WHEN: 6:28 pm EST, July 29th, 2013
WHERE: The living room of my apartment in Portland
FORMAT: Blu-Ray on a Vizio 32″ LED HDTV
PHYSICAL AND MENTAL STATE: Feeling accomplished. I got a bunch of shit done today. I’m looking forward to doing a viewing.
I’m not a fantasy-type person. Elves and talking animals just don’t hold my interest unless it’s a myth or folk tale. The NeverEnding Story is pure fantasy fiction. There are dragons and talking rock monsters. There are little people who ride snails and ageless rulers. But what if this entire tale was in space?
The cover promised me space, dammit!
Or maybe in the future? Does The NeverEnding Story work as a sci-fi epic? Or is it better suited to its fantastical roots? The answer is yes. And no. I spent my viewing imagining how elements of The NeverEnding Story could fit into the sci-fi genre and if the result was cohesive enough to be its own film. Turns out, it all depends on how you define “science fiction.”
The science fiction genre is actually divided into two camps: Star Wars and Star Trek. I’m not talking about these franchises specifically (though don’t ask a Trekkie if he’s ever ridden a dewback), but about what each one represents. Star Wars is science fantasy. It deals with a princess who needs some help destroying the bad guy. The Force is magic trying to be scientifically explained by bad writing in the prequels. But before midi-chlorians, the Force is just an analogy for magic, but in space! Obi-Wan Kenobi is a wizard who takes on Luke as his apprentice. Luke must face the dreaded Empire and stand up for those who cannot fight for themselves. We could be talking about an Arthurian legend at this point. But that was George Lucas’ goal. He wanted to reuse archetypes and channel the monomyth to make a film that was universally appealing and visually ahead of its time. And he succeeded.
Luke is pretty ripped for a moisture farmer from Tatooine.
Star Trek is science science fiction. Yes, you read “science” twice. Star Trek questions the future of our society as well as what technology will bring to the world. Star Trek imagines a future where the people of Earth have become one society free from violence, capitalism, and diseases. Humanity has risen above its savage past and is prepared to look to the stars for a greater understanding of man’s place in the universe. Plus, there’s cool shit like holodecks, food replicators, warp speed, and transporters.
To reduce the fear of every atom in your body being ripped apart, just add glitter!
Star Trek and other fiction of its ilk question how humans will handle the inevitable changes that technology brings. Whether it’s ending world hunger or manufacturing photon torpedoes, will we grow into something more sophisticated or will we end up destroying ourselves? Star Wars is about adventure within a technological world that doesn’t have to follow the rules of science because it’s the future, dumbass. Things work just because, so stop worrying and focus on the characters.
The NeverEnding Story fits into the science fantasy genre the easiest. Specifically, the book in the film would make a great story by substituting in spaceships, aliens, and different planets. Atreyu is summoned from his home world to help find the only cure for the Empress. The great Oracle has said that he is the only one. He flies away in his sentient ship, Artax, to search the galaxy for the cure. The rest easily writes itself. Atreyu searches different planets, asking wise aliens for assistance while being hunted down by the evil G’mork. Falkor could be a Space Dragon or a living ship. The Southern Oracle would make an awesome supercomputer that was guarded so that it would not fall into nefarious hands. The Nothing could be a huge, unseen army or a manufactured black hole destroying the Fantasian empire, leaving a great void where planets once were. If just the book was adapted into a sci-fi epic, then The NeverEnding Story could easily be set in space. It’s the ordinary world that poses the biggest problems.
Not a single flying car.
Bastian’s ordinary world fits in better with the Star Trek model of science fiction. If Bastian’s world was given the future treatment, but the book was left as it was, then the meta elements and the themes of reading and dreaming wouldn’t be lost either. The book that Bastian “reads” could be a virtual reality simulation or a holodeck program. Or Bastian could be a kid who likes to read traditional books rather than electronic ones. The point is that Bastian’s world could be as wackily futuristic as possible, but once he discovers The Neverending Story, his world changes forever. If it was a computer program of some sort, then the meta twist would be similar to that of The Matrix. Bastian thinks that he’s living in the real world, but there’s another one lurking just beyond his periphery. There’s a band of rebels and The Neverending Story is the gateway to finding those ready to enter true reality.
“What the hell? This book didn’t come with any pills.”
The NeverEnding Story would be cool with spaceships and aliens, but these elements wouldn’t serve to improve the film or its themes. (It’s meta twist, however, is reminiscent of The Twilight Zone.) Bastian could read a book about Atreyu the space warrior, but the futuristic elements would spoil the unknown origins of the book. The Neverending Story is mysterious and ageless. As a world made from people’s hopes and dreams, Fantasia makes more sense inhabited by creatures from folklore. Hobgoblins, dragons, and monsters materialize from our collective unconscious, creating a world that’s not so unfamiliar. The NeverEnding Story remains best suited as a fantasy film adaptation of a fantasy novel.