Movies That Ruined My Childhood: The NeverEnding Story
The NeverEnding Story is a timeless tale all about… nothing. The Nothing, to be precise. I’ve turned around and looked at what I saw, now I’ll share why what I saw ruined my childhood.
The NeverEnding Story is one of those classics that has holds up pretty well. As long as you don’t count the title song, performed by Limhal, the colorfully coiffed lead singer of Kajagoogoo. Practical effects are back in vogue, and the animatronic creatures on display here are varied and full of character. Two of the three child actors are serviceable, a ratio that satisfies the Meatloaf accord. The plot (in both worlds) is solid and fairly timeless. All in all it’s a good film, one that respects its audience.
But this is “Movies That Ruined My Childhood” not “Nate’s stroll down memory lane”, so let’s get down to the parts of this movie that made most men run away screaming!
The NeverEnding Story (1984)
Bastian is boy who’d like to escape. One day while hiding from the local bullies, Bastian comes across an old book shop with a stodgy shopkeeper. There he is warned about one particular book… so he promptly scampers off with it. The book tells the tale of Fantasia, a land in peril. A destructive force called The Nothing is erasing the land, and their chosen warrior Atreyu must find a way to halt it.
As the story progresses, Bastian uses the story to come to grips with the hardships in his life. To confront his own demons, he’ll have to muster up the courage to become the hero of his own story.
(The) Nothing Else Matters
The 80’s seemed like the decade that transitioned from programming that at least made a cursory attempt at treating children like thinking proto-humans towards empty calories for kids to guzzle through their eye-holes. While early 80’s fare was certainly not perfect, it at least tried as often as not. The trade off for this was stories that could be darker than a black steer’s tuchus on a moonless prairie night.
The NeverEnding Story was definitely that. It addressed many darker aspects of adolescence, from bullying to the often painful transition between youth and adult society. There is some bloodshed, albeit of the giant wolf variety. There was even an fairly famous gaffe where one of the early characters swore and it made it into many of the final releases. Lastly, this film tackled depression and self esteem nearly every chance it could.
The Nothing was literally apathy made manifest. Then there was the trials of the sphinxes, where ones self image was pitted against the truth of their nature. And finally, Atreyu loses his horse in one of the saddest scenes in children’s programming. Not content with just a giant storm-cloud of depression, Fantasia also had a “Swamp of Sadness”. While Atreyu tries to navigate the muck, his horse slowly loses the will to live. To add insult to injury, the swamp ordeal is punctuated with a “suck it up, buttercup” conversation between Atreyu and a snotty tortoise.
The hero’s journey is often a torturous test of physical stamina, but The NeverEnding Story wanted to remind children that the emotional cost was usually worse. I guess I should have known that this was a German film.
The Nothing Will Stop at Nothing (Spoilers!)
The final knock on this otherwise solid film is that it begat two horrendous children’s movies. We hate pointless cash-in sequels. A lot. The two straight to VHS monstrosities that came after The NeverEnding Story would make you want to find a patch of muck right next to Atreyu’s horse. The studio execs must have taken that whole never ending thing literally.
Considering the mush-mouthed manner in which Bastion shouts the magic name that save Fantasia, I guess a few people might have been tricked into returning. If only to find out the Child-Like Empresses’ real name. I’ve watched the orginal movie at least a dozen times growing up, and I couldn’t tell you what he blurts out at the end if it was the difference between life and “death by Gmork”.
We’ll end this tale with a Fun (well, not really) Fact: the actor who played Atreyu nearly died twice while filming this, and almost lost his eye in a third stunt. So apparently I’m not the only child whose childhood was ruined by The NeverEnding Story.