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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80s Fantasy Movie Review: “Ladyhawke”

ladyhawke

Even the movie poster is stunning.

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. Next up is “Ladyhawke,” yet another one I’ve never seen before–to my embarassment! There will be SPOILERS in what follows.

“Ladyhawke” is, at its most basic level, the story of a curse. Two men–a corrupt bishop and Etienne of Navarre, the Captain of the Guard–fall in love with a woman–Isabeau d’Anjou; one is rejected and decides to curse her for spurning him. Thus cursed, the woman is a hawk by day, and the man a wolf by night. Fearing endless torment, the man decides to kill the one who has put them in this condition, and thus begins a quest which leads to the curse being broken at last.

But “Ladyhawke” is way more than that. It’s got true love, adventure, escape, fighting, revenge…okay I’m not talking about “The Princess Bride,” but this is a fantastic movie. Basically everything goes right. Seriously.

But let’s get this out of the way–the thing that goes “wrong” is the music. It’s not terrible, but it’s almost 100% 80s synth-rock. I’m sure it seemed like a great idea at the time, but it has not stood the test of time very well.

With that out of the way, let’s explore what went right. First, the movie is stunningly filmed. The angles in each shot are just awesome, often with characters silhouetted against beautiful landscapes or sunsets. Second, the story itself is compelling and epic. It’s a true fantasy, and it feels like a fairy tale that I never knew about [it apparently is one, by the way]. Third, the characters are endearing and extraordinarily well-acted, particularly Mouse–the cutpurse comedian who dialogues with God throughout the movie–played by Matthew Broderick. Fourth, you get the idea–go watch the movie!

The humor from “Mouse” was sustained throughout, but there were a number of truly epic one-liners that just had me laughing with glee. I don’t want to reproduce them here both because they really should be watched and because some of them are only humorous contextually. I could see this becoming a movie I start to memorize and use lines from, though.

The story itself holds up remarkably well, for as simply as you can write it out. Again, this is largely due to the strength of the characters. Etienne is clearly distressed by the cursed condition and is driven to vengeance while Isabeau holds out hope. Mouse deftly inflames their love even more. Something about the curse itself seems simultaneously sad and awesome. If only they could morph into those animals at will rather than having it tear their love apart.

Seriously, this movie was amazing. I immediately purchased it (having gotten it from the library).

The Good

+Interesting main plot with just enough feeling of a “fairy tale”
+Great characters that are each well-acted
+Absolutely stunning cinematography
+Genuine humor that never takes away from the movie
+Fantastic dialogue

The Bad

-80s Synth Rock doesn’t quite seem to fit the tone of the film

The Verdict

Grade: A “A super epic fantasy movie that just blew me away. ‘Ladyhawke’ is AWESOME.”

Guest Grade (Wife): A “It was absolutely delightful all around.”

Conclusion

“Ladyhawke” is a tremendous film.

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.