80s Fantasy Movie Review: “The Neverending Story”

Oh 80s posters. I miss you.

Oh 80s posters. I miss you.

I embarked on a quest to watch through Tor’s list of 80s Fantasy. I have only seen an embarassingly small number of the movies on that list, and have decided to rectify that! I have seen “The Neverending Story” before, however, multiple times. It’s been several years, though. What do I think of it this time around? There will be SPOILERS in what follows.

The Neverending Story was a favorite of mine that I didn’t discover until I was in high school. And, I’ll admit, I haven’t watched it since viewing it so many times in the last two years of high school. Thus, it’s been quite a bit of time since I last saw it and it was with some trepidation I watched it again. Would I accidentally destroy all the nostalgia I’d built up for this film?

I’m happy to report that re-watching the movie did not destroy my enjoyment of it. Looks like I didn’t get everything wrong in high school!

First off, the plot hook is great. A bullied kid lacking confidence who has just lost his mother find an escape in an epic fantasy novel. After delving in, however, it seems the novel is strangely aware of the reader, and indeed the world itself depends upon him!

That world itself is full of wondrous creatures and settings–some admittedly off-putting due to dated special effects. Each new scene has a new challenge to overcome, and as Atreyu’s quest to save the world continues, we as viewers feel as though the third wall has broken and we are involved in the story as well; we are just as present as Bastian in this universe.

The story, it must be admitted, is itself fairly standard fare. A hero is chosen to save the world. But it transcends its simplistic premise by interweaving elements of the “real” world and Bastian into the plot, while also presenting enough unique characters and locale to remain interesting throughout. There are some scenes in which the film drags, but these are few and fare between. Even in those scenes, the scenery and detail of costumes are so robust that I didn’t even care how slow it felt like it was moving.

The only real complaint I have about the film is that some of the special effects haven’t held up well at all. That’s not to be unexpected–it is over 30 years old, after all–but it can be distracting at times. But, often enough excellent sets and wonderful costumes are enough to offset whatever difficulties with imagination the special effects cause.

At its root, this is a story mostly about Bastian and the gaining of self-confidence in the face of seemingly overwhelming odds, but it does so much more than that. It’s full of detail, wonder, and magic, as all fantasy should be.

 

Thus, we have the Neverending Story. Presumably it continues because it draws on the readers to construct it themselves; it forms a continuing chain of fantasy that, well, doesn’t end.  The movie, at a deeper level, is a call for those of us viewing it to continue to write the plot: to make our own stories, our own adventures, and our own fantasy. It’s a stirring story that cannot but be charming.

The Good

+Interesting and unique plot
+True sense of wonder
+The world seems very real
+Fun meshing together of the “real” world and fantasy
+Excellent costumes

The Bad

-At times fairly slow
-Some of the special effects don’t hold up well at all

The Verdict

Grade: “A film full of unique plot devices interwoven into a stirring and epic fantasy tale.”

Links

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

Time to Watch some 80s Fantasy Flicks– I describe my quest to watch a bunch of 80s fantasy movies. This post also features links to all the reviews done so far.

A Ranking of 1980s Fantasy that would please Crom Himself– The original list of movies that made me embark on this quest.

SDG.

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Star Trek: TNG Season 5 “The Perfect Mate” and “Imaginary Friend”

the-perfect-mate

Excuse me, but you random people all over Ten Forward need to back off.

I’m going through “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and reviewing every episode, complete with commentary and a grade from A-F. I’ve also included a score and comment from my wife, who has never seen the show before. There are SPOILERS for each episode below.

“The Perfect Mate”

Plot

The Valtese and Kriosians have long been enemies despite sharing mutual origin. The Enterprise is tasked with hosting a diplomatic endeavor between the two, but it is discovered through some Ferengi interference that part of the negotiation is to be the gift from the Kriosians to the Valtese diplomat of an empathic metamorph–someone who can mold herself to a man’s every whim and desire. As Picard and crew–especially Dr. Crusher–struggle with the linkage to human trafficking, the metamorph herself, Kamala, begins to cause problems among males on board who are drawn instinctively to her. She, however, is drawn to Picard and after multiple interactions, imprints herself on him instead of the Valtese diplomat. Picard hands her off to the diplomat knowing that her interests and patterns are made after him instead, but that the diplomat cares little for Kamala.

Commentary

Whew, that plot summary took more than I thought it would!

Anyway, “The Perfect Mate” has some good acting in it from Kamala and Picard, and the concept is pretty interesting. How might the crew of the Enterprise deal with something that truly does confront the morality of Starfleet in a very blatant fashion. Kamala is effectively a sex-slave being gifted to another person, but she wants to be that herself. How to balance the possible Stockholm syndrome with the Prime Directive and the like?

