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SYFY WIRE witchy wednesday

The unapologetic determination of Stardust's Lamia

By Jenna Busch
lamia from stardust

For our latest Witchy Wednesday installment, we're taking time out to revisit the legacy of Lamia, the witch from the 2007 film Stardust directed by Matthew Vaughn, written by Vaughn and Jane Goldman, and based on the 1999 Neil Gaiman novel of the same name.

If you haven’t seen it yet, it stars the brilliant Michelle Pfeiffer as Lamia, among others, Charlie Cox, Claire Danes, Mark Strong, Rupert Everett, Ricky Gervais, Robert De Niro, and Peter O’Toole. No one you’ve ever heard of, of course. Oh, and some guy named Ian McKellan narrates the whole thing. 

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Stardust follows the story of a young man named Tristan (Cox) who lives behind a wall in a fictional version of Great Britain. He tries to collect a fallen star for his lady love, Victoria, but finds out that the star is, in fact, a woman named Yvaine (Danes). He chains her and tries to take her home to Victoria as the ultimate courting gift, but, of course, they fall in love with one another instead.

He’s not the only one looking for her, though. A certain witch coven, headed up by the beautiful Lamia (Pfeiffer), has been eating the hearts of stars for centuries to keep themselves looking young and beautiful. Obviously, the two starry-eyed lovers ultimately defeat Lamia, but while she’s on screen, she’s just glorious. 

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Gaiman penned the original tale, so great humor and sharp wit is at the heart of this story, but on an acting level, Pfeiffer takes this pretty simple concept and absolutely runs with it. Every quick turn to the camera, every admiration of her own beauty, and every snarl that betrays her true character is done with absolute joy. Just look at her as she eats the heart of the last star the witches captured 400 years ago and regains her staggering good looks. It’s better than a brand new mascara! She can also throw shade with the best of the witches in entertainment history.

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Sick burn.

Sure, she’s the villain, and deliciously so, but Lamia loves who she is and won’t apologize for it. The Queen of the Lillim Coven is the oldest and most powerful of the witches and besides, stars are yummy and great for the skin. We get botulism shot into our faces or corpse bits injected into our lips for beauty. She just wants the heart of a star. Is that so wrong? 

Lamia will do whatever it takes to win, including cheating with animal parts to snag the right to head out into the outside world and find Yvaine. Just think about her sisters, Moro and Empusa, grunting and groaning over having to fix their much younger-looking sis up with a swanky new gown, runes, a ring, and a knife to set out on her journey for celestial snacks. She’s pretty clever, turning a goat-boy into an actual goat, then into a girl, or clouding fellow witch Ditchwater Sal's vision from being able to see the star. She is kind to Yvaine when she traps her, healing her and giving her a massage and a nap. Don't they do that with fancy beef? Massages and beer? Stars taste so much better if they’re happy, you know. Remember that whole “happy cows come from California” campaign for cheese? Samesies. 

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It is sort of a downer that any use of her powers causes Lamia to age. You know, kind of like how we try not to display too many facial expressions so we don’t get wrinkles. That aside, Pfeiffer looks pretty darn good, even when she’s covered in old-age makeup.

In the end, Lamia's big mistake is trying to destroy true love with a cleaver. You’re in a fairy tale, lady. That never works. Maybe just accept the aging process and don’t try to eat the nice star. You’ve got mad skills. You can make dead bodies fight people. That’s super useful, and you could afford all the de-aging face cream you want if you market that.

Evil aside, Lamia is a joy to watch in Stardust from the moment she steps on screen, through every wink, to her final scene when she's ultimately zapped by starlight.