it, she's likely just terrorizing them For the Evulz and herding them back towards her.
  • Heroic Fantasy: The film is set in a world of high magic, but the stakes aren't high enough to qualify as High Fantasy, and the emphasis is on the personal adventures of the characters rather than a battle of good versus evil.
  • Hidden Heart of Gold: Captain Shakespeare puts on a gruff facade, but has carefully arranged matters so that he doesn't need to engage in much actual violence. When he meets Tristan and Yvaine, he's delighted to be able to confide in them, since they aren't from Stormhold and don't know or care about his fearsome reputation. He's also a not-so-secret Camp Gay and Crossdresser.
  • High-Dive Escape: Septimus's escape from Captain Shakespeare's ship when cornered by the crew is to crash through a window and jump into the water.
  • Hooked Up Afterwards: Tristan's parents only met once during a one-night stand, but formally get together at the end of the film.
  • Hot Witch: When Lamia consumes what's left of the last star, she is restored to her youth and beauty — even disrobing briefly to check herself out. Sadly for her, overusing her magic causes her to eventually wither back to her elderly form.
  • Humanity Ensues: Billy the goat is transformed into Mark Williams to play the part of an innkeeper in Lamia's trap. He still acts like a goat, bleating and chewing on people's clothing. He reverts to his goat shape when the unicorn kills him.
  • Important Haircut: Captain Shakespeare cuts Tristan's hair during the Training Montage. Being a fantasy realm, his hair somehow ends up even longer, befitting his new look and level in badass.
  • Inn of No Return: Lamia builds an inn out of magic for the express purpose of luring Yvaine there so she can cut out her heart. Although she fails to kill her intended victim, she does kill and rob the only other patron who happens to show up at her inn that night, Primus. By the next morning, when Lamia's attempt on Yvaine and Tristan fails, she is forced to dismantle the inn and move on. She leaves behind Primus's body in the bathtub, the only evidence of the inn's existence.
  • Insurmountable Waist-Height Fence: The wall on the border of the magical land is only chest-high, yet an old man guards a gap in it — but then, who's to say you'd end up in the same place if you climbed over it as if you went through the gap?
  • Interspecies Romance: Stars and humans. According to the closing narration, they can even have offspring.
  • Ironic Echo: "What's it to be? Heads or tails?" When Lamia initially meets Ditchwater Sal, the latter offers her half of a rotisserie rabbit with this line. When they next cross paths, it's a Pre-Mortem One-Liner — Lamia blasts off Sal's head.
  • It Can Think: The unicorn Yvaine befriends never speaks a word, but it demonstrates critical thinking and nonverbal communication skills on par with humans. Such examples include freeing Yvaine from her Super Normal Bindings with its horn, lying down so Yvaine can better mount it after seeing Yvaine's limp, and last but absolutely not least, charges into Tristan's hand, knocking over his cup, and then points to the spill as it smokes on the ground, showing that Lamia poisoned his drink.
  • It's All About Me: What Victoria seems to think, even after Tristan flat-out tells her to "get over herself."
  • I Was Quite a Looker: The witch sisters all intend to restore their youth and beauty. In the film we only see what Lamia's youthful self looks like, but there's a small Missing Trailer Scene that briefly shows them all posing in front of the mirror in all their youth and beauty.
  • I Work Alone: Primus, once the race for the ruby is afoot.
    • Both have their strengths and weaknesses as a result. Septimus travels on horseback with an entourage of no more than a dozen men, but Primus drives his own horse-drawn carriage. Septimus must rely on a soothsayer to interpret divination runestones for him, but Primus knows how to consult them on his own. Primus' approach pays off, as Septimus is delayed for the entire first day of the race because the soothsayer is Primus' man and misinterpreting the runes on purpose.
    • Primus initially asserts this when Tristan crosses paths with him and begs to travel with him ("absolutely out of the question"), but relents after Tristan makes an appeal to his faith. Funnily enough, this does not contribute to his death — Lamia would have killed him at the inn either way to eliminate a witness.
  • Jacob Marley Apparel: The princely ghosts, who have the clothes (or lack thereof, for Primus who died in the bath) and injuries (burns, smashing, axe in head) they had at death. Primus can be seen appropriating the tails of his brothers' coats or cloaks to cover himself in some scenes.
  • Jar of the Bizarre: A jar full of eyeballs is one of the oddities for sale at the Bazaar of the Bizarre in the prologue. When Dunstan pauses to look at them, they return the favour.
