The Neverending Story
Directed by Wolfgang Petersen
Starring Noah Hathaway, Barret Oliver, Tami Stronach, Moses Gunn, Thomas Hill
Warner Bros Home Entertainment
Release date: March 2, 2010
The Neverending Story was one of the movies that was constantly playing in the background of my childhood. I was 2-years-old when it was released in 1984 and I had no idea I would be referencing it way off into the year 2000 and beyond. Something about the film has always been magical to me and appealed to my inner child ever since my initial viewing.
Based on the German novel of the same name by Michael Ende, the film was directed by Wolfgang Petersen and centers around a boy named Bastian (Barret Oliver) from our world and a boy named Atreyu (Noah Hathaway) from the fantasy world of Fantasia. Bastian is a troubled young boy who is reeling from the recent loss of his mother. He’s not like the other kids who are more likely to frequent the local video arcade than the library. Bastian is a bookworm who often uses literature to escape his real life sorrows. One day while being accosted by bullies on his way to school, he hides in a bookstore, where he finds Mr. Koreander (Thomas Hill), a grumpy bookseller. Bastian is curious about one of the books he sees, but Mr. Koreander warns him it’s “not safe.” Unafraid, Bastian steals the book and races towards school where he proceeds to hide in the school’s attic and begins his journey into “The Neverending Story.”
One of the aspects I love about the film is the “story-within-a-story” narrative. As Bastian becomes further and further enveloped in the book he finds himself sharing the experience with the protagonist, Atreyu. When Atreyu stops for a snack on his journey to stop the evil force (The Nothing) that is destroying the world of Fantasia, Bastian pulls out a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and digs in as well. When the childlike Empress of Fantasia pleads with Bastion to save their land, tears begin streaming down Bastian’s face. The further he gets into the book, the more he realizes the story he’s reading is interlocking with his own life. I won’t go any further, as I don’t want to ruin any Neverending Story virgins but suffice to say the film is a wonderful fantasy epic from my favorite decade, the 1980’s.
There are so many moments from the film that became snapshots that were etched into my memory: Atreyu wearily struggling through the mud in the Swamps of Sadness, the majestic but deadly Sphinx gates, the mysterious magic mirror, Falkor the luck dragon, the chilling first appearance of the G’mork, and the amazingly beautiful ivory tower, just to name a few. The movie is filled with wonderfully breath-taking images that captivate the imagination. The Neverending Story was like the Avatar of my childhood.
I must admit I am a bit biased to the film. Looking at the movie through the rose colored glasses of nostalgia does influence me and I loved rewatching the film on Blu-ray. The 1080p transfer is the best the film has ever looked and the Blu-ray edition of the film includes a lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track which marks the first time a 5.1 surround track has been included on a home video release in the US. If you’re going to see the film, see it on Blu-ray.
Even though I absolutely love the film, there are elements that don’t quite stand the test of time. Of course modern audiences are used to computer generated imagery in every fantasy setting so I can see today’s younger viewers not appreciating the practical effects. The puppet effects don’t quite hold up as well as I remember but a lot of the special effects are still quite good (I’m sure they were amazing in 1984). In particular the puppetry on Falkor is quite terrible. It’s only through Alan Oppenheimer‘s great performance that Falkor is able to overcome the limitations of 1980’s technology and truly shine as a memorable character. The acting from the young stars might also turn off adults who have not seen the film before. As is the case with a lot of child actors, a large portion of the performances feel really cheesy and over the top.
The thing I like most about the film is the music. Klaus Doldinger‘s score is the backbone of the movie and it really adds a sense of magic and wonder. Every time the score would swell or the theme song would play I got goosebumps and was immediately transported back to my childhood. The music really does complete the film and brings a smile to my face every time I hear it.
The Neverending Story is a classic children’s fantasy film from the 1980’s that can truly captivate if you let it but I will caution those viewing for the first time as an adult as some elements of the film do not hold up to today’s standards.
None. Sadly The Nothing got them. No special features or theatrical trailer.