Dr. Crusher is really the only one who evinces this concern to any high degree, and that made the episode a bit harder to believe. All the men are busy drooling over Kamala, which seems to be not only uncomfortable but sexist. Much of the concept is itself thinly-veiled sexism, as the thought is what man wouldn’t absolutely try to gain control over a woman who would imprint herself upon him? Self-control apparently goes out the window, and a scene in Ten Forward really highlights this as the crew’s men and some passengers all try to gain Kamala’s attention.

Picard is the only one who seems capable of exercising any self-control and even his resolve wains over time as Kamala continues her attempts to entice him.

Honestly, it’s all a bit weird and off-key. It doesn’t seem to fit with TNG and the concepts of the Prime Directive and the like we’ve had for the last several seasons.

Grade: C “Plenty of thinly-veiled sexism and a heaping helping of weird drag this intriguing concept down.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: A- “The acting and the premise were both pretty good, though there were a few weird parts, especially the scene in Ten Forward.”

“Imaginary Friend”

Plot

As the Enterprise is exploring a region of space, a mysterious energy being enters the ship, ultimately passing itself through the mind of a little girl, Clara, on board and manifesting itself as her imaginary friend, Isabella. Clara’s father is concerned and she’s been seeing Counselor Troi. When her friend suddenly becomes much more real, things start to go wrong on the ship as it seems something keeps hitting the shields and slowing the ship down. Isabella seems keen on not being discovered, but ultimately attacks Counselor Troi. More mysterious beings are going to attack, but Picard manages to convince the being on board that they are not actually a cruel people.

Commentary

Welcome to the Twilight Zone, dear readers. That’s what “Imaginary Friend” feels like–a mystery that keeps you guessing while feeling a bit freaked out the whole time.

We all know there’s nothing creepier than possessed children–it’s the antithesis of innocence and darkness that is so off-putting. This episode banks on that and the girl who played Isabella did pretty well at being just creepy enough to not be silly.  This could have gone very awry, but instead it was pretty solid.

The whole time as viewers, you know kind of what’s going on but the adults are totally unaware and you know that you’d react largely the same way. It isn’t until Troi gets attacked that Clara is taken seriously, and this actually feels a bit like a possible calling out of adults to listen to warnings from their children.

Picard’s resolution of reasoning with Isabella before the ship gets taken over was really the only downside to the episode. It makes sense in a way, because Isabella is obviously not actually a child and Picard has great diplomatic skills, but it also seems odd that they’d send him and not someone who is better with children. It seemed a little bit deus ex machina, but not nearly as much as some other episodes have had, and not enough to ruin anything. It works, but only just.

Grade: A- “Surprisingly disturbing, ‘Imaginary Friend’ was an edge-of-the-seat ride.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: B- “It was exciting and mysterious, but the ending with Picard seemed out of place because he doesn’t like kids.”

Links

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

Star Trek: TNG– For more episode reviews, follow this site and also click this link to read more (scroll down as needed)! Drop me a comment to let me know what you thought!

SDG.

Book Review: “Star Wars: Aftermath” by Chuck Wendig

sw-aftermathI’ve been greatly anticipating the new Star Wars film, and, despite my disappointment with Disney’s decision to discontinue the Expanded Universe novels, I was excited to read the new “canon” novels. For a tiny bit of background, I have read about 123 of the Expanded Universe books, effectively every single one that takes place post-Yavin. I did read a few of the earlier ones but didn’t enjoy them as much. Thus, I consider my review here as a perspective of someone who loves Star Wars, has read many of the books and enjoyed them.

All of that said, I did not enjoy Star Wars: Aftermath at all.

It starts off decently, with Wedge Antilles on a pseudo-vacation. He immediately encounters trouble, however, as leaders of the  remnants of the Empire have chosen the system he’s in to have a meeting. The book follows Wedge and various characters on the planet’s surface as they deal with the heavy Imperial presence.

The most glaring problem with this book is the writing style. Simply put, it’s terrible. I try to be fairly forgiving–and as a Star Wars fan, I wanted to like this book–but I’m honestly astonished to see that this made it past editors. Here’s a brief selection:

She stands. Hands behind her back. Staring down a long hallway. At the end of the hallway: a vent cut free with a micro-torch. Ahead of her, stormtroopers go in and out of doors–cabins, sleeping quarters. [P. 51]

I don’t think that sentence fragments are completely disallowed in novels. In some places, they make sense, like when someone is writing in first person and the character happens to think in fragments or write in fragments. That is fine. Fragments may even be acceptable when the author wishes to emphasize some point. However, this book is entirely written in this style.

