by Lillian Csernica on April 16, 2015
I’m going for the hat trick today. That’s right, three movies for the price of one!
The NeverEnding Story (German: Die unendliche Geschichte) is a 1984 West Germanepicfantasy film based on the novel of the same name by Michael Ende, about a boy who reads a magical library book that tells a story of a young warrior whose task is to stop a dark storm called the Nothing from engulfing a fantasy world. The film was directed and co-written by Wolfgang Petersen (his first English-language film) and starred Barret Oliver, Noah Hathaway, Tami Stronach, Moses Gunn, Thomas Hill; and Alan Oppenheimer as the voices of both Falkor and Gmork. At the time of its release, it was the most expensive film produced outside the USA or the USSR. The film was later followed by two sequels.
Sounds pretty good, yes? International cast, plenty of money, and based on what sounds like a strong fantasy story. What should be a classic quest/coming of age story does include some aspects of Joseph Campbell’s Journey of the Hero. I didn’t like the movie when I first saw it and I still don’t like it, all for the same reason. The movie feels like one big Dark Night of the Soul. That’s really depressing, especially in a movie designed for children. Here’s an article that articulates quite well all the problems I had with the movie:
Author Michael Ende was none too pleased with the movie either. Here’s what happened next:
Ende felt that this adaptation’s content deviated so far from his book that he requested that production either be halted or the film’s title be changed; when the producers did neither, he sued them and subsequently lost the case. The film only adapts the first half of the book, and consequently does not convey the message of the title as it was portrayed in the novel. The second half of the book would subsequently be used as the rough basis for the second film, The NeverEnding Story II: The Next Chapter. The third film, The NeverEnding Story III: Escape From Fantasia, features a completely original plot.
Now how often is that going to come up on a daily basis? That’s not exactly a common feature of teen angst.
Bastian flees from his problems to an old bookstore when he hears the Childlike Empress (Alexandra Johnes) summon him to save Fantasia. There, he reunites with Atreyu (Kenny Morrison) Falkor (voiced by Donald Arthur), and Rock Biter and meets a new character: a talking bird-like creature named Nimbly (Martin Umbach). Bastian now faces “the Emptiness”, created by the evil sorceress Xayide (Clarissa Burt) and her mechanical “giants”.
Why am I thinking of the White Witch from Narnia?
Because Bastian is capable of stopping her, she has a machine constructed in which each time he makes a wish to AURYN, it will strip him of a memory. After Bastian and Atreyu confront Xayide at her castle, she feigns surrender and persuades Bastian to make a series of ridiculous wishes.
I know Bastian is still a kid, but if there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s a stupid hero.
Upon reading the NeverEnding Story, Barney is surprised to see his son’s exploits therein.
This probably explains a lot about Bastian’s fear of heights.
As he follows Bastian’s journey through the book, Atreyu realizes he must stop Bastian before Xayide’s hold over him becomes too strong to break. This leads to a fight between the two boys, whereafter Bastian finds the machine collecting his memories and confirms Atreyu’s suspicion.
Now I’m thinking of Dorothy yanking aside the curtain and discovering the real Wizard of Oz.
Bastian tries to use Atreyu’s horse Artax follow Atreyu and Falkor, but is nearly killed by Xayide, and later directed by Nimbly to the correct location. Once there, Bastian sacrifices his memory of his beloved mother to wish Atreyu back to life. Xayide appears and urges him to use his final wish to return home; but he instead wishes her to show compassion, whereupon she destroys herself and restores Fantasia.
It would make a lot more sense if Bastian wanted to use one of those wishes to bring back his mother.
When thanked by the Childlike Empress, Bastian is able to face his fear of heights by jumping off a high cliff, thus returning home safely. Before the end credits, AURYN reappears on the front cover of the Neverending Story’s book.
How bad is this movie? It is so bad that its rating on the Rotten Tomatoes site is a staggering 0%.
This astonishing piece of work features Bastian in high school facing another set of bullies called “the Nasties.” His father has remarried. Bastian’s stepsister Nicole is not at all happy about this. At school the bullies come after Bastian and chase him down to the boiler room, where Bastian finds his copy of The NeverEnding Story waiting for him. That gives him a fast exit to Fantasia, where his services are once again needed. Fantasia is imperiled by an invasion of “the Nasties.” This gets so bad there’s a “giant crustacean” that attacks the Childlike Empress. Somehow Nicole has used AURYN to make a wish that drags everybody into a local shopping mall where the big showdown takes place.
Oh my stars and garters. I can think of so many movies that take a troubled teen, drop him or her into some far-off world, and make a much, much better story out of it. One of my favorites is Warriors of Virtue. If you haven’t watched it, it’s well worth the time, if only to see the stunt team in kangaroo suits performing martial arts and acrobatics.