Gmork: Foolish boy. Don’t you know anything about Fantasia? It’s the world of human fantasy. Every part, every creature of it, is a piece of the dreams and hopes of mankind. Therefore, it has no boundaries.
Atreyu: But why is Fantasia dying, then?
Gmork: Because people have begun to lose their hopes and forget their dreams. So the Nothing grows stronger.
Atreyu: What is the Nothing?
Gmork: It’s the emptiness that’s left. It is like a despair, destroying this world. And I have been trying to help it.
Atreyu: But why?
Gmork: Because people who have no hopes…are easy to control, and whoever has the control… has the power!
I love nothing better than watching a movie, long after I’ve watched it for the first time, and finding that it still carries the same power, the same weight, as the first time. In the case of The Neverending Story, it carries more weight, for when I first watched it, I was a child with hopes and dreams. Now I am an adult, and my hopes and dreams have been diminished. Watching this movie helped to revive them.
There are really two stories in this film, intertwined like the snakes on the cover of the book that the protagonist reads. The incredible cloud formations in the opening (complete with the synthesized theme song–did I mention the music in this movie is fantastic?) gives way to a child waking up suddenly from a sound sleep. The child is Bastian (Barrett Oliver) and he has been dreaming about his dead mother again.
Bastian is a dreamer, but his father (Gerald McRaney) wants him to “start keeping both feet on the ground,” and “start facing [his] problems.” For Bastian, these problems include three bullies (Drum Garrett, Darryl Cooksey, Nicholas Gilbert), who throw him in a dumpster when they find out he has no lunch money to give them.
Climbing out of the dumpster, he only escapes their wrath a second time by ducking into an old bookstore, run by a man named Koreander (Thomas Hill), who tells him that the book he is reading is different from the ones that Bastian has read.
“The ones you read, are safe,” he says.
He adds, “This book, is not for you.”
So, of course, Bastian takes the book.
Late for school, he grabs the key to the school’s attic and begins reading about the land of Fantasia, which is slowly being destroyed by the Nothing. Worse still, the Empress (Tami Stronach) is dying. A warrior, Atreyu (Noah Hathaway), is sent for to find a cure for the Empress and to stop the Nothing. Sent to stop him is the Gmork, a fearsome wolf-like creature.
As Bastian continues to read the story, he gets the sneaky suspicion that this book IS different from other books he has read…
Although this movie is geared for children, it really is a story for adults, and for adolescents who are slowly becoming adults. Children do not have to be reminded to hang on to their hopes and dreams, but as they age, their hopes and dreams begin to slip away. And as the Gmork points out, people who have no hopes can be easily controlled.
When I saw this as a child, the Gmork’s sudden appearances scared the crap out of me. Now that I’m older, I realize that that was intentional, for the Gmork IS fear. In the absence of hope, we are controlled by our fears. If Atreyu fears, then the Gmork wins, and Fantasia is lost to the Nothing.
In today’s environment, where fear seems to be winning out against rational thought, and imagination seems to be lacking from most movies (Miyazaki’s movies being the most prominent exception), a movie like The Neverending Story is needed more than ever. Sure, some of the shots are held for too short a period of time, and yes, the story flies by a little too quickly (the film is a speedy 94 minutes, though the original German version is longer), but it has splendid visuals, a wonderful soundtrack (different from the German version–but really, I can’t imagine it with any other music), and a great message. Plus, it has the best revenge scene in the history of movies. 🙂
(Interesting fact: The movie is based on the book Unendliche Geschichte by Michael Ende, which translates as “Neverending Story.” Apparently, he was unhappy with the movie version and would not allow his name to be shown in the opening credits.)