The NeverEnding Story, written by Herman Weigel and Michael Ende and directed by Wolfgang Petersen, first appeared in 1984.I was a kid at that time, who liked sci-fi; yet this was another movie I did not go to see. However, seeing it now as an adult 32 years later, I was I admit a little skeptical about watching this. Would it be lame? Would the story be dumb? Would the special effects hold up and still be impressive in today’s modern cinema?
I was pleasantly surprised though by the time I got to the end (?) of this NeverEnding Story. The storyline was good without being too “cheesy”. And no one ever told me Gerald McRaney had a cameo in this! I only thought he was in the old tv show Simon and Simon back then. We get to follow a day in the life of Bastian, an elementary school-age boy whose mother has passed away (I assume), and who is relentlessly bullied by 3 other boys. He’s very relate-able here, in that he feels like no one understands him – not his father, and definitely not the bullies or teachers.
One morning before school he’s running away from the bullies, and he runs into a bookshop owned by a crotchety middle-aged man. The owner, once he sees that Bastian truly enjoys reading proper safe books tells him about THE book, The NeverEnding Story, with a cool amulet thing on the cover of snakes.
The messages in the story are very positive and reaffirming . Ideas like never give up, face your true self, what you see is not always the truth (the racing snail, the big strong Rock Biter’s hands), stand up for yourself, everything is dark at first, and most importantly, don’t lose hope and never stop dreaming.
Bastian learns this as he reads about the Empress, the Nothing that is destroying her world called Fantasia, and the dangerous quest of brave warrior Atreyu. The amulet given to Atreyu to help him on his quest to save Fantasia matches the one on the cover of the book. Bastian is caught up into reading the whole book while hiding in the school’s attic. Imagine reading a story where the characters know not only your name, but what happened to you before you read the book!
The special effects were very well done. I thought that even if it came out now the effects would not be laughed at by audiences. Falcor, the good luck dragon, looks incredible and amazing – not fake at all. The detail in his scales and fur – the animators must have spent a lot of time and effort on that. All the creatures, the Ivory Tower, Teeny Weeny and Night Hob, they all fit in the movie without looking very fake. Even the laser eyes of the Sphinx-like Gate to the Southern Oracle was pretty good. It seems like even today filming laser effects are difficult.
So I was overall very impressed by the movie. The story was a good one, telling kids to keep fantasy alive in order to remain hopeful about living in the real world. The characters are not only relevant but many are adorable, making them unforgettable. Not all the loose ends are taken care of, but that’s ok. It leaves the viewer hoping that life for Bastian improves, knowing that he will keep dreaming and adding to The NeverEnding Story.