The Neverending Story (1984)

Posted by on Jan 2, 2012 in My Childhood | 0 comments


Disclaimer: My brother would literally cover his eyes and look away in the presence of the wolf in the film, so younger audiences may want to beware.

After the critical success of Das Boot, German director Wolfgang Petersen moved to this cult classic fantasy film, his first in English, which led to two putrid sequels and an animated series. Despite its complicated and multi-layered plot, the movie is incredibly engaging as kids experience the adventure from two (not one) young protagonists, one battling emotional demons and the other battling physical/theoretical demons.

The film initially follows Bastian (Barret Oliver), an independent and imaginative 10 year-old, who is grieving the loss of his mother. In order to avoid bullies on his way to school one day, as he likely does every day, Bastian intrudes on an old man in a used bookstore.

“The video arcade is down the street,” mumbles the man, his face between the clutches of a large book. “Here we just sell small, rectangular objects – they’re called books. They require a little effort on your part and make no bee-bee-bee-bee-beeps.”

Bastian convinces the old man that he loves books and has 186 at home. After some ambiguous discussion regarding the dangers of the old man’s book, Bastian steals it and runs to school. When there, Bastian heads to the attic (don’t you wish your school had an attic?) for the remainder of the film. Like The Baron Munchausen and Richard III, the movie transitions and transports us within the story Bastian reads. The story involves a mystical land called Fantasia, where a terrible Nothing is taking it over. As the Rock Biter explains, “a hole would be something, this is nothing.” The empress of Fantasia appoints a 10-year-old boy named Atreyu (Noah Hathaway) to destroy the Nothing and save the land. Not an easy task since no one exactly knows what the “Nothing” is.

Atreyu must travel through Never3the Swamps of Sadness, Southern Oracle, and a Mirror Gate, just to name a few, trying to decipher the mysterious foe. As if that’s not enough, the Nothing is increasingly tearing up Fantasia, stealing the lives of its denizens along the way. During the adventure Atreyu encounters loads of strange creatures such as Falcor (the ever-popular dragon), some Lilliputian scientists, a giant wise tortoise, mercenary wolf, and loads of other strange beings.

This film, despite its fairly simple plot description, is surprisingly deeper than anticipated and delightfully original. Besides the poor lessons in stealing and revenge, The Neverending Story has some hard truths in loss (one loses a mom, the other his horse), introspection, and obstacles that must be faced alone.

While it didn’t see much successNever2 as the most expensive German film at the time (a measly $27 million), it captured the hearts of some viewers including Steven Spielberg, whose office now houses the magical Auryn. The story’s German author, Michael Ende, hated the film version, which only spans half of the book, but that’s pretty normal (I don’t think Roald Dahl liked any movie versions of his books). The film’s images and special effects are both mystifying and wonderful, and the film’s theme song (sung by Kajagoogoo’s Limahl) will stay in your head for days.

In today’s age, when children play video games all day instead of playing outside or reading, The Neverending Story comes as a breath of fresh air for the imagination. As we later find out, only we can save the land of Fantasia because it is where our hopes and dreams become realities.

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