Turn Back the Clock
The NeverEnding Story
Distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
When I was a kid, I went to the theaters to see an interesting fantasy film about a young boy whose love of books helps him deal with a personal loss. As a lover of books and a dreamer, I connected with The NeverEnding Story, remembering it even after all these years. When I saw the DVD on the shelves at a local Target for just a couple of dollars, I couldn't help but pick up a copy.
Based on a German fantasy novel of the same name, The NeverEnding Story stars Barret Oliver as Bastian, a young child who is having a hard time dealing with the loss of his mother. His father (Gerald McRaney) has noticed a change in Bastian since his mother's death, but is having a hard time addressing the issue with his son. Feeling that Bastian spends to much time daydreaming, his father reminds him to keep his feet planted firmly on the ground.
Later that day, while on his way to school, Bastian is harassed by a group of bullies. He hides in a store and discovers he has hidden in an old bookshop. A lover of books, Bastian is mesmerized, especially when he meets the shopkeeper and finds him reading a very interesting looking novel called The NeverEnding Story. The shopkeeper warns Bastian that the book is very special and not for children who want to temporarily delve into fantasy while still firmly grounded in reality.
Despite the warnings, Bastian borrows the book and finds himself adventuring in the dying world of Fantasia. A once beautiful land, Fantasia is threatened by the all-encompassing Nothing, an entity that is destroying Fantasia piece by piece. The people of Fantasia turn to the Empress in the Ivory Tower (Tami Strobach) for advice on how to stop the Nothing, but find her extremely ill. According to her representative, Cairon (Moses Gunn), there is only one person who can save Fantasia, a plainspeople warrior named Atreyu (Noah Hathaway).
Upon discovering that the warrior is really nothing more than a very brave child, the people become worried, but realize that this child is dedicated to the adventure ahead and will stop at nothing in an attempt to save Fantasia and its Empress. Atreyu risks everything in an effort to find a cure for the Empress and meets quite a few creatures willing to help along the way, including the luck dragon known as Falkor (Alan Oppenheimer). But in the end, there is only one person who can truly save Fantasia - the one person who has gone through every league of this adventure with Atreyu. That person is Bastian himself!
Watching this movie again as an adult took me back to my childhood immediately. I've always loved books and have been known to become thoroughly absorbed in fantasy and science fiction novels, equating with the characters and feeling as though I am part of the adventure. As a child, I found it pretty cool that an ordinary boy could become such an integral part of the adventure he was reading. Just think of it - who wouldn't want to become a part of a storybook adventure come to life? It's a kid's dream come true...hell, even as an adult, I would love it. Traveling along with my favorite Star Wars heroes, fighting the forces of evil and saving the universe, traveling the rooftops with the Birds of Prey and Batman to capture criminals or working with Amelia Sachs and Lincoln Rhyme on the path of a serial killer. Wouldn't it be soooo cool?...
Okay, now the fantasy/fiction novel nerd has been put back in her cage, I can continue with the review. As an adult, I realize that this movie is really tailored towards children, but that didn't stop me from enjoying the concept and the beauty of the world known as Fantasia. There are lots of lush colors in the scenery and even the dark parts of the world are quite elaborate and realistic looking. The set creators did an excellent job creatively.
The special effects leave something to be desired now, but back when I was a kid, these effects were considered new and innovative. For their time, the special effects department was spot on in making the viewer believe in a flying luck dragon and a Sphynx that shoots fire out of its eyes and a hideous wolf-like being called G'mork.
As far as the acting goes - well, it is a kid's movie, so I wouldn't expect the world here, but I think that Barret Oliver did a credible job in his role as Bastian. Noah Hathaway's acting was so-so, but I remember being mesmerized by his screen presence as a kid. And Tami Strobach as The Empress - downright spooky.
Despite the older special effects, I think that The NeverEnding Story, with its catchy dance theme song performed by Limahl, would be a great movie for kids of today's world. Its theme is a reminder for children of all ages that they should keep imagination alive. Imagination is the one thing that keeps life fresh and new. Imagination and creativity go hand in hand. Without it, there is stale, bland, all-encompassing..."Nothing".