I’ve mentioned more than once that my favorite movie of all time is The NeverEnding Story. This is odd for me as I’m usually not into fantasy films. However, something about this story…well, didn’t make me want to be a writer but demonstrates what I hope people get out of my work–if I ever get my butt going.
Tonight I’m not presenting the movie itself, as I don’t know of anyone legally hosting it for embedding. Instead it is the third episode of a new web series called Fantasy Movie Memories. The previous two episodes dealt with The Dark Crystal, another of my favorite movies and the second of three fantasy movies I actually own a copy of (the last is an animated movie called The Flight of Dragons, because a case could be made that Dragon Flyz: Flight is Might isn’t so much a movie as a episode collection in movie format) and the original Clash of the Titans. In their latest episode the subject is the aforementioned favorite movie ever. Perhaps you’ll understand why after watching.
You know me, kids, I couldn’t care less how “dark” a story is, but The NeverEnding Story does take a dark concept and use it a way that isn’t violent for the sake of violence or talk down to kids. Instead the movie speaks at a kid’s level and gives them something familiar as an entry into another world, that of Fantasia. (Not to be confused with the Disney film. ) This isn’t some watered-down story to keep kids busy while mom does the dishes and dad cuts the grass (or the other way around, depending on your home). It’s a fully-realized story, with the characters and the universe properly fleshed out in a cohesive story to entertain kids without lame jokes and forced-in musical numbers. In other words, a good movie that just happens to be…not really for kids, I’d consider it an “all-ages” movie because adults should enjoy it as well. This is what a family film used to be.
I would disagree on one point, that the “synth-pop” music does damage to the film. Maybe it’s because I’m an 80′s kid and he’s from a later generation (also, I never heard the orchestral version) but while it may date it slightly the music fits the scene perfectly and matches the theme song, which is one of my favorite songs ever.
The one reviewer made a good point about this story, that it isn’t just Atreyu’s story, but Bastian’s, how the fact that he’s reading the story changes the theme of it. Bastian isn’t just our doorway into Fantasia but is himself part of the story and I think (this would be my favorite scene, and I swear to God my eyes get watery at this scene) the scene with Atreyu and the Childlike Empress tells it all.
So did you catch it? The not so dirty secret? Allow me:
He doesn’t yet realize he is already a part of the NeverEnding Story.
. . .
Just as he is sharing all of your adventures, others are sharing his. They were with him when he hid from the boys in the bookstore. They were with him when he took the book with the Orum symbol on the cover in which he’s reading his own story right now.
I would put it to you that WE are Bastian. At least that’s how I feel when I watch this. I know what it’s like to hide from bullies and all the problems in the world in the pages of a book (or even a TV show), and imagine other worlds either imagining myself alongside the hero or being the hero myself. THIS is what I want to bring to my readers–that sense of forgetting his or her problems and identifying with the hero or heroes, wanting to see them succeed against all odds.
In this movie, and perhaps even the original book (which I really, really want to read someday, but I didn’t know about it until a few years ago), that’s what we’re doing. We’re reading as much Bastian’s tale as Atreyu’s and that makes this a different experience than if we were watching just one of them. And with the theme about how much we need to dream–something that not only kids need but adults forget we need as well–it all comes together, with sets and props that make a world that CG just can’t match. (In the rush for “cheaper” computer images moviemakers have forgotten how models and animatronics can really make a world feel more real.) The greenscreen may be obvious but the story and actors distract enough to put it out of your heads and for the time were fantastic.
As for the review series, I’ve watched all three and I’m sorry I missed out on it. There aren’t too many fantasy movies I’ve watched (out of the ones in the intro Superman is the only one I can think of that I would have an opinion of, as they already did The Dark Crystal) but the presentation alone will have me looking into future episodes and the guys who created the series should be proud of their work. You should check out the full series and their individual works if you come upon them.(And if anyone is curious, the second movie wasn’t nearly as good as the first movie, but at least it expanded on the theme, showing that fantasies are no substitute for living life. The third, on the other hand is just a kid distraction with no worthwhile story and insulting to both kids and the franchise, thus resulting in utter crap.)