WHEN: 7:39 am EST, February 8th, 2013
WHERE: In the living room of my apartment in Portland, ME
FORMAT: Blu-Ray on a Vizio 32″ LED HDTV
PHYSICAL AND MENTAL STATE: Chilly, but excited for a snow day. I’m still in my pajamas and curled up in a cocoon to combat the cold. The snow is falling and everything is quiet and peaceful.
REACTIONS OF NOTE:
- My return to Blu-Ray isn’t that spectacular. Any footage used for visual effects (primarily Falkor flying) looks gritty. Everything else got scrubbed up but not those.
- The humor in The NeverEnding Story is nearly non-existent. The few examples are vaudevillian and almost out of place. Maybe someone thought that the kiddies needed some laughs to break up the grim atmosphere.
- Bastian locks himself in the attic. He brings the key in with him. I know he wants some alone time, but what if there was an emergency? Or, maybe, like, a teacher really needed a stuffed wolf’s head?
“Mr. Wolf is here today to help us understand linear equations.”
- I know it’s early in the year, but I’m thinking I might be the Childlike Empress for Halloween. I could rock that pearl headpiece.
- I hope Bastian made some practical wishes, like wishing that his dad didn’t notice he was missing for an entire day.
It’s nearly Valentine’s Day! It’s the holiday that celebrates hetero-normative, monogamous love with superficial gifts and shallow gestures. I want to stamp my feet in frustration every time the internet has an ad encouraging men to get that special lady the perfect item. Flowers wilt, chocolate makes her fat, jewelry is akin to a bride price, and a spa day is to keep her looking pretty. I feel sympathy for the men who are the targets and being sold this crap while also feeling offended by the hetero-centrism. So much dumb. Love isn’t about material possessions. Love doesn’t need one day to make itself known. Love is a fantastic thing not to be marketed. So, thankfully, in the midst of my loathing, I have found solace in The NeverEnding Story.
The NeverEnding Story is a fantasy tale without a traditional romance. There is no muscle-laden hero saving an ample-bosomed maiden. There’s no final kiss to a swelling orchestra. There’s no passionate declarations or deeds of derring-do to win the heart of a lady. And I like it that way. The NeverEnding Story focuses on the adventure, the quest, because that’s the most important thing to be done. Literally. If Atreyu gets side-tracked by love, then Fantasia is screwed and everybody dies a horrible death.
There is one traditional couple in the entire film: Engywook and Urgl.
The face of love needs a good dentist.
The two (gnomes?) are played for laughs. They bicker and boss each other around, but there’s some evidence of a companionship. First, they are both learned (dwarves?). Engywook is a scientist who has been studying the Southern Oracle for a century. Urgl is a doctor. She brews medicine and even gives Falkor a shot with a syringe. So, the two (brownies?) seem to be professionals who have chosen to spend this chapter of their lives focused on Engywook’s scientific endeavors. Urgl assists as needed, but seems happier attending to potions. This couple appears committed and, from their familiar jeering, intimate. They are at least friends. There are not clues to any passion being present and I, frankly, don’t want to think about it if there is. This is a kid’s movie, after all.
Compared to Engywook and Urgl, Atreyu shows more affection for Artax. In fact, the only “I love you” in the movie is Atreyu trying to save Artax from the Swamps of Sadness. Atreyu tries to remind Artax of the things the horse can be happy about. Before Artax’s death, we see that the two share a friendly intimacy and a quiet companionship. Falkor never replaces that position. He is a fun acquaintance who is also convenient for Atreyu’s journey.
Back in the ordinary world, Bastian’s familial relationships are not completely clear. He thinks that his mother had a wonderful name and we know that he has dreams about her. These could both be symptoms of Bastian’s grief over her death. The love for his mother may seem larger to him in retrospect. Bastian’s father is distant with Bastian. Gerald McRaney needs to step up on the parenting. His morning pep talk always leaves me frustrated. However, this may also be the result of the death of Bastian’s mom. We also have no indication what state the relationship between Bastian’s mom and dad was. Maybe they loved each other or maybe they went through a bitter divorce. The lack of clues certainly does not help in analyzing the love between any members of this family.
Side note: Bastian’s nose is never properly returned. Nice going, Dad.
Usually, the fantasy genre thrives on romantic tropes, but not in this case. Rather, the traditional romantic love is subverted. The love that dominates the film comes in a different form. Fantasia is the stand-in for the traditional romantic interest. Fantasia is the prototypical damsel in distress. The greatest fear in The NeverEnding Story is that Fantasia will be obliterated by the Nothing. It is up to Atreyu, the great warrior, to save his world. Bastian vicariously joins Atreyu in these feelings of attachment for Fantasia. Fantasia becomes loved. Fantasia is what needs saving. And, by association, humans are what are loved and need saving since Fantasia is the embodiment of people’s hopes and dreams. Humans are the ultimate receivers of this love through Fantasia’s salvation.
One could argue that the Childlike Empress, being the physical embodiment of Fantasia, is the romantic maiden to save. However, her role is more than a MacGuffin. The Childlike Empress has known about Atreyu’s journey and the solution to her illness from the beginning. She is not what needs saving, but a means to salvation. She is the knowledge-keeper of the truth about Fantasia. As a virginal sage, her role is to provide Bastian with the confidence to follow his dreams, not to be the object of misguided passions. She is loved in the way that Fantasia as a place is loved. There is commitment and intimacy, a love of true companions, but not romance.
The NeverEnding Story thrives without a traditional hero-damsel romance. The focus is the journey and the love for Fantasia. I doubt Bastian, as a young boy, would be interested in a romance and the movie’s target audience would probably agree. Idealism about love and romance has its place, but I find it to be an unnecessary part of life. Realism about relationships (romantic, familial, etc.) can be just as rewarding and create the same gooey feelings in your aorta. For me, The NeverEnding Story still maintains a sense of romanticism without shoving love down my gullet. It’s a refreshing break from the Valentine’s Day frenzy.