Forewarning: This could be deemed by some readers as The NeverEnding Blog Post, but I’d like to believe it’s worth your investment in time if you’ve ever seen The NeverEnding Story.
I don’t know about you, but I decided to trip myself out this week.
My daughter is now almost the same age that I was when the movie The NeverEnding Story originally came out. I remember watching this epic childhood fantasy film and being totally engulfed, amused, and slightly disturbed by it.
A good mom would say to herself…hhmmmm, I recall being completely whisked away by the plot, but also being frightened and confused in parts, maybe I should wait until my daughter is a bit older than I was before I open the filmography flood gates to her.
I am clearly not a good mom.
I am, however, a curious mom who knows that her daughter is pretty much a mini version of thy self except much more independent and less naive as a result of growing up with two older brothers.
After realizing that Amazon is offering The NeverEnding Story free to viewers, we popped some popcorn, cuddled up in bed together, and let the magic unfold.
If you’ve never seen the movie, here’s a short description from IMDb: A troubled boy dives into a wonderous fantasy world through the pages of a mysterious book.
Here are my observations about this film now that I am an adult (according to my chronological age, not my footy pajamas). Note that each of these were recorded, in order, throughout the movie as I watched the action unfold through an older set of eyes.
Ohmeyegawwsh! This song! NeverEnding Stoorreeeeee! Ahhh-a-ah Ahhh-a-ah Ahh-a-ah!
Wait, what? Bastian’s mom is dead? How did I miss that when I watched this as a kid? That seems to be a pretty critical part of the narrative.
His dad is kind of an insensitive jerk. Telling your motherless son to “Stop daydreaming and start facing your problems” isn’t exactly what child psychologists would consider an effective way to help a child grieve.
Poor Bastian is relentlessly tortured by a set of bullies. The leader of the pack is the worst. How come every movie bully is either chubby, or red-headed, or both? I call this the “O’Doyle Rules! factor.” See Billy Madison if you don’t get that reference.
In order to avoid being tossed into an alley dumpster multiple times, Bastian runs into a bookstore to hide. The bookstore owner is probably the first thing that rattled little Heidi when I originally watched this movie. He was the epitome of Stranger Danger in my maturing mind. I can now see why they casted this guy. He made Bastian think the book he had been reading when the boy burst through his door was far too dangerous for a juvenile to enjoy, thus convincing the boy to steal the book and leave a note (with a promise to bring it back when he was done reading it).
Hold up. Was there a cob-webby, antique-filled, ginormous attic in my grade school that I never knew about where I could sneak away anytime I wanted to get out of a math test?! I would have established a permanent residence in such a hideout if it had existed.
Oohhkay, freaked out again as Bastian starts to read the story. The Rockbiter, the creepy mole guy, the oompa-loompa dude in the top hat with the Racing Snail, and THAT BAT. The premonition that there’s this force called The Nothing that is destroying everything in a world called Fantasia.
My daughter remains un-phased up to this point. Should I be concerned?
The makeshift crew of characters travels to the Ivory Tower to see the Empress and this is the FIRST time my daughter starts to mutter something to me about the weirdness that’s unfolding before us. As the crowd of onlookers listens to the man with the pointy head and the long, white beard talk about how the Empress is dying and their only hope is a young warrior called Atreyu, the camera spans over their features: Huge, incredibly realistic-looking heads on small bodies, four-faced people who can turn in any direction and still be staring right at you, spooky elephants and beaked creatures, all muttering indistinguishable comments in unison.
I glance down at her and am all, “I KNOW, RIGHT?!”
Here Atreyu finds out he’s being sent on a dangerous quest with no guarantee of survival. If he fails to find a cure for the Empress, which is necessary to save all of Fantasia, everyone will DIE. No pressure, kid.
My daughter is convinced that Atreyu is a girl because of his long hair and deep, plunging neckline. What kind of programs is she watching when I’m not in the room with her?
The young warrior receives the auryn necklace and, at the same time, Bastian discovers an identical emblem on the front of the book he’s reading. And we all realize for the first time that the two stories, that of Bastian and that of Atreyu, are linked together.
At this point, I’ve lost track of the “freaktastic moment counts” when we catch a glimpse of the menacing wolf-like Gmork, who is basically a servant of The Nothing…as well as a mental mascot for every child’s nightmare in the history of mankind.
OH NO! HERE IT IS. The Swamps of Sadness scene, where Atreyu’s horse Artax gets sucked into quicksand mud and drowns. I kid you not, the first few seconds when I watched them starting to walk through the murky waters, flashbacks of me huddled in the corner sniffling and rocking myself back and forth flooded my mind.
My daughter starts to tear up. Evidence that she does have feelings after all.