  • Jerk Jock: Humphrey gets a line that implies he's been bullying Tristan since their school days — specifically that he whupped him in their fencing lessons.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Jerk: At the end, Lamia nearly kills Tristan and Yvaine, but stops when she sees her sisters' bodies, and then lets them go, as immortality means nothing without them. When they leave, she shuts the door and reveals that she was kidding, to lure Yvaine into a sense of security (happy hearts give more years).
  • King on His Deathbed: The king of Stormhold gets a scene like this shortly before his passing, where he tells his four remaining sons the conditions for getting the throne.
  • Lady of Black Magic: Lamia specializes in offensive enchantments, and dresses to the nines as soon as she restores her youth.
  • Large Ham: Robert De Niro as the lovable Captain Shakespeare. Mark Strong and Michelle Pfeiffer also ham up their roles as Septimus and Lamia.
  • Letting Her Hair Down: Inverted. Yvaine's hair is down at first, but she and Tristan don't properly begin to fall in love until she starts wearing it up. In fact, when she mistakenly thinks Tristan has left her, her hair is down again.
  • Lighter and Softer: The book is a bit darker and more adult, with explicit sex and violence. The movie is a bit more tongue-in-cheek, emphasising some of the comedy and relying more on innuendo. The film also has a straight-up happy ending, as opposed to the book's Bittersweet Ending.
  • Long-Lost Relative: Una to the princes of Stormhold. Septimus recognizes her before he gets killed off. Tristan is also one, as her son.
  • MacGuffin Super-Person: Yvaine is this even before her star status is made known to all the major players.
  • Macho Camp: Captain Shakespeare may be Camp Gay in a Transparent Closet, but he's still a pirate captain with a not-entirely-undeserved fearsome reputation.
  • Made a Slave: Twice, to poor Una. How she was lost to the royal family of Stormhold is unknown, but she ends up enslaved to the witch Sal, only to be freed when the witch dies. Unfortunately, Sal is killed by a more badass witch, who immediately takes possession of her magical chain.
  • Magical Underpinnings of Reality: On this side of the Wall, a star is a giant ball of gas and a falling star is a lump of rock and metal, but on the other side of the Wall, stars are immortal women who float in the sky and shine at night (unless someone hits them and knocks them down). A fallen star crossing the Wall turns into a lump of rock and metal and can never revert, even if brought back to the other side again.
  • Man, I Feel Like a Woman : Bernard checks himself out after Lamia transforms him into a girl. Though his sex is changed, Lamia didn't do as good a job with transforming his voice, so he speaks with a deep masculine voice when he tries to serve poisoned wine to Tristan in the stable.
  • Match Cut: After the scene where Septimus kills his soothsayer for being a traitor, he asks his men, "So, do we continue west?" He then throws his runes into the air. One of them flies at the camera, and as it flips, is used to transition to Lamia standing on the top of a cliff using her runes.
  • Meaningful Echo: What do stars do best? They shine.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • The children of the Lord of Stormhold, Primus, Secundus, and so on. Their only sister Una counts as well, "Una" meaning "single" or "one."
    • The witches are named after demons from Greek mythology that are said in some myths to be daughters of Hecate, the goddess of witches.
    • Kinda exploited by Shakespeare, whose crew, not knowing anything of England, interpret the name as "shake spear".
  • Mundane Made Awesome: Who knew traveling scenes could be so dramatic? Primus in his carriage, Septimus on his horse, and even Lamia in her little goat-pulled cart all get sweeping helicopter shots with bombastic music. So does the Caspartine, but as an airship, it's already awesome.
  • Named by the Adaptation: The witches were collectively known as the Lilim in the book, with the eldest of them (Lamia's counterpart) going by the alias Morwanneg at one point. In the film, their roles are expanded to become Lamia, Mormo and Empusa.
  • Neutral Female: During the final confrontation in the witches' lair, Una is utterly useless to the point where Tristan tells her to go outside, and she simply says "Okay" and runs out. She would just get in the way, and she knows it.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: In an aversion of Trailers Always Spoil, the exact nature of Robert De Niro's role as Captain Shakespeare was not spoiled by trailers, making The Reveal in the movie a total surprise.
  • Now What?: One of the seven brothers says this once Septimus, the last of them, dies. They were supposed to acquire a ruby from their father, which would make the winner the new king and release the ghosts, but with all seven dead… Thankfully, Tristan, being Una's son, turns out to be eligible, and they're able to pass on.
