Cinematic Flashback: The NeverEnding Story (1984) Review
Welcome to the very first of Jason’s “Cinematic” Flashback!
I decided I wanted to do something a little different from in-depth reviews that I normally do and something that jives with classic social media moniker of “Throwback Thursday” that a lot people do. So, with my blog dedicated to movies, I decided to review older film titles, which are presented in a more abbreviated / abridged review (sort of a min-review) of these respective tiles. In short…. these reviews are gonna “short and sweet”. Don’t worry….I’ll still be doing my full in-depth reviews for my current movies. I just thought of a change of pace from the “usually”. For these “Cinematic Flashback” I’ll be reviewing movies that had been released prior to 2013, which is when I first started this movie blog. As for what type of movies or film genre…. anything goes.
So, without further ado, here is my first “cinematic flashback”!!!
THE NEVERENDING STORY (1984)
“A boy who needs a finds a world that needs a hero in a land beyond imagination!”
Director: Wolfgang Peterson
Writer: Wolfgang Peterson and Dieter Geissler
Starring: Noah, Hathaway, Barrett Oliver, Tami Stonach, and Thomas Hill
Running Time: 94 Minutes
Release Date: July 20th, 1984
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 story-book 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 reads of the mythical land of Fantasia, which desperately needs a hero to save it from destruction. Following the adventurous story of a young warrior named Atreyu, who goes in search of way to save Fantasia’s ruler (the Child-like Empress) and the dark entity force known as “The Nothing”, Bastian soon begins to realize that this no mere book he’s reading.
This is one movie that I’ll never forget and still have fond memories of it. To be honest, I actually saw the second film (i.e. 1991’s The NeverEnding story II: The Next Chapter) first before seeing this one. However, in comparison to that one and the abysmal third installment (1994’s The NeverEnding Story III: Escape from Fantasia) the original 1984 film is vastly superior in both an entertainment value and in compelling storytelling. There’s just something about this movie and literally stands the test of time and why it is still a beloved 80s movie.
Based on the book of the same name by author German author Michael Ende, The Never-Ending Story takes the first half of Ende’s book, presenting an imaginative that’s brimming with a fantasy movie of the 80s, reflecting upon the fairy tale-like setting of Fantasia and the narrative structure of the film. It was definitely filled with a lot of what embodies of an 80s movie, with plenty of colorful fantasy characters, including giant Rock Biter, a colossal ancient turtle, a scientist gnome, and a “luck dragon” named Falkor (that provide a lot of humor and heart throughout) as well as some darker moments (i.e. the scene with Gmork) and sadder ones (what befalls Atreyu’s horse Artax in the Swamp of Sadness). Seriously….that scene is like one of the most saddest scenes I’ve seeing in movies from my childhood. Definitely scared me for life (and I think it did for a lot of viewers out there). What’s more impressive I found while watching this movie is the underling message that the feature has, toiling with the idea of imagination and how many youths out there are discarding it, which implies to the death of imagination and the creation the dark ominous entity “The Nothing” that seeks to destroy Fantasia in the process. As a side-note, Ende never really liked this film adaptation and refused to put his name during the movie’s opening credits. However, he is credited (very briefly) during the feature’s end credits.
Collectively, the acting talents involved on this project were fine. None of them truly stood out as neither really terrible and incredible awesome. That being said, actors Noah Hathaway and Barret Oliver, who acted as the film’s two main characters (i.e. Atreyu and Bastian), do make-up the bulk of the film’s narration more emotional dramatic points and do sell those parts solidly (again, the whole Swamp of Sadness scene). Plus, while the film’s musical score is rather good (filled with 80s synthesizer melodies and cues), the movie’s theme song titled “The NeverEnding Story” (performed by Limahl) is perhaps the most memorable with catchy lyrics.
Given the fantasy landscape of Fantasia and its wide array of fantastical creatures therein, the visual effects are what you would except from an 80s fantasy adventure, consisting of small- and large-scale models, puppetry, and the usage of blue screen. It may be considered “dated” by today’s standards, but that’s kind of part of the charm of the movie (at least I think so). Although, it would be interesting to see how this film would like (with advancements in filmmaking and computer visuals) if it was remade in today’s world.
In the end, The NeverEnding Story is a perfect example of kids’ 80’s fantasy movies that plenty of nostalgia of a child’s adventure, toils with the idea of growing up, and echoing themes (as a friendly reminder) of the power of imagination and to never stop using it.
CINEMATIC FLASHBACK SCORE: 4.4 OUT 5
Fun Note: The original Auryn prop for this film now hangs in an enclosed glass display in Steven Spielberg’s office.