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Retro Movie Review: The NeverEnding Story (1984)
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The NeverEnding Story
Directed by Wolfgang Petersen
Written by Wolfgang Petersen and Herman Weigel
Starring Noah Hathaway, Barret Oliver, Tami Stronach, Alan Oppenheimer
Warner Bros. Entertainment
Rated PG | 102 minutes
Release Date: July 20, 1984

Fathom Events and Warner Brothers Entertainment have brought the 1984 classic The NeverEnding Story back to theaters for a special two-day engagement. The first day was Sunday, and my wife and I took our son to watch a movie we both grew up watching with such fond memories. The film is introduced by film critic Ben Lyons, and features a wonderful behind the scenes documentary “Reimagine the NeverEnding Story,” containing interviews with writer/director Wolfgang Petersen (Das Boot, Troy), and members of the cast and crew. The film, made in Germany was auspicious to say the least. This was 1984 and CGI was not around. All the sets, creatures, and characters were done the old school way; puppets, models, miniatures, and blue screen. The movie is based on the novel by Michael Ende, though his name doesn’t make the credits. Ende and Petersen got into a disagreement over the creative process and the author stormed away threatening to halt production, alas to no effect.

More below.

The story involves a young boy named Bastian (Barret Oliver) who lost his mom . Bastian is picked on a bullies and flees into an old book store, where he “borrows” a strange book with an interlocking snake symbol on the cover. He sneaks up to the school attic and reads “The NeverEnding Story.” But as the shop owner warned, this book is different. In this book, the reader becomes part of the story.

Soon we are introduced to wonderful characters in a world not so different from other works of fantastical fiction of that era. The NeverEnding Story is part Lord of the Rings, part Princess Bride, and part Dark Crystal. Bastian is instantly drawn into the story of Fantasia, a world being torn apart by “The Nothing,” a mysterious force destroying everything in its path. The person tasked to stop it is Atreyu (Noah Hathaway), a young warrior who sets out on his noble steed. He is faced with an array of dangerous challenges, including the swamp of sadness; containing one of the most heartbreaking moments in 80s cinema, the Sphinx Gate, and an evil wolf named G’mork. As the story moves on, slowly Bastion realizes he has become an actual character in the book, and he is central to saving the Empress (Tami Stronach).

The film is a marvel of special effects, but also contains some wonderful messages for youngsters. The concept of “The Nothing” is fascinating. The frighteningly evil G’mork tells Atreyu, “It’s the emptiness that’s left. It’s like a despair destroying this world. And I have been trying to help it.” When asked why, he responds, “Because people who have no hopes are easy to control; and whoever has the control, has the power!” There are some deep political and philosophical implications in this reasoning. In modern times, when the theaters are filled with people on their cell phones, and reading is dying trend, the concept of “The Nothing” remains powerful and scary. Bastian and us, the viewers, are pulled into a wonderful world of imagination, because we are reading along with Bastian. Books, the film says, are still the gateways to great thought and innovation. Plus, who wouldn’t want their own Luck Dragon!

The NeverEnding Story is a tremendous work of skill and filmmaking for its time, and leaves a lasting legacy for today. Who hasn’t shouted “ARTEX!” or “FALKOR!” at some point. And it also contains one of the catchiest songs in movie history, one that Ben Lyons says is still listened to every day on Spotify, “The NeverEnding Story,” performed by Limahl.

You have one more chance to see one of the 1980’s classics on the big screen, Wednesday September 7th. Check Fathom Events for showtimes and theaters near you.

Videos

The Never Ending Story (1984) Official Trailer

The Neverending Story (10/10) Movie CLIP – Flying Falkor (1984)

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