Tuesday, 11 August 2015

The NeverEnding Story (1985)

In 1985, Wolfgang Petersen gave life to Michael Ende’s children’s novel The NeverEnding Story in a wildly adventurous piece of cinema that tells the tale of Bastian, a troubled young boy who dives into a mysterious fantasy land through the pages of a magical library book. After shocking and inspiring kids all over the world and grossing a huge $100 million, lovers of cinema are sure to label this crazy movie as a classic must-see for children then and now.

And so this explains the Square Chapel’s great decision to air the film this past weekend, serving as the second movie the arts centre has broadcasted this summer in a great new cinema project for the public. Sitting down to watch a film at the Square Chapel instead of to watch a theatre performance made an exciting change, and knowing that I was to be watching The NeverEnding Story - a movie I remembered I loved as a child - was nostalgic and fun.

However The NeverEnding Story is not quite the same when you’re 15 years older and looking at it from a critical point of view… Of course, with progressive leaps and bounds in modern technology presenting us with outstanding 3D and even 4D graphics, and lifelike animation bringing in some of the highest cinematic profits we see today, it is hard to not laugh and cringe at the expectedly unrealistic and inefficient special effects of this oldie. Not only do the strange characters like the dumb-rock-man-thing and giant-flying-dog-dragon’s mouths not move in time to their words (words so haphazardly written by Petersen and his screenwriter Weigl), but there are ridiculously cartoon lightning bolts, fluorescent fire and conspicuous superimposed green-screen backdrops aplenty.

Perhaps this minor problem can be easily ignored given the era of the movie – after all, films of this time were all riveted in terrible CGI that went unnoticed, for instance, the disastrous visual effects of 1982’s Poltergeist was nominated for an Academy Award! – but the questionable plot and surprisingly frightening characters don’t make a modern audience forgive so quickly.

Barrett Oliver’s Bastian is played as he is written – a lonely weirdo who mourns his Mother’s death, however this portrayal brings about absolutely no feelings of endearment or sorrow, as he is so heavily overshadowed by co-star Noah Hathaway, playing a young hero inside of the magical book, Atreyu. Atreyu has no volume level lower than ‘REALLY LOUD YELLING’ and his determination to save the fictional land of Fantasia from The Great Nothing is hardly inspiring.

As for the other characters, the Childlike Empress (Tami Stronach) – whose appearance is built up until the very end – is so creepy and so oddly eloquent, making for an un-relatable and unlikeable character. However it is the giant-flying-dog-dragon (I still don’t really know what it is) with his sinister laugh and his disturbing words (yes it can talk) that adds quite an unnecessary element of eeriness and almost sexual undertones.

All of this aside… I had to remind myself that, yes, although I was here to analyse the film as a 20 year old, what could I remember taking from the film as a young child? The answers are fun, adventure and imagination. Kids don’t care about logic (luckily, because this film has none) and kids don’t notice awkward scripts and terrible direction, but what they do care about is how long they can watch a film for without getting bored. 

In truth, The NeverEnding Story doesn’t make you bored at all. Some aspects do make you ponder, and some will definitely give you shivers - and not the good kind - yet the overcrowded, non-stop nonsense is somewhat entertaining. There is excitement from start to finish thanks to brilliant suspense (will he make it/won’t he make it), lots of shouting and jumping, lots of swooping and flying, lots of funny looking people and, unforgettably, a giant-flying-dog-dragon

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