The Neverending Story

I guess this is a weird reason to revisit a family fantasy classic that’s treasured around the world, but I felt like after spending so much time on WARRIORS OF VIRTUE I had an ethical duty to review another first-English-language-movie-by-an-internationally-acclaimed-director, THE NEVERENDING STORY. I saw it in the theater 39 years ago and I remembered it enough to know WARRIORS kinda ripped off its kid-picked-on-by-bullies-given-large-leatherbound-book-magically-connected-to-a-fantasy-world format. I did not remember that in this one the kid just reads about the fantasy world, he doesn’t go there. But there was another detail that did stick in my brain, one that I had to question because it seems so fucking crazy: could it possibly be true that there are no kung fu animals in this one at all? Believe it or not, that is true. What the fuck kind of lunatic wants a story without kung fu animals to never end!? It’s absurd! But somehow they make it work.

Watching it again, I laughed at how quickly it gets into it – not the fantasy world, but the theme song. Limahl and Beth Anderson crooning “The Neverending Stoooor-ryyy, ooo ooow ooh oooowoo ooh, the Neverending Stooor-ryyy…” over Giorgio Moroder synths and footage of clouds. One thing this opening sequence gets across very clearly is that if you want to see a movie called THE NEVERENDING STORY, you came to the right place.

The kid is named Bastian, played by Barret Oliver (Kid #2, UNCOMMON VALOR). We don’t see too much of his life, but we pick up on a few things. His mom died fairly recently. His dad (Gerald McRaney, MOTORCYCLE GANG) is emotionally distant and tells him to keep his head out of the clouds, which the credits already told us is the opposite of what you gotta do in a neverending story.

Bastian reads classic books like 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Treasure Island and Lord of the Rings (all three?) and is proud enough of his collection that when a snobbish bookstore owner gatekeeper elitist (Thomas Hill, FIREFOX) questions his book-reader cred he blurts out that he owns 186 of ‘em. Pretty specific number. Also he’s tormented by three bully kids (Drum Garrett [“Belch” in the IT mini-series], Darryl Cooksey [“Skeleton” on a Halloween episode of CHiPs] and Nicholas Gilbert) who steal his money, throw him into a dumpster (see also: Morris Day in PURPLE RAIN) and call him “weirdo” and “mama’s boy.” Which is inexcusably cruel if they know his mama is dead.

He hides from his tormentors in this bookstore that’s only hard covers without dust jackets, no customers, and an owner who tries to scare him away – or does he? He smiles after Bastian (who must think this is a library?) borrows the rare edition he told him his puny little reading-poseur mind could never fucking handle the intensity of. I think this guy is like the weird derelict in HELLRAISER that eats bugs and turns into a dragon skeleton at the end. He just goes around getting kids to read neverending stories.

Instead of going to class the next day, Bastian breaks into the school attic (home to dust, skeletons and rats) to read the book. So the main body of the movie is this fantasy story about a place called Fantasia that is being swallowed by The Nothing and the preteen Empress (Tami Stronach) is getting sick from it so she sends the great twelve year old warrior Atreyu (Noah Hathaway, TROLL, SUSHI GIRL) to find a cure. He goes on a journey that’s basically a straight line, but with the clever meta twist that he starts to hear Bastian’s over-dramatic reactions to what he’s reading. So at the end the only way for a happy ending is for Bastian to ignore his dad’s dumbass “keep your feet on the ground” bullshit (fuck you, Bastian’s dad), acknowledge the magicalness or whatever, and talk to the fictional characters.

It feels to me like very little happens in this movie, so luckily there’s alot of cool creatures and shit. Maybe less than similar movies like RETURN TO OZ (which came out the next year) or LABYRINTH (which came out the year after that), but a good amount nevertheless. I’m a sucker for an animatronic puppet, and this has some great ones. Nothing against the sleepy bat and the DOCTOR DOLITTLE style snail (accompanied by Deep Roy), but I think the MVPs are the Rock Biter (a huge rock monster) and Morla the Ancient One (a giant, sad turtle). Also there’s the famous Falkor, a long, four-legged flying “Luck Dragon” who has a few scales but is mostly fluffy like a dog. It’s noticeable that the difficulties of articulating a head that big and heavy lead to some rough lip synch and him mostly laying around like he’s tired, but it’s still amazing to see that thing in action.

By the way, most of these creatures are voiced by Alan Oppenheimer (“Unctuous Man in Arcade,” UP TIGHT!).

