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Matt's The NeverEnding Story Review
There are stories we connect with as children that define us in ways that no other stories do in our lifetime. I would hope that holds true for everyone. The NeverEnding Story was just one of those for me. I’m opening with this idea because it goes to the heart of why this film and other films like it are important to me.
Although I consider The NeverEnding Story to be a classic, I do NOT consider it a masterpiece. I think a slight distinction really needs to be made here. It’s too flawed a film to be classed as a masterpiece, but the impression that The NeverEnding Story makes on children who see it is undeniable.
- The NeverEnding Story has a lot of truly fascinating ideas. The idea of courage in the face of enemies (or bullies) is only one small part of the film. The idea that stands out to most people is that of “The Nothing” which is the real villain of the film. What The Nothing actually is, is up for a certain amount of interpretation. I believe it has to do with the slow degradation of a child’s imagination as they grow older.
- Although this is a film intended for children, in its critical moments, it is far darker than The Princess Bride, The Secret of NIMH, or The Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe. It deals with heavy subject matter such as grief, loss, depression, hopelessness, and isolation. The issue is with the opening sequences in Fantasia, before Atreyu accepts his mission to save the childlike empress. Here the characterization and dialogue tends toward the lighthearted and goofy. It stands in sharp contrast tone-wise with the rest of the film. The NeverEnding Story gets dark real fast after Atreyu begins his journey. And while there are lighthearted moments after that, the overall tone of the film remains relatively consistent.
(So, for what it’s worth, my last couple of bullets will contain minor SPOILERS. If you who are reading this have not seen the film, I recommend you do one of two things: Either skip down to the performances section, or seek out this classic and give it a watch.)
- I had some minor problems with the ending. The film ends with Bastian restoring Fantasia just as it was before the nothing – and that’s all fine – but then it flashes over to the real world, and here is the problem. He rides Falcor in the middle of a city and runs down the three bullies from the beginning of the film. I would’ve liked to see something a little less fanciful than that. Confronting the bullies would’ve been a huge turning point for Bastian, taking what he’s learned from his experiences in Fantasia with Atreyu and applying it to his life. In all fairness, the Falkor scene was kind of funny, but somehow as an adult viewer, it felt like a missed opportunity.
- It’s interesting to watch this film as an adult. I still love it despite its inconsistent tone and slightly problematic ending. Two scenes in this film really stuck with me over the years. The first is Artax in the swamps of sadness. Possibly one of the most heartbreaking scenes I’ve seen in a film, really tough, and it still gets me every time. The other scene is the one where Atreyu confronts the G’mork. This is a very scary scene! The G’mork still freaks me out now I’m an adult.
- Noah Hathaway is the performance that holds this film together. Atreyu is every bit the hero you would want in a film like NeverEnding Story and Hathaway handles the emotional ups and downs extremely well.
- I’m sorry to say that Barret Oliver, who plays Bastian, technically the main character, is something of a weak link. You could argue that children watching NeverEnding story will want to project themselves onto Bastian, but as an adult viewer, I found his performance lacking. It may seem cold to criticize his performance, considering he was about 10 years old when he played the role, but getting a good performance out of a child actor can be done, I’ve seen it. This just doesn’t happen to be one of the good ones.
Music, Cinematography and Special Effects
- As iconic as the main theme of The NeverEnding Story is, I feel this style of composition did something of a disservice, it makes the film feel a bit dated. A more classical approach would have been better. This isn’t the first film that fell victim to its music, the score for Ladyhawke (1985) rendered that film virtually unwatchable. This is not the case with NeverEnding Story, but only the most die-hard fans will actually seek out this score.
- The cinematography is very good. There are many shots in this film, some effects shots, some not, that will definitely stick with you. The environments they create, such as the Swamps of Sadness, and the Ivory Tower, are truly captivating.
- This was pre-CGI, ladies and gents, so you will see just about every other trick in the book used to create Fantasia. Animatronics, puppets, stop motion, matting, the whole works. Most of it effective, and all of it adding to the charm of the film. The only effects shots I’d criticize are the shots of Falkor flying, and their encounter with the nothing. I feel post-Star Wars they would have had the technique to realize those sequences a bit better.
The Bottom Line
The NeverEnding Story is a good movie, but not a “great” movie. It’s a classic, but not quite in the class of films I believe everyone should see. The younger you are, the more likely The NeverEnding Story is to appeal to your imagination. Show it to someone young, and most likely they will not only love it, they will never forget it. 7/10