Last night I made the decision that Wump had enjoyed enough Disney movies and Looney Tunes cartoons to be ready for the next step.
Well, Doctor Who still proved slightly baffling to her, but she’s progressing. I decided she was ready for The Never-Ending Story.
The name may technically not be hyphenated, but under my roof it is.
This is one movie – holy shitballs it’s thirty-one years old – that has stood the test of time. Sure, it’s corny and the special effects are outdated, but the story is mad and crazy and as powerful today as it was – holy shitballs, thirty-one years ago.
I still felt that weird mingling of exasperation and sympathy and helpless kinship with Bastian and his running and whining and the crushing demands of his real life. I had a sudden flashback of seeing the dad in this film making a smoothie with a raw egg in it, and remembered trying to do it myself (the results, with no blender in our house, were predictable). I felt the weird rabbit-hole feeling as the bookstore owner left Bastian alone with the book, that book. That book that wasn’t like any other book, except I knew different. I knew that any other book could be like that. That was the point, wasn’t it?
I still got that weird cheated feeling when Bastian managed to wish everyone back from the dead. Yeah, that was convenient. I guess having a luck dragon with you really is the only way to go on a quest. Of course, I first saw this before the second movie added some context and creepiness to the plot-point, and long before I read the book that tied it all together and of which the movies were wacky, slightly simplistic echoes. I still got that too-easy disappointed vibe, but also the senseless, simple elation. And the what-the-fuck feeling when Bastian somehow makes it into the real world with Falcor. Or was that just an additional layer of imagination granted by the Empress?
Don’t get me wrong, it’s fantastic.
Yeah, I still felt much the same way about it all. The delight at the racing snail (so, what, is Deep Roy immortal? Why is nobody investigating this? Why is he not in a lab somewhere, being tested?). The fascination with all the creatures of the Empress’ court and Morla of Shell Mountain. The frantic terror and sympathy and sadness when Artax dies – not for the kid’s acting, which was amazing and horrible and heartbreaking, but for the horse.
This is what pant-shitting deathterror looked like to seven-year-old Hatboy.
I still get a deep chill from the Nothing.
Wump enjoyed it. I think she got the point, and she watched it all the way through. She wasn’t particularly bothered by the G’mork, as if she knew it was on the losing side. This is a girl with dragons in her soul, no crummy moth-eaten wolf sock puppet is going to scare her with bad rhetoric. She even asked, at the end when the Fantasians all came back, “what happened, were there two Atreyus?”
Ehh … sort of.
This is still a film worth watching. Its message about imagination and modern life hasn’t lost any of its power for being a warning three decades out of time – and more, if you count the book’s message. It’s still beautiful. It’s still the most vivid and well-constructed lesson you could hope to be taught.
Lose the ability to exist in that world, to imagine it and populate it with life, to add to it with your own creations, and not only will you never get it back again, but the world itself – every world – will be the sadder, greyer and smaller for your failure.
And a failure is nothing more or less than what it is. Abandoning imagination, fantasy, creativity and fancy, for any reason, is a horrible weakness. It’s the sign of a crippled mind. And to abandon Fantasia for the ridiculous reasons we’re told to do so as we’re growing up … that’s nothing less than a crime.