The NeverEnding Story II: The Next Chapter is a decent sequel. The acting is reasonable, the story is mildly interesting, and a lot is still based on the book. There are some problems to contend with, but if you had to watch it, you’d be entertained and not feel dirty for witnessing a mediocre film.

It’s acceptable to call this a sequel.

SYNOPSIS:

Bastian, still missing his mother and on rocky footing with his father (his name is Barney), is living life after saving Fantasia. His engineer father is dating a new woman, causing a larger rift between the two. Bastian wants to be on the swim team, but can’t find the courage to take the high dive.

Bastian’s swim team is hardcore.

Feeling a bit sad, he returns to Mr. Koreander’s shop looking for advice. What he finds is The Neverending Story, which Mr. Koreander (played by the same actor) explains that he can never read again even though there are new adventures written inside. Bastian takes the book (again) and begins an exciting new journey.

Once in Fantasia, Bastian discovers that the Childlike Empress is in trouble (again). There’s something evil happening (again) and it is up to him to find out what and to save Fantasia (again). Luckily, he meets up with his old friends Atreyu and Falkor. Unluckily, the evil sorceress Xayide sends her spy Nimbly.

Good makeup, good acting, creepy character.

Nimbly has been sent to make sure that Bastian makes as many wishes as he can. Xayide has a machine that drains Bastian’s memories every time he makes a wish so that he will forget his purpose and Xayide can control him and destroy the Childlike Empress. As Bastian loses more of his memories, he becomes paranoid and easily manipulated by Xayide.

Meanwhile, in the ordinary world, Bastian’s dad is on the search for his missing son. He finds The Neverending Story and confronts the cantankerous Koreander about Bastian’s disappearance. When the police get involved, Bastian’s dad looks like a crazy person because there’s no book store or irascible owner to confront.

Bookstores don’t want strange men just busting on in.

Bastian’s father begins reading the book and discovers that it’s magic. He cheers on his son as Bastian confronts his own insecurities. Eventually, since this is a happy family film, Bastian learns a lesson about himself while gaining confidence, saving Fantasia, and embracing the power of love. Once he makes it home, he and his father mend old fences and renew their relationship.

Awwwwwww.

WHAT WENT RIGHT:

Holy crap, let’s talk about a few set designs, because there is some surreal attention to detail and obvious love for the story. First, the kitchen. I’m sure that the set was just left over, but look at this:

Poor Man’s Mel Gibson continues the tradition of shitty dad.

It’s the same fucking kitchen! I was freaking out and yelling all about this when it came on the screen. Seeing the same kitchen and having a parallel scene just made me respect this film so hard. Bastian’s dad is a bit more scattered and less imposing, but he still hasn’t figured out how to have a loving relationship with his son. Mostly he just talks about how he’s an engineer and only believes what he sees. Bastian still misses his mom (he wears a tattered old sweater she made for him), but is more focused on living his ordinary life. When the two meet at dinner they immediately butt heads and the father-son dynamic is still on shaky ground.

Once Bastian returns to Fantasia, he gets to see Silver City. Silver City is a key location in the book and the film makes the place look amazing.

It’s silver boats in the middle of an acid lake. In other words: awesome.

It’s nearly how I imagined it from reading the book. The thoughtfulness in the set designs show that someone read and enjoyed Michael Ende’s novel. Plus, there’s so much more used from the source material: Xayide, her castle, Bastian’s dickery once he loses his memories, and the creepy invisibility belt.

Disembodied eye belts are all the rage in Fantasia.

The acting is pretty good, too. Jonathan Brandis plays a great Bastian. In the ordinary world, Bastian is a bit of a spazz, a weakling who wants to succeed, and a sensitive kid who misses his mom and resents his father for moving on. In Fantasia, Bastian is confident, resourceful, humorous, kind, and willing to face some scary shit.

Fear and Loathing in Fantasia.

WHAT WENT HORRIBLY WRONG:

The Next Chapter was produced by Dieter Geissler and Klaus Kahler, the same excessively German folks who produced the original film. Too bad their budget was so low. The special effects suffer as a result. There are great sets, but awful green screen shots. Oh, and they use the exact same footage of Atreyu’s journey from the original film.

They didn’t even try to hide it!

The puppetry also took a dive. Falkor is an approximation of the original puppet, but not quite right. And his voice is annoyingly booming. The Rock Biter might be the same, but it’s hard to tell. Plus, we get the awful addition of Junior, the Rock Biter’s horrible offspring.

I cannot convey my unending hatred for this abomination.

There are also some scenes that are almost incomprehensible. Bastian accidentally falls into what I like to call the Pit of Weird.

Perpetual ’80s Music Video Woman, Sentient Mud Man, and My Body is a Harp Lady welcome you.

These creatures are scarier than Xayide’s bug soldiers. Their only function is to be odd-looking and tell Bastian that the Empress is in trouble. It’s distracting and unnecessary. Just like the crazy dragon fight in which we discover that dragons explode. The point is that wishes can get out of hand, but the dragon is fucking dumb.

He can’t even see what he’s setting on fire, guys.

Then there’s the equally ridiculous scene where Atreyu and Bastian storm Xayide’s castle. Atreyu brings an “army” in a potato sack. Once it’s time to attack he reveals that the bag is full of large eggs. When they’re ready to create a distraction, the eggs hatch to reveal creepy wind-up toys who speed into battle against Xayide’s giant bug army.

Lamest army ever.

FINAL VERDICT:

If you enjoyed The NeverEnding Story and have read Ende’s book, then give The Next Chapter a watch. It’s not essential to the narrative, but it includes so much that the original film ruthlessly cut. It lacks the production value of Petersen’s adaptation, but it makes up for that by being a bit more fun rather than enchanting. Giorgio Moroder also returns for an awful remix of the title song. It’s just a painful experience. But I won’t dwell on that for too long because the film is a fun romp through Fantasia.

COMING UP NEXT: The NeverEnding Story III