Thursday, December 26, 2013

Starting my own Christmas tradition: The NeverEnding Story (1984)

A film made even more nostalgic by making us aware of an entirely different era - a time where you can hear the phrase "I like children" without raising any red flags. LOL

When I heard that "I like children" line, then Falkor asking Atreyu to scratch behind his ears and gleefully commenting "Oh that feels goooood!" with the creepy old man voice, I was like O_O seriously? Then I chuckled. Society today has thoroughly messed up my innocence.

For several years now, Christmas for me has lost its magical charm. Call me jaded, or Ms. Scrooge, or better yet just call me an adult - Christmas is just not the same as before. It really is an occasion for kids, and a kid I no longer am. And while everybody were too busy cooking holiday food, eating, opening gifts, singing christmas carols, taking pictures with their christmas trees in the background - I was moping in a corner, trying to read my book, unsuccessfully, while waiting for my movies to download. Yes, t'was the night before Christmas. And several minutes past 12, while there were firecrackers cracking in the neighborhood, "Merry Christmas" greetings resonating all over, and just plain old jolly merrymaking happening around me, I saw that wonderful notification! My movies are finally downloaded. I was a happy elf!

So today, December 25, the moment I woke up I went straight to my couch and started my movie marathon. Christmas is that wonderful feeling of magical mysteries as seen thru the eyes of a child - getting gifts, Santa Claus, everything romanticized - I decide to re-experience that old nostalgic feeling. What better way to do that than watch something from my childhood - that first ever movie I recall watching as a kid (as I've mentioned here). And I'm watching that with my family. My very own Christmas special. And how fitting this movie is. :)

I have ranted, but thank you for humoring me. It's Christmas after all. ;) 

Now, I'm ready to talk about the movie. A special movie that has stayed with me (or at least some parts of it) my whole life. The movie which has opened my eyes and heart, which has affected me in such a way great films are supposed to influence people - it has made me appreciate the world of cinema at such a young age. It sent me into another world, into another story, and I have stayed inside. My own never ending story. 

"A troubled boy dives into a wonderous fantasy world through the pages of a mysterious book."
Directed by:  Wolfgang Petersen (Das Boot, Air Force One)
Screenplay by:  Wolfgang Petersen, Herman Weigel
Based on the novel of the same title by Michael Ende
Music by:  Klaus Doldinger (Das Boot)
Cinematography by:  Jost Vacano (Das Boot, RoboCop, Total Recall)
Editing by:  Jane Seitz

Starring:  Noah Hathaway (Atreyu), Barret Oliver (Bastian)
Running Time:  107 mins
Budget:  around $27 million
Box Office:  $100 million

The first thing I have noticed is how this movie has aged beautifully. Some effects are obviously dated, but the overall photography and visuals of this film is well-done. The only modern epic saga I can think of is LOTR, and for an 80's movie, The NeverEnding Story for me is a worthy counterpart for Jackson's baby. Bonus points because of the technological differences. TNES using more practical effects/animatronics than advanced CGI.

Fantasia. A good version of Mordor and The Eye of Sauron. lol. 

As I have said, I don't recall 95% of the film, but what I retained was the emotional impact it gave me as a kid. As scenes unfold, I remember bits and pieces. This character, this scene, the book cover, that line. It's an amazing journey for me! Like flying on top of Falkor all over again! =D One which I have forgotten, but not the emotional "feels" was the Swamp of Sadness scene. I was like "OH! OH! I KNOW THIS SCENE! I THINK I KNOW WHAT'S GONNA HAPPEN!!!" 

"Don't let the Swamp of Sadness get to you!"

Then it did happen. And I cried. And cried some more.

My reaction after that scene. 

As a movie, it may be lacking in action by today's standards, but for me, it's easily one of the best I've seen. Maybe I'm biased. But I don't think so. lol. It's not perfect, but watching it again 25 years later, I gotta say that it stood the test of time and it's a movie that's still relevant today as it was in 1984. Today's definition of fantasy or family movies involves mindless comedies or stunts with an overdose of CGI. If I'm gonna compare it to food, those are junk foods. TNES is one of the main course. It makes you full. You need to digest it to absorb the nutrients. It's not a momentary hunger fix, or sugar-spiker. Its impact is long-lasting. Like a lifetime in fact. 

