Do you remember when you were a teenager, and much more serious than you are today, and something got under your skin and drove you far more nuts than it really should have? I was twelve when I first saw The NeverEnding Story, and that luck dragon drove me mad. This is a film with really splendid special effects and they’ve aged quite well. Miniatures, matte work, composites, animatronics, everything’s easily as good as a movie in 1984 could hope to achieve. And with some of the fantastic beasts, they did a terrific job with the puppetry and sync to make their mouths move in time with the dialogue. The Rock-Biter, the giant turtle, and the wolf all look extremely good as they “talk,” a credit to all the visual effects technicians who put in the long hours to make this movie work.
And then that stupid luck dragon needs to talk and it just opens and closes its mouth randomly like it’s a badly worn prop from a Chuck E. Cheese that never worked right in the first place. Watching it this morning, it’s as bad as I remembered it. I can’t suspend my disbelief for a single second with that thing onscreen.
That’s a shame, because The NeverEnding Story is otherwise not a bad movie. There are several moments that are done in a quiet, subtle way that leaves them very effective. There’s a bit toward the end when the young hero, Atreyu, finds some centuries-old paintings in the ruins of an old castle that depict events that only just happened. I love that, and I like the idea that characters can’t get past the boundaries of Fantasia because it doesn’t have borders, while the “real” world does. I wouldn’t put it in the upper tier of the ’80s fantasies that we’ve watched for our blog, but it’s an imaginative film with some surprises.
In the obligatory mentions of interesting actors, I have no idea who any of the principals are, but Deep Roy plays a well-dressed guy who stepped out of Alice’s Wonderland and rides a racing snail, and Moses Gunn and Gerald McRaney each get a small scene. And speaking of 1980s fantasies, I was reminded of The Last Unicorn because the movie starts with an interminable, endless, whiny song. I’d honestly forgotten how much I disliked that song until they built a comedy moment around it in the last season of Stranger Things. If I ever have to pick anything to play that Giorgio Moroder wrote, I’ll go with “Life in Tokyo,” thanks.
Hey, that kid’s wearing a Zippy the Pinhead T-shirt.
Anyway, our son seemed to enjoy it more as it progressed, and he really liked the finale, where the protagonist from the “real” world takes advantage of Fantasia’s lack of borders. I was surprised to read that these city exteriors were filmed in Vancouver. The movie was otherwise made in West Germany at studios in Munich, but I guess they decided it would be cheaper to film on streets that are identifiable as North American rather than redressing the streets outside the studio with English-language stop signs, and hired three local kids to play the bullies.
There are two other NeverEnding Story movies. I’d forgotten the second one existed and don’t know that I ever knew about the third. I think we’re probably not going to watch those, but we’ll stay with the eighties for next Sunday morning’s movie. Stay turned!
Today’s feature was a gift from Nikka Valken, and I invite you all to check out her Society 6 page and buy some of her fun artwork! If you would like to support this blog, you can buy us a DVD of a movie that we’d like to watch one day. We’ll be happy to give you a shout-out and link to the site of your choice when we write about it. Here’s our wishlist!