The NeverEnding Story is a 1984 German-American epic fantasy film based on the novel of the same name written by Michael Ende. The film was 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 Falkor and Gmork. At the time of its release, it was the most expensive film produced outside the USA or the USSR. It was then followed by two sequels: The NeverEnding Story II: The Next Chapter and The NeverEnding Story III: Escape From Fantasia.
Bastian Bux (Barret Oliver), a quiet boy who loves to read, is accosted by bullies on his way to school. He hides in a bookstore, interrupting the grumpy bookseller, Mr. Koreander (Thomas Hill). Bastian asks about one of the books he sees, but Mr. Koreander warns him it is “not safe.” Nevertheless, Bastian “borrows” the book, leaving a note promising to return it, and races towards school. He then hides in the school’s attic to begin reading The Neverending Story.
The book describes the fantasy world of Fantasia which is being threatened by a force called “The Nothing,” a void of darkness that consumes everything. The Childlike Empress (Tami Stronach), who rules over Fantasia from the Ivory Tower, has fallen ill due to the Nothing, and she has summoned Atreyu (Noah Hathaway), a young warrior from the Plains People, to discover the means to end the Nothing. Atreyu is given AURYN, a medallion to protect and guide him. As Atreyu sets out, the Nothing summons Gmork (voiced by Alan Oppenheimer), a vicious, but highly intelligent wolf-like beast, to kill Atreyu.
Atreyu’s quest directs him to an ancient being called Morla that resides in the Swamps of Sadness. Though AURYN protects Atreyu from its effects, his beloved horse Artax is lost to the swamp. Atreyu continues through the swamp, and is surprised when Morla reveals itself as a giant tortoise-like being. Bastian, reading, is also surprised and lets out a scream; when he continues reading, Bastian is curious that Atreyu and Morla appeared to have heard his scream. Morla does not have the answers Arteyu seeks, but directs him to the Southern Oracle, many thousands of miles distant.
Atreyu attempts to trek through the Swamps but even AURYN cannot protect him indefinitely. Atreyu blacks out, but awakens, clean and restored, next to the luckdragon Falkor (voiced by Alan Oppenheimer), who had rescued Atreyu at the last minute and brought him to the Southern Oracle. Two gnomes who helped restore Atreyu explain what they know about the Oracle, including the trials that one must face before reaching it. As the Darkness nears, Atreyu completes one trial and is perplexed when the second trial, a mirror that shows the viewer’s true self, reveals a boy matching Bastian’s description sitting in an attic reading a book. Bastian recoils in shock and throws the book aside, but cautiously continues reading after setting up candles in the darkened attic. Atreyu, past the trials, stands before the Oracle, who tells him the only way to save the Princess is to find a human child to give her a new name, but such a child can only be obtained beyond the boundaries of Fantasia. Atreyu and Falkor flee before the Nothing consumes the Oracle.
The two try to locate the boundary of Fantasia, but the power of the Nothing has grown, and Atreyu is knocked from Falkor’s back into the Sea of Possibilities, losing AURYN in the process. He wakes up on the shore of an abandoned town, and as he explores, he finds a series of wall paintings describing his quest to the present, including one of him facing against Gmork. Gmork reveals himself, and explains that Fantasia is humanity’s hopes and dreams, but that the Nothing, which represents human apathy, cynicism, and the denial of childish dreams, eats away at it. The beast then attacks as the Nothing starts to consume the town; Atreyu is able to kill Gmork with a sharp rock. Atreyu fights against the pull of the Nothing, but as he gives out, Falkor arrives to save him, having found AURYN earlier.
When Atreyu recovers, he finds they are flying in a black void with the only remnants of Fantasia floating around. Fearing his quest has failed, Atreyu is elated when the Ivory Tower appears. After landing, Atreyu races to see the Empress and apologizes for his failure. To his surprise, the Empress declares that he was successful, as he has brought the human child, Bastian, with him through his adventure. As the Nothing starts to consume the Ivory Tower, the Princess pleas directly to Bastian to give her her new name before it is too late. Bastian races to the attic windows and shouts the name “Moonchild” before the wind outside extinguishes the candles and sends the room into darkness.
Bastian finds himself in a black void with the Empress. She shows him a single grain of sand, the last remaining part of Fantasia, but insists that Bastian’s imagination, through the power of wishing, can restore Fantasia from it. After a moment’s thought, Bastian wishes for the restoration of the land, and finds himself riding Falkor over the restored Fantasia, including Atreyu reunited with Artax. Bastian whispers into Falkor’s ear; in the real world, the bullies that had chased down Bastian at the start suddenly find themselves being chased by Bastian and Falkor. A narrator states that Bastian had many more wishes and adventures, but those are tales “for another time”.
Learn more about the concepts, principles and symbolism behind the subliminals found in this film:
First Published: Apr 22, 2012 – Re-Published: May 23, 2013