Taglines: A boy who needs a friend finds a world that needs a hero in a land beyond imagination!
Bastian is a young boy who lives a dreary life being tormented by school bullies. On one such occasion he escapes into a book shop where the old proprieter reveals an ancient story-book to him, which he is warned can be dangerous. Shortly after, he “borrows” the book and begins to read it in the school attic where he is drawn into the mythical land of Fantasia, which desperately needs a hero to save it from destruction.
The NeverEnding Story (German: Die unendliche Geschichte) is a 1984 West German-produced English language epic fantasy film based on the novel of the same name by Michael Ende, about a boy who reads a magical book that tells a story of a young warrior whose task is to stop a dark storm called the Nothing from engulfing a fantasy world.
The film was produced by Bernd Eichinger and Dieter Giessler and directed and co-written by Wolfgang Petersen (his first English-language film) and starred Barret Oliver, Noah Hathaway, Tami Stronach, Moses Gunn, Thomas Hill; and Alan Oppenheimer as the voices of both Falkor and Gmork (as well as other characters). At the time of its release, it was the most expensive film produced outside the United States or the Soviet Union. The film was the first in The NeverEnding Story film series and later followed by two sequels.
Ende felt that this adaptation’s content deviated so far from the spirit of his book that he requested that production either be halted or the film’s title be changed; when the producers did neither, he sued them and subsequently lost the case. Ende called the film a “gigantic melodrama of kitsch, commerce, plush and plastic”. The film only adapts the first half of the book, and consequently does not convey the message of the title as it was portrayed in the novel. The second half of the book would subsequently be used as the rough basis for the second film, The Next Chapter. The third film, Escape from Fantasia, features a completely original plot.
About the Story
Bastian Balthazar Bux is a shy and friendless bibliophile 12-year-old, teased by bullies from school. On his way to school, he hides from the bullies in a bookstore, interrupting the grumpy bookseller, Mr. Coreander. Bastian asks about one of the books he sees, but Mr. Coreander advises against it. His curiosity piqued, Bastian seizes the book, leaving a note promising to return it, and hides in the school’s attic to read.
The book describes the world of Fantasia slowly being devoured by a force called “The Nothing”. Fantasia’s ruler, the Childlike Empress, has fallen ill, and Atreyu is tasked to discover the cure, believing that once the Empress is well, the Nothing will no longer be a threat. Atreyu is given a medallion named the AURYN that can guide and protect him in the quest. As Atreyu sets out, the Nothing summons Gmork, a vicious and highly intelligent wolf-like creature, to kill Atreyu.
Atreyu’s quest directs him to the advisor Morla the Ancient One in the Swamps of Sadness. Though the AURYN protects Atreyu, his beloved horse Artax is lost to the swamp, and he continues alone. Later, Atreyu is surprised by the sudden appearance of Morla, a giant turtle. Bastian, reading, is also surprised and lets out a scream, which Atreyu and Morla appear to hear. Morla does not have the answers Atreyu seeks, but directs him to the Southern Oracle, ten thousand miles distant. Atreyu succumbs to exhaustion trying to escape the Swamps but is saved by the luckdragon Falkor (voiced by Alan Oppenheimer).
Falkor takes him to the home of two gnomes that live near the entrance to the Southern Oracle. The gnomes explain that Atreyu will face various trials before reaching the Oracle. Atreyu proceeds to enter the Oracle, and is perplexed when one second trial, a mirror that shows the viewer’s true self, reveals a boy which Bastian recognizes as himself. Bastian throws the book aside, but after catching his breath, continues to read. Atreyu eventually meets the Southern Oracle who tells him the only way to save the Empress is to find a human child to give her a new name, beyond the boundaries of Fantasia.
Atreyu and Falkor flee before the Nothing consumes the Southern Oracle. In flight, Atreyu is knocked from Falkor’s back into the Sea of Possibilities, losing the AURYN in the process. He wakes on the shore of the abandoned ruins, where he meets Rock Biter, who laments the loss of his friends. Atreyu finds a series of paintings depicting his quest. Gmork reveals himself, having been lying in wait and explains that Fantasia represents humanity’s imagination, and that the Nothing represents adult apathy and cynicism against it.
Atreyu fends off and kills Gmork as the Nothing begins to consume the ruins. Falkor, who had managed to locate AURYN, rescues Atreyu in time. The two find themselves in a void with only small fragments of Fantasia remaining, and fear they have failed when they spot the Empress’s Ivory Tower among the fragment. Inside, Atreyu apologizes for failing the Empress, but she assures him he has succeeded in bringing to her a human child who has been following his quest. As the Nothing begins to consume the Tower, the Empress pleas directly to Bastian to call out her new name. Bastian calls out the name he had selected, and loses consciousness.
When he wakes, he finds himself in blackness with the Empress, with only a grain of sand, the last bit of Fantasia remaining. The Empress tells Bastian that he has the power to bring Fantasia back with his imagination using the power of the AURYN. Bastian re-creates Fantasia, and as he flies on Falkor’s back, he sees the land and its inhabitants restored, and that Atreyu has been reunited with Artax. When Falkor tells him he can wish for anything, Bastian then brings Falkor back to the real world to chase down the bullies from before. The film ends with the narration that Bastian had many more wishes and adventures, and adds: “but that’s another story”.
The NeverEnding Story (1984)
Directed by: Wolfgang Petersen
Starring: Noah Hathaway, Barret Oliver, Tami Stronach, Gerald McRaney, Patricia Hayes, Sydney Bromley, Moses Gunn, Limahl
Screenplay by: Wolfgang Petersen, Herman Weigel
Production Design by: Rolf Zehetbauer
Cinematography by: Jost Vacano
Film Editing by: Jane Seitz
Costume Design by: Count Ul De Rico, Diemut Remy
Set Decoration by: Rolf Zehetbauer
Art Direction by: Johann Kott, Herbert Strabel, Götz Weidner
Music by: Klaus Doldinger
Distributed by: Neue Constantin Film (West Germany), Warner Bros. Pictures (United States)
Release Date: April 6, 1984 (West Germany), July 20, 1984 (United States)