Throwback Thursday Review: “The Neverending Story” Trilogy (Part 1: 1984, Part 2: 1990, Part 3: 1994)

 

 
Overview
 

Title:

Part 1 - Written by: Michael Ende, Herman Weigel, and Wolfgang Petersen

Directed by: Wolfgang Petersen

Starring: Barret Oliver, Noah Hathaway, Sydney Bromley, and Tami Stronach

Rated: PG

Run time: 102 minutes

Reviewed by: Michael Melton

Part 2 - Written by: Michael Ende (novel) and Karin Howard

Directed by: George Miller

Starring: Jonathan Brandis, Kenny Morrison, Clarissa Burt, and Alexandra Johnes

Rated: PG

Runt time: 89 minutes

Part 3 - Written by: Karin Howard and Jeff Lieberman

Directed by: Peter MacDonald

Starring: Jason James Richter, Melody Kay, Jack Black, and Julie Cox

Rated: G

Run time: 115 minutes

 
Reviewed By:
 
Direction
7.0


 
Acting
6.0


 
Plot
7.0


 
Execution
7.0


 
Total Score
6.8


User Rating
no ratings yet

 


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Posted August 11, 2016 by

 
Full Article
 
 

The Neverending Story poster

That’s right, ladies and gents! I spent my entire day today, watching all three of the “Neverending Story” movies, and now I am here to give you my thoughts and feelings. As I have never done a review on an entire trilogy before, I have decided on a format of all three movie reviews being on the same page and the ratings posted above will be a combined score, for the whole trilogy. Because my opinions on each film are very differing, I will also give a 1-10 score for each individual film, at the bottom of the review.

Let’s start in the beginning, shall we? “The Neverending Story” was a HUGE part of my childhood. I was known by parents, friends, and teachers to be a kid with an overactive imagination and, like most kids with that disposition, I was obsessed with fantastical stories of any kind (and any medium). Books, movies, comics, and every inch of my house and back yard were my mind’s playground. When I found one of these things that strongly resonated with me, I would read/watch it until I could recite every detail of the story (much to the dismay of my dear parents). “The Neverending Story” was one such movie. It came out when I was only three years old, so I missed it in theaters, but my mom taped it for me on VHS and, for a short time, it took the place of “Star Wars” as what I would refer to as my favorite movie.

The Neverending story 2Bastian (Barret Oliver) is going through a tough time. His mother has passed away, his father doesn’t quite know how to help comfort him, and the kids at school bully him. His only respite, from the grief he is trying to process and the difficulties he faces, is the stories told in the books he constantly has his nose in.

When he unknowingly stumbles into a bookstore, owned by a mysterious old man (Thomas Hill), he comes across a book about a magical kingdom called Fantasia. As he reads, he finds that Fantasia is on the brink of destruction, because of a seemingly unstoppable force called “The Nothing”. Fantasia’s leader, the Childlike Empress, has also fallen ill and the kingdom has asked a boy hero named Atreyu (Noah Hathaway) to find a cure and help defeat the nothingness that threatens their world. Little does Bastian know that he and his imagination are the key to saving everything he is reading about.

The world of Fantasia is a beautiful work of fantasy. From the mossy, rock-covered terrain to the incredible creatures that live there, there is no shortage of wonderment and creativity here. As long as I live, I will never forget the Rock biter, or Falkor the luck dragon, or the evil wolf G’mork. Even watching it, as an adult, I felt whisked away to a magical place that was created with careful attention to every detail. Both ends of the story are well done as well. While it is easy to be hypnotized by the fantasy side of the story, the real emotional heavy lifting is done on the reality side. Bastian needs to learn how to be brave in the face of sadness, and he does so through the adventure in the book. That portrayal of a child who’s ability to imagine and believe in magic is what saves him from the pain of loss was something that probably escaped me as a kid, but really stood out to me, watching it as an adult.

The Neverending Story movie image

“The Neverending Story” is, in my opinion, about the closest thing to a perfect family, fantasy film as there is. Considering it came from a time (the 80s) that produced a slew of decent to great kid/family movies, that I love and adore, it is really impressive that it stands out to me as possibly the best one. I revisit it often and will always have a special place in my heart for it.

