(1984) dir. Wolfgang Petersen
Part two of my 1980’s Fantasy double feature was The NeverEnding Story, which came out when I was 15 and developing cynicism for such things, especially such things with such godforsaken theme song by Limahl (singer of the 1980’s band Kajagoogoo for anyone too young to know or care). I never saw it, or any of its much later sequels.
Oddly enough, it is a rather charming film, despite its heinous theme song. There has been of late, particularly recently, a revival of appreciation for non-digital effects in films. This film features a fairly broad spectrum of fantastical characters, all rendered in animatroics and make-up, rather than by the modern computer effects. Clearly, the computer effects are not quite so hokey. But then again, these designs are pretty lovingly created and unusual and effective in their own right.
The narrative, adapted from a book of the same title (a German book apparently), is a fairly specific note of self-reflection. It’s about the fantasy land that exists when people use their imagination and believe. And all that is lost when imagination is diminished (no one reads or fantasizes). A film about the beauty of reading. Moderately ironic. Still, well…it’s got a lower level of redemption when you dig into the meat of it. But the reality of the story and direction and design is really not half-bad. It’s not a whole lot more than half-good, but it certainly has its merits.
Fantasy films are currently being cranked out based on books with some intensity. From the Harry Potter films, which started this latest foray, to The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005) and this year’s Stardust and The Golden Compass, there is such a big emphasis on either trilogies or series, franchises. The whole endeavor, even when well-cast and well-executed, like the Lord of the Rings films, still have a lack of integrity at some level. Okay, maybe that is going too far. I think that Peter Jackson’s films originated from a sincere place. But the rest of it is all about genre franchise, which in some ways, is as hollow at the McDonalds franchises that market their paraphernalia.
That said, I bet they tried that with this film in its day, too. The sophistication wasn’t as complete yet. But I am sure it was there.