Just when I don’t think I can be anymore traumatized, Atreyu runs into the oversized turtle who talks like he’s been in solitary confinement a little too long and repeatedly sneezes on the boy. The turtle basically squashes all of Atryu’s dreams by telling him the mission is impossible to complete.
Break back to Bastian in the attic as the school bell rings. This kid realizes it’s time to go home, but knows there is nothing more important in his life than finishing that book!
Now HERE’S where I start to regain hope for humanity. Just before Gmork is about to tear Atreyu to shreds in the same murky waters where the young warrior lost his best friend, a Luck Dragon named Falkor swoops him up and flies him to safety.
Falkor looks like a cocker spaniel, believes in the power of a little luck, and belly laughs like a grandpa who’s had a couple of beers. Pretty much the best thing that any kid could hope for in life. Bbuuuttt, still a little creepy in his own right.
When Atreyu awakens after being rescued, he meets this weird miniature old couple. They seem to love one another, yet they incessantly nag each other. Pretty much everyone’s parents, right?
The woman convinces the young warrior to drink a disgusting potion as part of his recovery. Atreyu announces he is on a quest to find the Southern Oracle and, upon learning this news, the old man reveals his love of science and his expertise in all things related to the Southern Oracle…including the two sets of Sphinxes that Atreyu must pass through in order to help complete his quest.
The Sphinxes are as burned into my childhood brain as Artax’s death is. Probably because they each looked like satisfied patients from any plastic surgery reality show featured on E! today.
After passing through both sets of Sphinxes, Atreyu then looks into a mirror that shows him a reflection of Bastian and vice versa. Reading this causes Bastian to throw the book across the room in disbelief, and I hear my daughter laugh. I am proud of her for recognizing at an early age the joy of watching someone over act. She also cracks up more than once at Falkor’s over-the-top laughter and facial expressions.
Atreyu learns the only way to save all of Fantasia is to find the human child who can give the Empress a new name.
Perhaps the most disturbing series in the whole movie begins here. Atreyu and Falkor get separated in a violent storm, the boy loses his auryn necklace, and we are reunited with the Rockbiter who gives the most depressing speech ever about failing.
And that’s not all. Just when I’m ready to curl up into a ball (as a 39-year old) and crumble into a hopeless pile of nothingness…
Atreyu comes face-to-face with the evil Gmork. As all of the fears I experienced as a child come rushing back, my daugher tells me she doesn’t think the greenish-yellow eyed wolf is that scary and, if she was Atreyu, she’d just punch it in the face.
(two older brothers)
Gmork explains that he is the servant, the power behind The Nothing, and he has been sent to kill Atreyu. The boy then challenges the beast to come and get him, and when Gmork accepts and charges, Atreyu stabs the creature to death.
That brings the death total to three if you’re keeping track at home.
I love to go back to movies that were produced before computerized special effects. This is one such movie.
To see how those behind the magic made it appear that The Nothing eventually came and wiped out everything except for the Ivory Tower is a site to behold. It’s both impressive and funny at the same time.
We finally meet the Empress. How can I describe this girl? The poster child for dental office advertisements everywhere. Everything on her is perfect. Her eyes, her jeweled headband, her petite perfect features, her voice, and her dazzling teeth.
The next several minutes are a mashup of three child actors attempting to out-dramatize one another…and the effect is pure brilliance. I can see my daughter on the edge of her seat wanting to shout along with them.
CALL HER NAME, BASTIAN!!!
Bastian shouts out his mother’s name, Moonchild, as a way to give it to the Empress. Fantasia, though, seems to have all but disappeared except for a single grain of sparkling sand. Bastian receives the grain from the Empress and is told the only way to save their land is to never lose his imagination.
The movie ends with the boy getting revenge on the bullies who picked on him, and by revealing much to my relief that Artax(!), Atreyu, the Empress, and all good guys continue to live and grow with Fantasia.
Finally, here’s where everything gets deep. As a child, I was satisfied with that ending. It seems my daughter is too.
As an adult, I love looking at interpretations. One Reddit user (nameless88) puts it best with this explanation:
The entire movie is about the death of the imagination, and how as kids stop reading books, and stop imagining the worlds that are made up within, those worlds die. The Nothing is lack of creativity, and lack of care for fictional worlds. The Nothing is television, and movies, and apathy towards the make-believe. The Nothing is growing up, and losing the ability to even have an imagination. It’s…well, it’s nothing. It’s the absence of something, in this case, creativity and imagination.
I plan to pick up the book that this movie was based off of and read it with my kids. In a world of being constantly connected through social media and void of actually feeling meaningful personal connections, I figure it’s a step in the right direction. Perhaps reading the book might start a discussion between them and their friends?
If any of you have read the book, please let me know what you think about it in the comment section. If you’ve seen the movie, let me know what you thought of my online re-enactment.
Written by Heidi Woodard