Like most ‘80s family fantasies, THE NEVERENDING STORY has some legendary kindertrauma aspects. One is the evil wolf Gmork, who chases Atreyu. He’s not an actual wolf, but an animatronic beast who can speak. I don’t think we ever see his whole body (they just built the front half to poke out of a dark cave) but man is he cool. He looks like the wolf that would eat Chuck E. Cheese.

I specifically remember being scared of that wolf as a kid. A scene that I don’t remember bothering me but that other people talk about is when Atreyu’s horse Artax sinks into The Swamp of Sadness. It’s clearly a real horse in the scene, and he’s slowly sinking into real mud as Atreyu screams and cries and yanks on his rein, to no avail. Then the poor kid has to leave alone, on foot. It’s easy to understand why young people were traumatized by that, but I think it’s way deeper as an adult because it’s such a perfect metaphor – this sadness we know as depression, and this horse’s complete, exhausted surrender to it. No matter how much Atreyu encourages (“You have to care, for me, you’re my friend, and I love you!”) or scolds him (“Stupid horse! You gotta move or you’ll die!”) he doesn’t know how to beat the sadness. He just stands there and lets it swallow him up.

(It’s disturbing to watch the making-of and learn that they had to just keep sinking the horse over and over until he stopped being terrified by it. In the take they use, though, it seems like great horse acting. WAR HORSE can’t hold a candle to it.)

Sadness is really the villain of this thing. When Atreyu meets Rockbiter he’s staring at his hands lamenting, “They look like big, good, strong hands. Don’t they? I always thought that’s what they were.” But he couldn’t hold his friends tight enough. “The Nothing pulled them right out of my hands. I failed.”

And there’s a place called The Desert of Shattered Hopes. Jesus. Seems like depression is built into this joint, but Gmork still does his bid to encourage it. He brags that Fantasia is dying “Because people have begun to lose their hopes and forget their dreams. So The Nothing grows stronger.” And he says that The Nothing is “the emptiness that’s left. It’s like a despair, destroying this world. And I have been trying to help it… because people who have no hopes are easy to control.”

So I guess Bastian shouldn’t let his mourning take away his hope. But are we to take it that his sadness over the loss of his mother is killing all these poor creatures? It’s okay if it is. When he finally helps, it brings them back, reverses everything, like when Nancy killed Freddy, minus the killer convertible and the arm pulling mom through the window.

Unsurprisingly this is based on a book (by Michael Ende, MOMO). The book was German, as was the film, but I suppose making it for English-speaking countries justified what was at the time the biggest budget ever for a movie made in West Germany. It cost almost as much as the year’s highest grossing film, INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM, and way more than #2, BEVERLY HILLS COP.

Director Wolfgang Petersen, who is credited for the screenplay along with Herman Weigel (CHRISTIANE F.), was coming off of DAS BOOT. This launched him into a Hollywood career that included ENEMY MINE, IN THE LINE OF FIRE and AIR FORCE ONE, among others. He didn’t go back to filming in German until 2016’s VIER GEGEN DIE BANK.

With the aforementioned FX hotshottery it’s obviously an impressive production. In addition to all the cool puppets and huge indoor swamp set they have a whole outdoors built on a gimble so they can rotate it to look like Atreyu is blowing in a windstorm, hanging off a tree like the “Earth Song” video. That stuff is amazing, but I also like the natural way he shoots the real world scenes, contrasting the soundstage look of Fantasia. Shout out to cinematographer Jost Vacano (52 PICKUP, ROBOCOP, TOTAL RECALL, SHOWGIRLS, STARSHIP TROOPERS, HOLLOW MAN).

I wonder if people who already loved the book were pissed at the movie? Like Ralph Bakshi’s LORD OF THE RINGS, which enraged people at the time, it stops halfway through the book. (The second half, where Bastian gets to Fantasia and turns into an asshole, was later the basis of THE NEVERENDING STORY II, but with a different director and cast.) And it sounds to me like the meta gimmick is a little cooler in the book’s version. As Bastian reads the book he gets to a part about him starting to read the book, which means it will keep looping forever unless he agrees to intervene. (So that explains the title, too.)

I want to mention that the bullies in this thing are intriguing. One of them has a Confederate flag patch on his jean jacket, so fuck that kid. But they also have Rolling Stones patches. And that doesn’t make them cool, but isn’t it kind of a weird band for these little kids to be into in 1984? I guess maybe they’re copying their older brothers. Or young uncles? Their brothers are probly into Van Halen, Def Leppard and Ratt and shit. Or Scorpions if they’re German.

