The NeverEnding Story
On Facebook, one of my friends who just did a monster event said, "I am looking forward to doing nothing soon" in reference to relaxing for a while. My first thought was, "The Nothing.. that's from The NeverEnding Story.. I haven't seen that in years!" So I re-watched it.
As a result, this is yet another one of those movies I watched as a kid and am now seeing it again as an adult with different eyes.
The first thing I'm going to say up front, which I'm sure some would disagree with, is that this movie is for girls. Boys such as myself were outright fooled into thinking this was going to be some cool awesome adventure flick. Nope. While this movie does have adventure in it and boatloads of fantasy, it's a drama first. Once you realize that, you're thinking, "Ugh.. girl's movie." Yep. That's what this is. The boys all got had with this flick something awful.
This movie is not bad, but it does have a decidedly feminine angle to it and I'll describe that in more detail in a moment.
I WILL BE MENTIONING SOME SPOILERS, so if you haven't seen this yet, watch it first then read this.
The NeverEnding Story, which I'll abbreviate as TNS because it's easier to type, was released July 20, 1984. I was 9 years old at the time and I'm pretty sure I saw this in the theater originally. If not I definitely know I saw it on TV a bunch of times either as a home movie rental or affiliate-run thing by the TV networks during the summer months.
I see this movie now as art, much in the same vein as I see The Dark Crystal, meaning the visuals and music are more important than the actual story itself.
Movies like TNS are really, really tough to pull off. This movie was especially tough because it has mountains of special effects, mountains of special costumes/makeup, monster-sized animatronics and monster-sized sets. Every single trick in the book concerning a special effect at the time was thrown into this movie, save for computer animation of which this movie has none.
The standard problem you have with a movie that has crazy amounts of special effects is that the story suffers, and TNS is no different. You have to watch this film at least three times just to understand what's going on. The first time through, if you say to yourself, "I get it, yet I don't get it", don't be surprised.
I'm not going to explain the whole movie, but just certain parts of it that stick out to me.
Bastian's girliness; laughing at his despair
In the breakfast scene, the movie really wants to you know that Bastian doesn't draw horses, he draws unicorns. That's girly. When I was his age, I didn't know anyone else my age that was my gender that drew unicorns. We were drawing anything but horses, never mind unicorns. Maybe it's different in today's world and boys do draw unicorns now, but in 1984? I don't think so. And to note, girly doesn't mean "wrong", it just means girly.
What I'm about to say will tick off any girl who's seen TNS. The girliest scene in the movie is when Atreyu's horse, Artax, dies. Every girl who watched this scene cried their eyes out, and they still cry today when they see it. Boys on the other hand when they saw Bastian's face full of tears upon reading this part of the story were chuckling. This is because he was crying over a book, and we're saying to ourselves, "Dude.. man up, will ya?" And I know, I know I'm not the only one who snickered at this scene. Believe me, it makes girls mad-mad-mad if you dare make fun of that particular part of the movie.
All the best characters in the movie are the ones you see the least.
The Rock Biter
This guy kicks ass. He's a friendly old giant, and the most disappointing part is that you really want to know more about him, see where he lives, see others of his kind and so on, but you never do. An entire movie could be made around this guy alone. For all I know, maybe it has as I've only seen the original TNS and none of the sequels.
This guy is pure evil, as he's written to be. We learn almost nothing about him, but that's actually okay here because it adds to his mystique. He's evil, he wants to kill Atreyu and that's all you need to know. Awesome bad guy.
Engywook and Urgl
Engywook on right, Urgl on left.
The home these two lived in was an insanely good set and still holds up to this day. These two gnomes were yet two more characters you really wanted to know more about, much like The Rock Biter. At no time did you ever feel like these two actors were acting. You really believe these two gnomes are real.
Holes, screw-ups and boobs
Missing the obvious course of action
At one point Atreyu wakes up right at the place where The Southern Oracle is. Right. How did he get there? Falkor flew him there. Right. We've established that Atreyu knows that Falkor can fly as the dragon does in fact say, "...as the dragon flies." Right. Atreyu has to pass the first gate but there's a genuine danger than he may get shot by eyeball lasers. Right. That being the case, why didn't Atreyu just hop on Falkor and fly OVER the gate? Or even AROUND the gate?
And don't even tell me, "Read the book and you'll understand." No. The movie is what matters. In the movie, there's an obvious solution to a problem, and it isn't used. Big. Gaping. Plot. Hole.
What you're saying isn't what you're saying, dude
Falkor's mouth animatronics are horrendous. Yeah, I know the crew did the best they could with the technology available at the time, but you can totally tell Falkor isn't real as the words don't even match up with the mouth movement half the time. At best, Falkor speaking looks like a Disney attraction in desperate need of repair.
For whatever reason, the sphinxes all have ginormous tits on them. On the first two (the gold ones), not only are they ginormous, but completely exposed with pointy nipples in plain sight; they stick out so much they have shadows under them.
Every boy who watched this movie zoned right in on the huge rack, because seriously, how could you not. Mmm.. sphinx boobies. Rawr.
Other odds and ends
There's a few parts of the flick where the green screen didn't work very well and you can obviously tell the actor is in front of one. Basically this accounts for any scene where Falkor is flying around.
In other parts, particularly in the Swamps of Sadness, you can tell the actor is in front of a backdrop and not a real environment. The crew tried really hard to hide it, but in some parts it just didn't work.
Some of the miniatures that are supposed to represent huge things sometimes don't work. The sphinxes are an example of this, because they zoomed in WAY too close where you could tell it was just foam (or whatever it was) and not stone.
The overall story is hard to keep up with at times because they tried to cram so much story into 102 minutes. Yes, this movie is short and isn't even 2 hours long. It's short because it cost an estimated 27 million to put the movie together. That's over a quarter-million dollars per minute of screen time using the deflated dollar values of the 1980s. Crazy to think about, isn't it? But it's like I said, this movie is more about visuals and sound than actual story, so yeah, the story's flow is a bit hard-edged in some places.
Didn't perform well in the theater but was a home movie rental smash
TNS did not do well at the box office and did not make a dime from being in the theater. However as a home movie rental it did stellar. This was one of the movies that was always rented every Saturday by families everywhere.
Somewhat dated, but watchable
The filmmakers smartly did not show too much real-world environment before diving into the world of Fantasia. As such you really don't see too many obvious things that date it too badly.
It's the flubbed-up special effects that date this film more than anything else, but if you can see past that, it's a good film to relive old memories of the 80s for adult, and is still a solid title for kids under 12 today.
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