Rating: 9/10

 

 

 

The Neverending Story 2 poster

 

Six years after the original film came out, a sequel was made. “The Neverending Story” was back, and I was more than a little stoked to see it! It had none of the original cast and, unfortunately, very little of the imaginative brilliance of the original. Barret Oliver was replaced by Jonathan Brandis, the nothing was replaced by… get this… the emptiness, and the terrifying G’mork was replaced by Xayide (Clarissa Burt), who looked like a Scooby Doo villain brought to life.

neverending story 2 2I remember seeing the sequel, for the first time, and thinking “I like it, but not as much as I wanted to.”. That was still the case, as I watched it today, for the first time in a long, long time. It just lacks the magic of the original. Not for lack of effort though. I mean there are some cool moments in part 2. The “Giants”, which are basically hug lobsters that stand upright and have razor sharp saws that come out of their claws, are pretty cool. Also, I like the idea the creators used, of having Bastian lose a memory, of his life on Earth, every time he used the Auryn to make a wish.

For each of those positives there are multiple negatives though, and that is what ultimately kept me from really enjoying part 2, both now and when I was a kid. First, there is Atreyu. In the first film, Noah Hathaway portrayed Atreyu as a strong, brave, and kind warrior who would sacrifice himself for the greater good. In part 2, Atreyu is played by Kenny Morrison who is dressed up like he is wearing a native American Halloween costume. He is mostly in the background, without a lot to say, and, when he does speak, it is usually to whine at Bastian about the danger they are in.

Then there is Nimbly… good god what a mistake by the production team. He looks like Big Bird and Howard the duck had a crack baby, and that is putting it nicely. His voice is also one of the more unbearable things in the film (outside of Rock biter Jr. who I will get to in the part 3 segment of this review). Basically, you can sum up part 2, by saying that it has a few bright spots, but overall they took each of the best things about the original and replaced them with something less awesome. It’s a shame too, because you can tell a lot of money and time were spent on what could have been a massive blockbuster hit.

Rating: 5.5/10

The Neverending Story 3 poster

Well… If the first one is brilliant, and the second is decent, the third one is a complete abomination. Once again, there is a new director, a new Bastian, a new everyone else, AND what once was the nothing, and then was the emptiness, is now… the nasty?! The nasties is also the name of a gang of eighth year senior bullies, led by Slip (Jack Black), who chase Bastian until he decides to use the book, to escape to Fantasia.

I had actually never seen the third installment, before today. Now, having watched it, I am glad I hadn’t seen it before. It may have damaged my love of fantasy franchises. Basically everything is wrong with “The Neverending Story III: Return to Fantasia”. Bastian is played by Jason James Richter, who had just burst onto the Hollywood scene the year before, in “Free Willy”. He is fine, and Jack Black does the best he can with what he is given, but everything else about the movie is depressingly bad.

neverending story 3 2The creative minds, behind part three, made a large number of unfortunate changes. They got rid of Atreyu completely, opting instead to have Bastian accompanied by a talking tree that is essentially an unfunny Rodney Dangerfield. They also made Falkor sound like he got hit on the head a number of times, and look like he then developed a crack habit. If those things weren’t awful enough, there’s the Rock Biter’s kid… Junior. The rock toddler repeatedly screws things up and talks in baby speak until the viewer wants to rip their own ears off. Junior gets more screen time than pretty much any other character in the film, besides Bastian, and I have no idea why. The only thing I can come up with is that the creators thought that adding a stupid, whiny baby rock biter would somehow attract a younger audience, but it backfires horribly.

So Bastian goes to Fantasia, and before you know it, Slip and his gang discover the book and begin using it to bring nastiness to Fantasia. The Not-so-childlike Empress (Julie Cox) tells Bastian he has to go back, and get the book out of the nasties’ evil clutches, before Fantasia is brought down by the nastiness. When Bastian travels back to the earth dimension, the bark troll, Falkor, and Junior all accidentally go with him. As one might expect, this results in far too many puns and a whole lot of mind-numbing gags, involving the Fantasians bumbling around the city and experiencing the miracle that is shopping at the mall.

So yeah… there is literally NOTHING good to sat about “The Neverending Story III”, and I suggest you all stay far, far away from it. I guess it is sort of funny in a depressing, childhood destroying, I can’t believe this actually got made way. Still, spend your time wisely and just watch the first film (and maybe the second).

Rating: 2/10


MikeD

 


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