THE NEVERENDING STORY
Review by Michael Jacobson
Noah Hathaway, Barret Oliver, Tami Stronach, Gerald McRaney
Director: Wolfgang Petersen
Audio: Dolby Surround
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1, Pan & Scan 1.33:1
Studio: Warner Bros.
Features: Notes and Trivia, Theatrical Trailer
Length: 92 Minutes
Release Date: September 4, 2001
if they really DO know about me in Fantasia?”
child had one movie that meant more to him or her than any other.
For me, that film was The Neverending Story.
more than the enchanting E.T. that preceded it by three years, The
Neverending Story captured my heart, my breath, and my imagination.
I responded to it on every possible level.
I understood every valuable point. I
lived every magical moment.
loved Bastian (Oliver) because he was like me…a boy surrounded by books that
took him anywhere he wanted to go. We
even shared some of the same favorites. I
loved him because he understood the power that books held…they opened the
doors of imagination. You could be
anyone, anywhere, anytime.
loved the concept that a book he reads comes to life by the power of his own
fantasies. I loved that the movie
had something to say about the strength of imagination, and the importance of a
single child who never saw himself as anything special.
How many kids have felt the same way?
Here, at last, was a story to prove how wrong they were.
Neverending Story shows through adventurous storytelling, fantastic special effects and
wonderful, memorable characters how important even the smallest of us is.
Bastian may be a daydreamer with problems, but that turns out to be
crucial. If he wasn’t…well…
the film opens, we learn about him. His
mother has died recently. His
loving father (McRaney) is doing his best to help his son face forward.
He’s tormented by bullies, and he has troubles with school.
He is, in other words, a protagonist just about any kid can relate to.
one of the most intriguing openings, Bastian meets a mysterious old book store
owner, who warns him about a strange book called The Neverending Story.
“Your books are safe,” he intones.
“By reading them, you get to become Tarzan or Robinson Crusoe…but
afterwards, you get to be a little boy again, right?”
borrows the book and heads for his school’s attic for a full day’s reading.
By the time a stormy night rolls around, he and we will have traveled a
long way together.
story is about a world called Fantasia, and it’s filled with amazing
characters…the giant Rock Biter, the elfin Engywook, the vicious Gmork and
more. The problem is, it’s a
world that’s dying, and nobody knows why.
A terrible Nothing has been sweeping over the land, causing more and more
of it to disappear. An appeal is
made to the Childlike Empress (Stronach), only to find that she, too, is deathly
warrior is sent for…the brave young Atreyu (Hathaway).
He is given the task of finding a cure for the Empress, which may be the
only hope of stopping the Nothing from destroying Fantasia.
No one can tell him where to look or who to ask, and time is running out.
adventures take him all over Fantasia, where he encounters even more amazing
characters (the turtle-like Morla, the friendly Luck Dragon Falkor), and visits
strange places (the Swamps of Sadness, the Sea of Possibilities).
All the while, Bastian follows him every step of the way, never imagining
that he, in the ordinary world, is the key to the future of this imaginary one.
never forget how I felt the first time I saw this movie, because I still feel
that way when I see it now. Unlike
many kids’ movies that become more nostalgic and less enchanting with the
passage of time, The Neverending Story is as beautiful as ever, because
it really has something to say. Some
call it a lesson on the value of reading…or, if a kid already understands that
lesson, like Bastian and myself, it becomes a confirmation of all your deepest
hopes and dreams.
first real thought after viewing the film for the first time was simply that I
wished I had written it. I still
feel like that, because this movie says everything I had ever wanted to say
about the value of imagination. Bastian
went places I could never really go, to be sure…but he and this movie made me
believe that I could.
young cast is quite charming, though none of them went on to distinguished
acting careers. Young Barret Oliver
was good as Bastian, the quintessential Everykid who allowed us to experience
the story through his eyes. Noel
Hathaway carries most of the film as Atreyu…he plays the role with sincerity
and conviction, and we therefore follow him gladly. Most amazing of all, however, is Tami Stronach as the
Empress, who delivers a potent, unforgettable performance in a small amount of
screen time. Her spirit is exactly
what the film needs at the moment it needs it most, and all these years later,
it still breaks my heart that she never appeared in another movie.
was acclaimed director Wolfgang Petersen’s first English language film.
He co-scripted the story as well, and it was quite a departure from the
action/dramas he was most known for (and would be known for again).
The Neverending Story doesn’t make for the most comfortable fit
in his body of work, but that’s just fine…it’s a movie that deserves a
shelf all to itself.
enough, this was the first movie I ever wrote about…not a review, but just a
short paper in which I plotted out the obvious symbolism of the movie.
The Sea of Possibilities is where the story hinges on a pivotal point.
The Swamps of Sadness was a dreary place where if sadness overtook you,
you would sink. Falkor’s
impeccable timing was perfect for a Luck Dragon.
And most of all, the Ivory Tower of the Empress symbolized hope. It was where the people of Fantasia gathered in hopes of
preventing the end. It became, at
the finale, the site of a new beginning. (The
paper, by the way, impressed no one, but here I am, seventeen years later, still
writing about The Neverending Story. I guess it really is never ending!)
the end, maybe some kids did pick up a few more books because of this movie.
Maybe a few more pages got turned in childlike awe and anticipation.
Maybe, in the back of a few young minds, Fantasia came to life for real,
and they found they could escape there themselves when the world closed in a
little too much.
after all, maybe, just maybe, we really are just as important to the things we
imagine as they are to us.
goodness the marketing geniuses at Warner Bros. didn’t decide THIS was a
family film that should be in full frame only, a la Willy Wonka.
The visuals in The Neverending Story are all about
perspectives, and you can’t appreciate that perspective in pan and scan.
In scope form, one never loses sight of how big some creatures are, and
how tiny others can be in juxtaposition. This
film has a wondrous, colorful look about it that translates well to DVD (even
more so than my old faithful laser disc copy).
From brightly lit shots to darker ones, images render cleanly and
smoothly, with excellent detail and a full, distinct, wide palate of colors to
play with. There are some minor
shot-to-shot inconsistencies, whereby brief cuts show a little more softness and
enhancement of texture, but these are few and fleeting.
For the most part, this movie has never looked so good, and I think fans
who loved the picture will be more than pleased.
problem with the surround track is that it’s so damn quiet.
I’ve had many discs where I felt the need to turn down the sound, but
never until now have I had to go the other way.
This was a film begging for a full, new 5.1 remix, but it didn’t get
it. The original audio is
serviceable, but lacks any real dynamic range until the last half hour or so,
where the rumblings of the Nothing really make the sound come to life.
The rear stage is used sparingly, but often effectively, with some extra
ambient sound effects and occasional musical cues from Giorgio Moroder’s
amazing score. All in all, a
workable listen, but with DVD, the potential was there to be a lot better.
rather weak effort in the extras department, as the disc contains only a trailer
and some printed trivia about the film and the characters…nothing really that
you don’t learn from the movie itself.