  • Numerical Theme Naming: The children of the King of Stormhold: Primus, Secundus, and so on. They also each have the appropriate Roman numeral as a clothing motif or tattoo, which is how Tristan identifies Septimus when the two end up at Lamia's hideout. Their sole sister is also named Una.
  • One-Night-Stand Pregnancy: Tristan's parents only have sex once, but she gets pregnant from that one time, and his father learns about this when Tristan is dropped off at his door in a basket for him to raise.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Michelle Pfeiffer's English accent often slips and sometimes completely vanishes.
  • Oop North: Ditchwater Sal has a northern English accent, and the contrast with Lamia's RP is used to show that the latter is a more powerful witch.
  • People Puppets: Of the corpse kind, via Voodoo Doll. Septimus' corpse is animated by Lamia to engage in a sword fight with the protagonist. Cue hilarious cut to the rest of the princes' ghosts looking at Septimus' ghost, who looks flustered and confused, giving an 'it's not me!' shrug.
  • Pet the Dog: Although Victoria is the local Alpha Bitch, she does still have a midnight picnic with Tristan and treats him cordially.
  • Phosphor-Essence: Yvaine glows more brightly the happier she is.
  • The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything: Captain Shakespeare's Lightning Pirates don't actually pirate per se, but make a solid living poaching lightning from thunderstorms, so they may be merely "The Pirates Who Do Something Else." The career paths of Shakespeare and crew still offer plenty of opportunities to evade the law (Lightning-Marshalls at that), to amass fortunes on the black market, and for combat badassery in the wild blue yonder, so their pirate resumes are still quite aglow. It's also a point that this is by design: Shakespeare has a very fearsome reputation but in reality he hates fighting and bloodshed. His crew just pretends he's a terrifying rogue, since they love the guy and don't want to let him down.
  • Poor Communication Kills: The movie's final act is set up by a miscommunication between Tristan and Yvaine. Having realized their feelings for each other, Tristan goes to bid adieu to Victoria, and leaves a message to the innkeeper to pass on to Yvaine. The innkeeper tells Yvaine that Tristan is off to go to Victoria and spend the rest of his life with his true love, which Yvaine interprets as his true love actually being Victoria.
    • On the other hand, if Yvaine had just accompanied Tristan as originally intended, they might not have realised what would happen to Yvaine if she crossed into the human world before she actually set foot across the barrier...
  • The Power of Love:
    • Eating the heart of a star bestows long life, but having one give her heart to you by falling in love works just as well.
    • It is also through Yvaine's love for Tristan that she is able to shine bright enough to destroy Lamia, concluding the extended fight sequence with her.
  • Pragmatic Adaptation: Presumably, the book's Tristran was changed to the movie's Tristan because the latter is simply easier to say. In addition, the movie is a bit Lighter and Softer than the book, reducing most of the sex to innuendos and trimming down the violence. Neil Gaiman called the movie and book two different interpretations of the same story.
  • Prophecy Twist: Everyone knows that possessing the heart of a star is the key to living forever. It turns out this works just as well metaphorically as literally.
  • Protective Charm: The glass flower that Dunstan purchases from the witch's stall with a kiss is left in Tristan's baby basket along with him. It provides total protection from a witch's harmful magic, preventing Ditchwater Sal from applying her Forced Transformation until he trades it back to her, and forcing Lamia to attack him with thrown objects and Septimus's animated dead body instead.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: When Michelle Pfeiffer came on board, the role of Lamia was greatly expanded. She's a fairly minor character in the book, but became the film's primary antagonist.
  • Reality Changing Miniature: Lamia is able to use a Voodoo Doll to kill Septimus and then puppet his corpse to fight Tristan.
  • Romantic False Lead: Victoria is only Tristan's love interest as a means to set him on his quest; with a nudge from Captain Shakespeare, he figures out his true feelings in short order.
  • Runic Magic: The soothsayer, Septimus, and Lamia are all seen using rune stones to divine which direction to go.
  • Secret Secret-Keeper: It turns out Captain Shakespeare's entire crew is this, regarding his cross-dressing.
    Old Pirate: It's alright, Captain! We always knew you was a whoopsy! [other pirates shove him to the back of the group]
  • Shouldersup Nudity:
    • When Lamia strips naked to admire her newly rejuvenated body, she's only shown from the shoulders up.
    • Primus as well when he's in the bath. Everything below his shoulders and upper chest is hidden either by the water or the tub.
    • Yvaine as well in the inn right before she and Tristan kiss. She's just had a bath, and is only shown from the shoulders up.
