Reach the stars, fly a fantasy
Dream a dream, and what you see will be-eh, yeah, yeah, yeah-eh
Rhymes that keep their secrets, will unfold behind the clouds
And there upon the rainbow is the answer to a Neverending story-eeh
The Neverending Story is a classic tale of fantasy and adventure, a beautiful family film that provides thrills, humor, deep themes and magic.
A young boy Bastian (Barret Oliver), who has recently lost his mother, is getting bullied by a group of kids. One day on the way to school, Bastian ducks inside an old bookstore to avoid the bullies chasing him. Inside, he meets an old man who shows him a book that is meant to be more than what it was. Bastian sneaked away with the book and found a deserted building to read it.
In the story, he discovers a land called Fantasia that is slowly being taken over by the Nothing and the leaders of Fantasia has recruited a mighty warrior by the name of Atreyu (Noah Hathaway), who turns out to be a kid, and they send Atreyu on an adventure to save the Princess, who was dying from the Nothing.
This adventure becomes majorly meta for Bastian as he learns the importance of imagination and daydreams, something he has been told to stop doing.
The movie is truly wonderful. Yes, visually, it looks like a 1980’s movie, but actually the practical effects involved here are part of the film’s charm. The creatures and the sets are masterfully imagined and designed. There is a realness to most of the movie that is sometimes missing in the big green screen epics of CGI today.
Barret Oliver does a really solid job as Bastian. Some of his reactions as he reads through the book are well done. Some may be over the top as well, but he is solid enough to keep the narrative going.
Noah Hathaway is a good looking young boy for the role of Atreyu. He does get a little whiny at times with his voice. but I am guessing that he is directed to do so. However, there is no denying… this kid had some magical hair. One scene he turned from the camera and his hair flowed like the mane of a lion. It was epic.
Then the film pulled out the tissues for us early on as Atreyu was trying to get his way through the Swamp of Sadness with his horse Artax. You have to have a heart of stone to not be affected by this scene. It came out of nowhere but it does a great job of setting up the difficulties that Atreyu would be facing while being a metaphor for depression and how dangerous it can be for individuals.
The Neverending Story was a beautiful story with all kinds of emotional beats in it. The young actors do a decent job and deliver when they need to. The tale is remarkably meta, although the ending when Bastian uses Falkor the Luck Dragon to get revenge on the bullies who had dumped him in the dumpster may not have been the most evolved message to give.