WHEN: 7:51 am EST, November 1st, 2013

WHERE: The living room of my apartment in Portland

FORMAT: Blu-Ray on a Vizio 32″ LED HDTV


PHYSICAL AND MENTAL STATE: I took a day off from work and it’s raining. At least I have this yummy breakfast.

My very favorite part of The NeverEnding Story is the climax. Even after ten months of watching my film, I still perk up at the end, and not because it means I’m almost done with my viewing. I really love the editing, the music, the acting, the whole damn package when it comes time for Bastian to make a stand. I usually quote the entire scene as it’s playing out. If there’s one scene to share with friends, I would choose this one every time.

The Ivory Tower has its own gravity generator, natch.

First, the acting. It’s hard to find good child actors. They easily come off as too whiny, give flat deliveries, or think they’re a Stanislavski master. Children should already be amazing actors since they play and imagine all day, but giving them a script destroys them somehow. Luckily, Wolfgang Petersen found an amazing trio of young actors. Barret Oliver I would call the weakest, but he has to give expository dialogue to an empty room and make it seem believable. He has nobody else to work off of, but his performance is perfect during the climax. His disbelief mixed with a desire to help leaves the audience wondering if he’ll make the right decision to save Fantasia.

“Just give me some emotional feedback, you stupid book!”

Noah Hathaway owns his character. When he’s crying out to Artax in the Swamps of Sadness, I’m convinced. Hathaway portrays a young warrior given a task too great, but who is still giving everything to succeed. When he enters the Ivory Tower and learns that all his hardships were for something the Empress already knew, he’s rightfully pissed, but still scared by the encroaching Nothing. Atreyu is everything Bastian wishes he could be, so when the hero’s fear and desperation become tangible, Bastian sees the grimness of the situation.

Approximately how I would look if someone said my horse was supposed
to die so a little alien kid could save the world.

I fucking love Tami Stronach‘s performance. She is a gem of a find. The Childlike Empress is an ageless all-knowing being who loves all of Fantasia. She is quietly regal, but imposingly wise. Stronach carries the scene. The Childlike Empress exudes power even in her weakened state. She is the last piece of Fantasia that survived the Nothing, and once she’s gone, there’s no hope of resurrecting Fantasia. As the Nothing is literally at her door, the Empress, the most powerful being in Fantasia, pleads with tears in her eyes for Bastian to save them. All he has to do is believe in himself. Stronach nails this and tugs at my feeling bits every viewing and makes me clasp my hands to my chest.

Someone just give her a hug already.

The acting by the trio is enhanced by the cinematography and the editing. There are primarily close-ups of the actors. This, in addition to the fast cuts between dialogue, increases the tension of the scene. The cuts also enhance the conversational aspect. Even though Bastian isn’t in Fantasia, his dialogue is cut in with such fast-paced precision that it seems like he’s responding in real time to what he’s reading. Since there’s no lag, the anxiety only increases since the audience has no time to process and recover. We are swept along and can only hope that Bastian saves Fantasia and humanity from the Nothing.

The music completes this scene. The film’s soundtrack is generally enjoyable. It’s epic and moody, but the synthesizer influence makes it a bit dated. Klaus Doldinger does his best to add an orchestral atmosphere to synth-based pieces. During the climax, it becomes more obvious the Doldinger is composing rather than Giorgio Moroder. The epic nature of Bastian’s decision and the tension of Fantasia’s destruction are pulled together by Doldinger’s work. I hum along with the music as Bastian yells, “I will do what I dream!” He stands up, throws off his covers, and runs to the window to call out the Empress’ new name into the stormy night. The emotional roller coaster is complete with a bitching soundtrack of epic awesomeness.

It goes kinda like this: bah-da-da-da bah da baaaaaaaaaaah!

Even though I obviously know that Bastian will save the day and call out the Empress’ new name, I still feel anxious during the climax. The dialogue is tight and well-delivered by three fine child actors. The tension and anxiety is fueled by close-ups, quick cuts, and a fantastic soundtrack. I love how intense this scene is, how it always draws me out of the stupor of my now-mechanical viewings. It’s like finding the prize at the bottom of the cereal box, but with more emotional turmoil.