  • Shout-Out: In the montage of Tristan and Yvaine's time on Captain Shakepeare's ship, there's one scene where she plays the piano with the Captain. A reference to Claire Danes' previous piano-playing role in Little Women (1994)?
  • Showing Off the New Body: The first thing Lamia does when she regains her youthful body is take off her clothes in front of a mirror to get a better look, and she is very happy with what she sees. Her sisters look on in envious admiration.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: Septimus and his men ambush Captain Shakespeare's boat, in a massive fight, to the tune of the Can-Can, which is playing on Shakespeare's gramophone.
  • Sky Pirate: Captain Shakespeare and his crew have the look, though their illegal activities consist of less piracy (because Shakespeare abhors violence) and more poaching of lightning during storms.
  • Skyward Scream: Lamia lets one out when Tristan and Yvaine use Tristan's Babylon candle to escape her trap for Yvaine at the inn.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: Tristan doesn't die of old age here, changing the Bittersweet Ending of the original into a genuinely Happy Ending. Also, Bernard the goatherd isn't gored to death by the unicorn, and possibly the unicorn itself survives — Lamia doesn't kill it by hand in this version, so it might well have escaped the burning inn.
  • Spoiled Brat: Victoria. She's nice to Tristan out of pity, but stops being nice the minute she actually expects something of him. Otherwise, she only thinks of herself.
  • Spotting the Thread: Septimus suspects that his soothsayer is not being honest and has been directed by Primus to lead them on a wild goose chase. To test his theory, Septimus asks the soothsayer some questions about himself so he can determine how the runes read based on different answers.
    Septimus: Wait! Before we seek the stone... I have another question: Am I the seventh son?
    [The soothsayer throws the runes. They land, with three joined together and one leaning away, with the runic symbols facing up.]
    Soothsayer: Yes.
    Septimus: Another question. Is my favourite colour blue?
    [The soothsayer throws the runes. They land symbols up.]
    Soothsayer: Yes.
    [The soothsayer nervously throws the runes. They land, scattered away from each other, symbols facing down.]
    Soothsayer: Um...
    Septimus: What does that mean?
    Soothsayer: That means "no".
    Septimus: Good! Throw them again. This time, throw them high.
    [The soothsayer throws the runes high in the air.]
    [The soothsayer's face turns to shock as the runes land...symbols up. When they stop moving, Septimus quickly produces his dagger to stab the soothsayer through the heart.]
    Septimus: So, do we continue west?
  • Stellification: When Tristan is old (Yvaine remains eternally youthful), they use the Babylon Candle to return to Yvaine's home, and Tristan becomes a star along with her.
  • The Stinger: An audio-only version. At the end of the credits, there's a brief audio clip of the pirates cheering.
  • Succession Crisis: It's apparently a tradition of Stormhold's royal family for the last male heir standing to be crowned King regardless of birth order — resulting in candidates killing each other off to improve their chances. The king's seven sons partook in this, but not fully, as three are left when their father changes the rules and immediately dies.
  • Sudden Soundtrack Stop: The film uses this on a couple of occasions, notably when Tristan attempts to jump aboard Primus's coach: the music builds to heroic proportions, only to cut off when he slams into the side of said coach and falls flat on his rear.
  • Supernaturally Young Parent: Una doesn't seem to have aged much in at least twenty years — though spending most of her time transformed into a bird during those years might have halted the aging process.
  • Take a Third Option: An accidental example. Tristan lights the Babylon Candle and tells Yvaine to "think of home". She ends up thinking of her home, which is the sky, and Tristan thinks of his home in Wall. The result is that they end up in the clouds, halfway between the two. During a thunderstorm. Fortunately, the lightning pirates show up moments later.
  • Terms of Endangerment: Lamia indulges in this every time she encounters Yvaine, calling her "my dear", and in one instance "my love" (when she's not referring to Yvaine as "the star"). At one point, Lamia even lightly touches Yvaine's chest directly above her left breast, where her heart would be.
  • Terrible Trio: The three witches: Lamia, Mormo, and Empusa.
  • Theme Naming:
    • Lamia, Mormo, and Empusa are the names of various vampiric creatures in Greek mythology.
    • The members of the royal family are all named after numbers in some way, according to their birth order.
  • This Is the Part Where...: By Captain Shakespeare: "This is the part where you tell me who you are and why you're up here."
  • Threshold Guardians: The Wall Guard, both figuratively and literally. It turns out rather atypically, since he actually prevents Tristan from crossing, so Tristan has to get around him with his dad's help.