Chuck Wendig seems to think that a colon can be used as a verb, as can be observed in the sample above. Again, this wouldn’t be entirely impermissible, but when it is combined with a series of fragments, as is the case here (and many, many times throughout the book), it leaves it to the reader to supply virtually everything. The reader has to think about not just adding verbs but piecing coherent thoughts together from the fragments and colons. In effect, the reader is writing the book for the author. As they read, they must gather together sentences from the scraps that are left dangling all over alleged paragraphs. The entire book reads like this, and it makes it exceedingly difficult to read even a few pages at a time.

Any enjoyment that can be derived from the novel is ultimately squelched by this problem. It is impossible to focus on the plot, because the reader must, in effect, constantly create the plot themselves. There are so few verbs that it is up to the reader to decide how the action is taking place. It reads like a number of stage directions.
I thought about writing the review in the style of the book, but I wanted to have people read the review rather than become too annoyed to finish it. Think: if review like book. You: read the review but must. Sentences–make together with words. Left. Right. That: is the direction you read.

Long story short, I don’t think I could have handled writing like that, let alone reading a review. Again, as someone who really wanted to like this book, I have to say you should avoid it. The fact that Wendig is apparently signed on for an upcoming Star Wars book in 2016 does not bode well for the state of Disney’s leadership of the Star Wars books, in my opinion. I’ll not be wasting my time on any more until I see some truly rave reviews.

The Good

+It has a cool cover

The Bad

-Halting, disjointed writing style
-Distracting sentence structure
-Paper-thin dialogue
-Build-your-own-sentence-structure

Links

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

Reading through Star Wars: Expanded Universe– Here you can read reviews of Star Wars Expanded Universe novels and make suggestions about what I should include in my reviews.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

There are other posts on science fiction books to be found! Read them here.

SDG.

80s Fantasy Movie Review: “Dragonslayer”

The existence of this poster makes the world a better place.

The existence of this poster makes the world a better place.

I embarked on a quest to watch through Tor’s list of 80s Fantasy. I haven’t seen many of those flicks, so I figured I’d watch through. Here, I review “Dragonslayer,” which promises to have at least one Dragon being slain. There will be SPOILERS in what follows.

A boy who wants to be a wizard is given the mantle of his tutor when the former sacrifices himself, apparently for naught. Thus embarks an epic quest for the boy to slay the dragon.

I really wanted to love this movie. Who wouldn’t want to love a movie named “Dragonslayer”? But there are many problems here, and the longer I watched the more apparent they became. The movie moves very slowly. It seems like the actors were told that they should pause a few seconds so the camera could focus on them while they apparently deliberated internally for a length of time about whether to do something or not. The plot itself takes a long time to really develop. This isn’t always a bad thing; indeed, it can give a more epic feeling to a movie. But here, it’s as though the movie was artificially lengthened in order to draw it out more.

The plot is not just slow-moving, but it is also paper-thin. It takes a lot to type out all the details, but really this is just a kind of coming-of-age story with a bit of deus ex machina thrown in to slay a dragon. It’s cool at parts, but there’s not enough of substance or background to really give viewers a feel for the world. This is surprising, given how slow-paced the film is. But it was hard to care too much about the plight of the characters when they all seemed set against a kind of generic background. We never get a sense of a larger world in play  Another problem is that the voices of the main characters are really annoying. It’s hard to listen to Galen talk.

The twist in which wizard-man comes back to save everything by blowing up the dragon with… himself… is pretty awesome, but feels a tad contrived. But hey, I like cool things as much as the next person. Let’s just let this be cool. Also, the fact that the princess wasn’t saved was pretty shocking to me. The movie did do a good job in this category: unexpected twists. There aren’t a lot, but those that were there were pretty cool.

The movie has a classic epic premise: damsel in distress from dragon; dragon must be killed. But it just doesn’t go much beyond this classic premise and ends up feeling a bit cliche. Not a terrible movie, but not as epic as it could have been.

The Good

+Some cool scenes
+The plot twists are cool

The Bad

-Voices of main characters annoying
-Never quite lives up to its attempts to be epic
-Paper-thin plot with poorly developed world
-Slooooooooooow

The Verdict

Grade: C+ “I could never quite decide how I felt about the movie. I just never got sold on it.” 

Guest Score and comment: My wife gives the movie a B+ “‘Dragonslayer’ was slow at times but it was a pretty fun movie.”

Links

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

Time to Watch some 80s Fantasy Flicks– I describe my quest to watch a bunch of 80s fantasy movies. This post also features links to all the reviews done so far.

A Ranking of 1980s Fantasy that would please Crom Himself– The original list of movies that made me embark on this quest.

SDG.