But the weirder thing is that in the last scene one of the bullies is wearing a t-shirt of the cult comic strip Zippy the Pinhead. I’m not saying it’s impossible that a mean little asshole is into such things, but it’s not what you expect, right? Maybe these kids are more interesting than we realize. Maybe they’re going through their own shit, and dealing with it in a worse way than Bastian. I don’t know.

On the making-of the producers talk about their difficulty in coming up with an ending. Late in the game somebody decided to depart from the book and have everything wrap up with Bastian riding Falkor in the real world, chasing the bullies into a dumpster. It’s so fuckin stupid, yet it feels like kind of the only natural way to tie everything together. Unfortunately original author Ende hated it so much he sued to stop the release of the already finished movie! According to a 1983 Cinefantastique article, Ende had it in his contract that the script he wrote and revised with Petersen could not be changed without his consent, so when it was rewritten with Weigel he had his name taken off of it. In a statement he said, “The script no longer captures the substance of my novel… From the beginning I had the gravest doubts, and I agreed only hesitatingly because the filmmakers talked with angel’s tongues and declared they wanted to make a movie that, to my mind, I could fully approve of.”

He lost the lawsuit, which is why I was able to see the movie.

Sometimes I have a problem with this kind of fantasy story where reality seems like stream-of-consciousness gibberish – this is the Whatsit, and you need to go through Such and Such over to Whatever Mountain to use the magic doodad on the evil whoever the fuck, those are the rules, I just made them up as they were coming out of my mouth. This one seems like it should feel extra weightless since it’s all portrayed, at least initially, as just a fictional story that the protagonist is reading while locked in a room hiding from his troubles. But somehow there’s enough magic in the filmmaking – plus that relatable layer of depression – to make it work.

Undoubtedly it’s lacking in kung fu kangaroos, so I can see why Ende wasn’t won over. But I liked it anyway.

Tomorrow: I think it’s time to take a flash-forward to 2002 and examine the Ronny-Yu-less WARRIORS OF VIRTUE 2: THE RETURN TO TAO.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, April 19th, 2023 at 9:07 am and is filed under Reviews, Family, Fantasy/Swords. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

28 Responses to “The Neverending Story”

  1. I don’t wanna bore you with another rant about the state of the German movie industry, but it’s really depressing how we kinda stopped making movies like this. We really tried! Look at this movie! It really put its money on screen! But although it was a huge success all over the world, it’s like German studios thought “Eh, maybe it’s not really worth the hassle” and they succumbed to the swamp of sadness. Oh well.

    That said: I once rode the real Falkor (Or Fuchur, how his original German name). We had this nearby amusement park. The BAVARIA FILM PARK, that tried to be kinda like Universal Studios, and displayed a bunch of movie props. The highlights were the original submarine model from DAS BOOT and of course a bunch of NEVERENDING STORY stuff. They even put an original matte painting at one spot, so that you could take photos “in Fantasia” of your friends and family. Then later it became WARNER BROS MOVIE WORLD, but although they added all kinds of WB property (Including a POLICE ACADEMY stuntshow and a Gremlins ride) they kept all the Petersen Stuff around (Why wouldn’t they?). Currently it’s running as MOVIE PARK GERMANY under Paramount’s management, which means lots of Nickelodeon stuff, but also a from what I heard really cool STAR TREK rollercoaster. Haven’t been there in forever though, so I don’t know if the NEVERENDING STORY stuff is still there.

  2. I’ve always loved the look of this movie and the animatronic puppets are awesome but good gravy do I find the movie itself a boring slog. And count me among those who were forever scarred by the horse scene.

    I never heard about the author disowning the movie version. I always thought the ending seemed tacked on or something, so reading this review finally gave me some context on that. Vern doing great work as usual by researching that backstory.

  3. Thank you for the compliment, Dtroyt, and thanks for the info CJ – I knew you would have something interesting to add about this one. Did you have a picture of you and Fuchur back in the day?

  4. Sadly I don’t think so. The most pictures from the amusement park visits of my childhood were in my aunt’s possession, who passed away 20 years ago. We grabbed a bunch of photo albums from her apartment and my sister might still have them somewhere. If we find the time and energy to dig them out, I see if I can find anything, but until further notice, don’t wait for it.

    (I still have that plush Scooby Doo that I bought there during the Warner Bros era though.)

    But here is an old commercial for the park (sadly in grainiest early YouTube quality), where you can even catch a glimpse of some NEVERENDING STORY props. They apparently even had the turtle. Can’t remember that one.


  5. Movie Park Germany? Why does that seem like the most German name for a park?

    “This is Movie Park! That is it’s function! You will enjoy Movie Park!”

  6. As for this movie I saw this as a kid a bit past when everyone else had…and man was it kind of boring. I’m not a fantasy guy but a lot of those 80s fantasy movies are pretty dull to me…usually super cool sets and creatures, but really boring story and characters, except for a villain like the Skekses or Tim Curry. A movie like Krull you want to like SO bad but Jesus. He doesn’t even use the coolest thing, the throwing star until the very end and even then it’s useless? Labyrinth was fun though, best when you can see the Python influence coming through. And of course Princess Bride.

  7. I loved this movie as quite a young kid (maybe 6 or 7). Then one of my older sister’s friends gave me a copy of the book, and I loved it, and really fell out of love with the film because (compared to the book) it was so shallow. I think all the thematic stuff you mention (especially re: depression) is there even stronger in the book. Still one of my absolute childhood favourite books. I tried watching the film recently and didn’t get a lot out of it, apart from enjoying the animatronics and the theme song.

  8. BTW, did you watch the American or the European cut, Vern? Honestly, I don’t know what exactly the differences are, other than the US version having a Moroder score that replaced the one from Klaus Doldinger and that the US version is a bit shorter.

  9. Must’ve been the US version then, because Moroder was credited as the composer.

  10. Michael Ende is a great kid’s lit author, and yeah, the book had a much better grasp on its themes. But… I think the movie does all right by it. It was an impossible task to do the book justice, but they tried and were smart about it and did better than you’d expect.
    I remember watching the sequel years after it came out and realizing Jack Black was one of the bullies. That’s… all I remember from the sequel, other than the fact that it was vaguely faithful to the second half of the book and that I disliked it.

    But it’s no surprise that MOMO never got a decent movie (there’s talks of another attempt). The premise and metaphor for that is so perfect and fleshed out yet so ridiculous that I have no idea how you’d go about adapting it into a 90 minute package; I didn’t know about Ende being so down on NEVERENDING STORY, which makes it weird he agreed to appear on MOMO (along with John Huston, of all people!)

  11. Dreadguacamole – you’re right it does in general do a decent job of adapting the themes and general ideas. I think for me, though, the book did it all so much better, with so much more depth and nuance. The correct answer to this is “well, duh, of course”, but I think child me just found the film superfluous once I read the book and I haven’t ever shaken that.

    I would say though that I feel like there were a lot of decisions in the film adaptation were odd. Like how in the book Artax (the horse) could talk, and how that made his death even worse as he was talking about how he couldn’t go on. And the whole thing with the Sphynx’s shooting lazers rather than asking riddles. And Atreyu not being green. They didn’t seem like (in the context of that film) it would have been much harder to do those things, and they just changed them. I’m guessing they were all matters of simplifying (both from a technical and storytelling viewpoint), and probably any one of them wouldn’t have been very harmful, but all of those little things weakened the film.

    You’re right though – the second film was much worse. I remember (at the time) feeling like it was a really poor adaptation of the second half of the book – I remember the only thing I thought worked well was the casting of Xayide – she was very as imagined. I was also 11 then, so probably a fairly bad judge. Wonder if I should revisit.

  12. I went to Movie World when it was under WB. Was only there for an afternoon so didn’t do that much, but I saw that POLICE ACADEMY stunt show! I also saw MARVIN THE MARTIAN IN THE THRID DIMENSION, which I guess was kind of what they sometimes call “4D” as there were water effects etc. Think I also went on some kind of Batman ride, and some kind of Small World-type Looney Tunes ride where they all had their German voices. This was in 1998 and I remember there were a lot of LETHAL WEAPON 4 posters everywhere.

    I’ve never seen this all the way through though, and some of the bits I recall seeing on TV when I was younger might have actually been from Part Deux. I kind of had a bit of unfair distain for it for a while; even though I was a big 80s guy for many years, and still am when the mood hits, there’s a certain type of beloved 80s film I never much cared for, and by “certain kind”, I pretty much mean “loose association of films that don’t necessarily have that much in common but are grouped in my mind”. DARK CRYSTAL, LABYRINTH, GOONIES, WILLOW, HONEY I SHRUNK THE KIDS, HOOK (OK, that’s 1991, but come on), LADYHAWKE, I don’t even really care about STAND BY ME or PRINCESS BRIDE to be honest with you. I like LEGEND, but mostly for the Tangerine Dream score, and that’s not even supposed to be there! I sometimes was even kind of a dick to people about some of these movies, and I do mean in meatspace. I feel bad about that now even if I still don’t like GOONIES much, and I learned to appreciate DARK CRYSTAL and LABYRINTH as representing some incredible artistry even if they’ll never be my personal favourites. I should give this a proper look sometime.

    As for the Rolling Stones patches, I remember a joke from a British double act I don’t otherwise care for about how when they were growing up, there was nothing cooler than liking the Sex Pistols “who had split up seven years previously”. Rolling Stones are not the Sex Pistols obviously, but point being wasn’t it generally pretty common for non-hip hop/dance etc. listening (mostly) male tweens/teens to get into “legendary” rock bands, particularly in a period where modern rock was kind of on the outs (as I feel it kind of was in 83/84, at least in Europe)? I remember some friends when they were of movie-school-bully-age in the early 00s being really into Iron Maiden for example, who were about as old at the time as the Stones were in 1984. It also seemed to be almost mandatory for kids to go through a Led Zeppelin phase for a long time, as immortalised in Joel Schumacher’s John Grisham’s THE CLIENT. Are the Stones patches that different from WARRIORS OF VIRTUE kid having a Bruce Lee poster? Is it because they were arguably a bloated and somewhat out of touch but ongoing act in 1984 rather than an act of the past? Would it have been less jarring if they were wearing vintage Elvis patches for example?

    Also, me being me I have to note that NEVERENDING STORY II played in theatres with the 50th Anniversary Bugs Bunny Short BOX OFFICE BUNNY (Part III is the one with Jack Black BTW).

  13. Okay Pacman, but what about Zippy the Pinhead? That’s unusual for a kid like that, right?

  14. They probably thought it was bootleg Ziggy merch.

  15. Love this movie but it was only as an adult watching the Blu-ray I understood how it never ends. Bastian is reading about Atreyu. We’re watching Bastian read about Atreyu. We are going to be part of someone else’s story and on and on. It never ends.

    I did read the book after that discovery and don’t recall the time loop part but that’s also cool. I didn’t mind the second film. I like Brandis the other George Miller is obviously no Wolfgang Petersen (let alone the correct George Miller).

    I was curious enough to even watch Neverending III, the DTV one with Jason James Richter as Bastian and Jack Black as one of the bullies. It’s obviously no Universal Soldier Regeneration but for ‘90a DTV it’s pretty fun. The Fantasia creature come into our world for the whole movie.

    For context, Labyrinth is my favorite movie. Neverending isn’t in my top 10 but it’s deep AF and I don’t know if I ever thought of the depression metaphor. If I did, the Nothing made me forget until I read this again.

  16. Part 3 has its qualities. I mean, the Jim Henson company does all the puppetry that time. And the plot is a nice idea, but whoever had the idea to turn it into a tween comedy will hopefully be haunted by Ende’s ghost forever.

    BTW, nothing against Giorgio Moroder, but I doubt that his US score is better than Doldinger’s. The main theme creeped the shit out of young CJ and still gives me goosebumps.

    Die unendliche Geschichte (Titelmusik)

    Provided to YouTube by WM GermanyDie unendliche Geschichte (Titelmusik) · Klaus DoldingerO.S.T. Die Unendliche Geschichte℗ 1984 WEA RECORDS / WARNER MUSIC GE...

  17. Philip Lem Heinlein

    April 20th, 2023 at 2:14 pm

    Dang, I think I saw it 39 years ago as a kid as well, and re-watched it at least once, in cinemas two oceans away! Now I recall “Neverending Story” and then waiting for television to broadcast Limahl’s video for it, catching it between Kajagoogoo’s music video with the lizard-headed man, the animated noir-detective music video for Alan Parson’s Project, Bilinski’s electro-music video, and, of course, the magic of the beautiful Sandra’s “Secret Land”!

    (I’m probably mixing the years by a few. But those definitely were some of the most memorable music videos of the era!)

    Sandra - Secret Land (Official Video 1988)

    HD Music Video of "Secret Land".#Sandra #SecretLand #AroundMyHeart

  18. It’s really weird when I was a kid this was one of the few movies they used to play at school and even though I always enjoyed it I barely remember much from it. Whereas the sequel which I only saw once I still remember quite vividly. Probably because it took some really dark turns that I didn’t expect in a kid’s movie back in those days. R.I.P. Jonathan Brandis

  19. If you appreciate animatronic puppets I recommend watching Hatching from last year. It has one that is surprisingly great considering the film is a lower budget Finnish horror film.

  20. Vern, I’m curious and maybe you’ve mentioned this but I never came across it: What is your primary method of watching movies at home? Do you like to stick to physical media whenever possible (blu-rays? 4ks? Laserdiscs?)? Or are you more of a streamer? Thanks for this review, probably my #1 most watched as a young 80’s kid.

  21. Wow, CJ, you weren’t kidding about Doldinger’s score. That opening theme is indeed creepy as all hell, and the rest of it is really good too. I’m sitting here in a McDonald’s with goose bumps running up and down my arms, haha!

    As for the film itself, I’m pretty much in the same boat as Pacman: saw it (more or less) as a kid, didn’t think much of it, never went back to it. I’m just not real big on the Fantasy, sword-and-sorcery genre as a whole-minus a few exceptions. I DO appreciate the write-up, tho, as a pleasant diversion from the fascinating, ongoing Yu-ology clinic. I had no idea how much I didn’t know about Ronny Yu and I’m excited to be getting to the stuff that I *do* know about!

  22. Oddly enough Doldinger’s theme from DAS BOOT scared me as a kid too, although I got used to it over time. Strange how he never became a big name in the world of film and TV scores. Most of his output afterwards was German TV stuff. That said, in the 70s he also made this really funky theme for TATORT, the longest running crime show over here.

    Tatort Titelmusik

    Provided to YouTube by WM GermanyTatort Titelmusik · Klaus DoldingerSeine Erfolgreichsten Film- Und Fernsehmelodien℗ 1987 WEA RECORDS / WARNER MUSIC GERMANYP...

  23. Ray – Luckily we have the world’s largest video store here, Scarecrow Video, so I can often rent things on blu-ray (or DVD or VHS). I also stream plenty of things when that’s more convenient or the only way they’re available. And my blu-ray player is region free, so I occasionally get an import when necessary. In the case of this Ronny Yu series I don’t think any of them were streaming – lots of rented DVDs, had to import a few on region coded dvd, blu-ray, even one on VCD. A few I already owned on blu-ray.

    So yeah, I watch many streaming services but my preference is blu-ray. I don’t have a 4K TV though and don’t currently expect to upgrade, but who knows.

  24. CJ, have you checked out the Moroder score on its own? It’s very weird and maybe wrong that they changed it from the original in the movie, but it’s a pretty cool partially electronic score that I think you would dig.

  25. Yeah, I checked it out yesterday (I’m pretty sure I did before, but couldn’t remember it). It’s not as good as Doldinger’s but it’s cool and Moroder was obviously not half-assing it for a paycheck. One day I have to get my hands on the US cut (It was included as bonus on some DVD releases, so it shouldn’t be too hard) and find out how it works within the movie.

  26. I read the book under idea conditions (my Mum brought home the original edition, the one with the different colored printing, to read while I lay in bed with a fever. I am pretty sure that illness was mysteriously prolonged while I churned through those pages) and was pumped when I heard they were making a film.

    As a partial adaption, The Neverending Story absolutely succeeds, capturing the high-fantasy flavor of the novel pretty well even if a lot of the plot specifics are changed or simplified. It would have been very easy to just ignore the real-world meta plot and just pump out a generic kids fantasy but the producers really attempted to capture the feel of the book.

    That said, I am with Ende here. The ending scene is corny as all hell even if I can’t think of a better way to end the film.

  27. I don’t remember seeing this one as a kid, but I did watch PART II a whole bunch. There’s still a nostalgic pull for that one, though I’m under no illusions it holds up. When I finally got around to PART I, I also found it to be pretty dull. I do like the metaphor about sadness, depression, and hopelessness, and how those are a gateway to tyranny– we’re definitely experiencing that now, in These Uncertain Times.

  28. I’m late to this party so it’s ok if no one sees this but I can speak to one bit of your review – my German stepmother grew up with the book as a kid in Stuttgart, and she loved the movie too. It’s one data point but there’s a fan of the book being cool with the movie.

    I can still hum the orchestral theme of this movie no problem. Like The Last Starfighter, it’s one of those random wonderful 80’s orchestral movie scores that just cooks.

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