The Neverending Story
Bastian is a young boy who lives a dreary life being tormented by school bullies. On one such occasion he escapes into a book shop where the old proprietor reveals an ancient storybook to him, which he is warned can be dangerous. Shortly after, he ‘borrows’ the book and begins to read it in the school attic where he is drawn into the mythical land of Fantasia, which desperately needs a hero to save it from destruction.
Most of my friends love The Neverending Story. It’s one of those moments in time or something. They have fond memories of Falcor. Just mentioning the Swamp of Sadness can make it a little dusty in the room. I don’t.
I never saw it. Well, until this weekend. When I was telling our preschooler about it last week I described the luck dragon as a sock filled with soup. For your information, that sounded as amazing to a child as it sounds derisive to you. Part of being an insufferable hipster parent is getting away with that kind of thing.
Anyway, one of our local theaters did those of us with offspring a good turn and offered a morning showing of this 80s classic. On a Saturday. Manna from heaven, provided you have some spare currency.
It’s scary as hell. I mean that. Thirty minutes into Mad Max: Fury Road, I was talking to our preschooler about the metaphorical significance of hanging Max upside down for the blood transfusion and how it was similar
to Doc McStuffins. Thirty minutes into this Fangoria nightmare a tiny face had been burrowed into Mama for quite awhile already.
I don’t know if we just didn’t have nice things in the long ago. I remember everything but the gelflings in The Dark Crystal being kind of gross and weird, too. And now their porcelain faces might be the most uncanny thing in the movie. In, say, The Lord of the Rings, though, the creatures, even the baddies, are polished smooth and shiny. Palatable.
The rockbiter and the racing snail and the bat are undoubtedly nice. But they’re hard to empathize with. And there’s a bit of a flaw in the overall design when the sound and visual effects of the giant are the same as the cataclysmic world-shattering earthquake at the end.
So, in the positive column the personalities and characteristics and motivations come through pretty clear. In the negative column there’s a lot of hard to look at frightening monstrosity going on.
I should do some reviewing, though. It’s a decent movie with some magical moments and the dragon riding effects definitely provided a series of frell yeah moments for young viewers. The ellision between reality and fiction is shown rather than overexplained and it, according to our preschooler, works remarkably well.
It is, however, probably the worst adaptation of a book I’ve ever seen. I try to be cool about that and I’ve mentioned here several times that I’m very accommodating. Even so, the gearhead lurking deep in my brain started complaining immediately. Scenes are cut, combined, or altered to such an extent that very little of what makes the book so good remains. It’s The Neverending Story retold by a ten year old.
Aha. I get it. That’s why all my friends love it from when they were kids. If it hadn’t been so ominous, I bet ours would be begging to go back. In point of fact, the theme song is already a favorite.
Still, if I had to recommend one or the other, I’d recommend the Michael Ende book to any ten year old. Even in translation, it solidly portrays the bookish child experiencing the loss and confusion of life’s upheavals. It’s
almost a primer on existentialism presented with humor, puns, and a reasonable retort. And it employs many of the same storytelling tricks as Midnight’s Children.
Um. Three stars. A must if your friends or your child’s friends have seen it. A pass if not. Seeing Inside Out first provides a sort of emotional playbook to compare stuff to.
Recommended for fans of Labyrinth, Beetlejuice, and The Last Unicorn.