I used to be critical of remakes or adaptations. Now, I'm more receptive of them. Who cares if remakes more often than not fail to surpass the original or even be as good? It doesn't make the original less special. In my opinion, it's about time we see a modern retelling of The NeverEnding Story. Not because the original is lacking or needs improvement, but because I want another experience of Fantasia through different eyes & vision. 

Story-wise, it was compelling. For a children's movie, it's very thought-provoking. I haven't read the book (and boy I would love to have a copy right now) but I'm sure the source material is even richer than the film. What I love about the story is how simple yet profound the message is. Fantasia is the land of humans' imagination. The Nothing is our tendency to become hopeless, to lose our focus, our drive... to become jaded. To fail to hold on to our dreams. Example, for an author to lose inspiration - The Nothing engulfing his hopes to become a best-selling writer - or just a writer, for that matter. Simply put, it's a story how a child's imagination and fantasies get destroyed as he grows up - as an adult living in the real world. How terribly exciting. -_-

When the Empress broke the fourth wall - that was another scene I totally loved. The message is quite clear (at least, interpreting it as a bookworm):  YOU ARE A PART OF THE STORY. She was talking to you. To us who are now watching through Bastian's story. A book (which is Fantasia. A product of an Earthling's mind & imagination) only becomes real (or saved) when the reader becomes one with it. When he/she becomes involved with the story. When a reader pictures himself in the story. When a story touches a reader, in return, the reader touching the story... and more. It's really a never-ending story. It was an amazing feeling.

The Childlike Empress: He has suffered with you. He went through everything you went through; and now, he has come here with you. He is very close... listening to every word, we say.
Bastian. Why don't you do what you dream, Bastian?

Here are some of my favorite characters/scenes:

Morla is so cute! I remember being terrified of her when I was a kid. But she's so adorable now. 
"Do you have a cold?" 
"No, we are allergic to youth." 

They look like big, good, strong hands, don't they? I always thought that's what they were.

Don't let go of your child-like imagination, your own fantasy world where everything is in your power, within your reach. Don't let the Nothing eat you alive. You already know what you want, now change it. Change your world as you would want it to be. Create your own never-ending story. Open your book and dive in.

MY RATING: 4.5/5 - it makes you think & rethink. It makes you nostalgic. It reignites your childlike capacity for dreaming. It's a beautiful classic film that's so good it doesn't need a remake, yet for the same reason it does. This story deserves to be recognized and never forgotten.

Trivia (IMDb):

  • You can "ride" on Falcor's back on location at the Bavaria Filmplatz Munich, Germany.
  • Author Michael Ende decided that he was unhappy with the film's version of his story, and refused to have his name placed in the opening credits. A small credit appears at the end with his name.
  • TNES was the most expensive film ever produced in Germany at the time it was made.

Found this on the net, it seems like Bastian has forgotten Fantasia. LOL. Kidding.

YOUR POINT OF VIEW: What are your thoughts about a new adaptation? Who do you think should be cast as Atreyu & Bastian?

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  1. This review touched my heart on several levels.. One, for your truth of what you clearly shared with everyone, with no hesitation of yourself. I found a great deal of courage in that... Also your appreciation for the films meaning... You said this PERFECTLY!!!!! This review will with me a long time, maybe forever, the way you wrote this... I thoroughly enjoyed it!!!! You have a true-fan.... :)

    1. it's a bit more personal bec this movie has a special place in my heart. :) thank you for recognizing that, and I'm glad you like it ! thanks a lot!!

    2. My pleasure!!! You are quite welcome!!

  2. You are such a natural writer, your review is extraordinary and well written... It touched me for several reasons, but mainly because you bravely revealed some real truth in this one... What you said about nothingness etc....That took my breath for an instant, and I sighed, with relief afterwards, because you were dead on target with that ... Yes, this review was written from your heart, anyone who looks and feels can see this and know that you just are not one of these CYBER wannabe's, you are a damn talented and emotional writer... As a real writer should be.

    1. most of the time The Nothing has engulfed me, almost destroying my own Fantasia.

      I just write what I feel like writing, no pretensions, . I wish I was more talented, but it won't be an exciting adventure if I already have everything I need in life. LOL. It's a daily exercise/effort to improve. Thank you for all the compliments :)

  3. You have an amazing Blog, I could fall in love with your blog, very creative and well organized. !! Loving your work! :)



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