  • Throwing Your Sword Always Works: Septimus effectively lobs a sword to kill Empusa.
  • Title Drop: Tristan brings Victoria a lock of Yvaine's hair, but it has turned into nothing more than metal shavings after crossing the wall. Victoria then complains that he only brought her stardust.
  • Training Montage: Tristan gets a level in badass surgically injected into him by The Captain.
  • True Blue Femininity: Yvaine chooses a blue gown from the pick of Captain Shakespeare's wardrobe. Una also wears a blue dress. Earlier in the film, Victoria wears a pale blue dress when she's out during the day.
  • Too Dumb to Live: After discussing that his brothers will try to kill each other for the throne, Secundus doesn't see anything suspicious about his father asking him to stand with his back to his siblings, next to a large open window. Septimus takes advantage of this.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Tristan goes from "a boy who works in a shop" to a confident, sword-wielding adventurer, and later King of Stormhold. Captain Shakespeare's Training Montage provides a lot of the growth. The fact that he's a Prince of Stormhold and a Half-Human Hybrid who seems to be finally finding his feet is hinted to help.
  • Transparent Closet: The ship's crew always knew their captain was gay, or at least a cross-dresser.
  • Tsundere: Yvaine is actually a Type B. She is initially hostile to Tristan for understandable reasons, being knocked out of the sky, chained to him, and forced to walk many miles for the sake of wooing some girl she has never met. She calms down pretty soon and warms to him. When she fears he's going to choose Victoria instead, she simply becomes sad rather than angry.
  • Unexpected Successor: Tristan being the last remaining male heir to the royal line and the one who ends up becoming king is a complete surprise to him (and his uncles, who'd previously killed each other off to seize the throne).
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: The scientist who replied to a letter, telling Dunstan as a young boy that magic and Stormhold could not possibly exist. He had no idea that he would set the plot of the movie in motion, and he likely never will.
  • Vain Sorceress: Lamia and her sisters' motivation — eating the heart of a star will restore their youth and beauty.
  • Villains Never Lie: Witches lie all the time, but if they actually give their word, they seem to generally keep it. Lamia promises not to harm Ditchwater Sal during their first meeting, and lets Sal live despite her rage at Sal slipping her a lambas grass mickey (though all bets are off the second time they meet). Sal herself does keep her end of her bargain with Tristan, and delivers him to the Wall unharmed (though the manner in which she does so is kind of dickish).
  • Visual Pun: When Primus is killed, his blood is literally blue.
  • Voodoo Doll: Lamia uses a simple doll of clay to break two of Septimus's limbs — and when she tosses it into a fountain, he floats up into the air and drowns without ever being immersed in water himself. She later pulls it back out and animates his body with it.
  • Walking Shirtless Scene: Primus, considering he's murdered while in the bath — and ghosts stay the way they were when they died.
  • Weapon Wields You: At the end, the witch Lamia controls Septimus's body, but she only bothers with animating his sword (and hands/arms along with it), letting the rest of his body dangle behind it. His ghost cringes as he watches his body get abused in such a way.
  • Weird Moon: The film takes place over the course of a week, and yet the moon is full in every nighttime scene from beginning to end. It is set in a magical Alternate Dimension, so that might explain it.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: The unicorn that comes to help Yvaine is last seen being trapped in Lamia's fire in the inn before Tristan and Yvaine escape. There's no sign of a body when Septimus's men find the area, so it either burned to death or escaped when Lamia ended the spell.
  • Who Wants to Live Forever?: Tristan cites this as the reason why he isn't tempted by the idea of eternal life, noting that immortality seems rather lonely — unless, he adds, you have someone to share it with, foreshadowing the film's ending.
  • Wholesome Crossdresser: Captain Shakespeare is revealed to like dressing in women's clothing right at the same time he's shown to not really be a bloodthirsty murderer, but a good, kind man.
  • Wooden Ships and Iron Men: Parodied to a wacky extent with the Sky Pirate crew, and hilariously subverted with Shakespeare.
  • Youngest Child Wins: Played with. Septimus, the youngest prince, is the last heir left standing — because he murdered most of the others. In a meta sense, he is the prince that has the most screen time and plot relevance.


Video Example(s):


Shakespeare: Hair Stylist

In the course of a single haircut Tristan's hair goes from short to brutally short to luxuriously long.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (2 votes)

Example of:

Main / GagHaircut

Media sources: