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Episode 139 - The NeverEnding Story (w/ Dave Nadelberg)


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Poll: Episode 139 - The NeverEnding Story (w/ Dave Nadelberg) (39 member(s) have cast votes)

Should The NeverEnding Story be inducted into The Canon?

  1. Yes (14 votes [35.90%])

    Percentage of vote: 35.90%

  2. No (25 votes [64.10%])

    Percentage of vote: 64.10%

Vote Guests cannot vote

#1 Dalton Maltz

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Posted 29 January 2018 - 12:05 AM

This week, creator of Mortified Dave Nadelberg joins Amy to discuss the 1984 fantasy film “The NeverEnding Story.” They seek out the movie’s deeper subtexts and Dave explains what makes him hate one character in particular before they consider the film’s ambitious production design. Then, they talk about the film’s focus on imagination and how it embodies communal storytelling before making their final cases.

#2 Robert Boberts

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Posted 29 January 2018 - 08:44 AM

I am one of those who read the book first, before the movie was released. I was also about 10 when I read it. I think I didn't make it to see the movie in the theater, but by the time I saw it, I was just disappointed at how different it was from the book I loved. I still cite it as my favorite childhood book. It seemed I was the only kid who hated the movie. In addition to changing the name of Fantastica and only comprising half the book, it also made the nothing a something; the book clearly said it was not a storm. As an adult I've tried to move past this. I don't think a movie should be judged by how faithful it is to the book. But even on it's own, it's not great enough a movie to make it into the Canon. I enjoy it for what it is. But without any childhood love for this, it just seems like an OK movie. So it's a hard no for me.

#3 daustin

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Posted 29 January 2018 - 10:20 AM

I enjoyed this as a kid, but even then thought the narrative was a bit of a mess, and that the message didn't really work. I think Neverending Story still has some amazing emotional and visual moments (the knight going through the sphinxes, the horse in the swamp, the "strong hands" monologue, the incredibly creepy confrontation with the wolf), but, like Dark Crystal (another visual treat I love), doesn't hang together that well as a story. So call this a soft no with all due affection.

I do remember reading the book after watching the movie, and being very surprised at how different it was.

#4 Buffyfan1992

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Posted 29 January 2018 - 12:56 PM

I have to vote no because I believe for a film to be worthy for the canon you have to be able to see it multiple times and see new insightful things or at the very least it has to be something that you enjoy or at least admires every time you watch it. The Neverending Story doesn't do that for me because I adored it as a child and I can't stand it now. I wanted to be a female version of Bastian as a kid because I was always reading books and wanted to dive into there worlds. Also, Falkor waked my life of dragons. When I watched The Neverending Story as an adult, I thought the acting, story, and special effects were horrible. I could have forgiven the special effects if I thought the story or/and acting was fantastic, but I did not. I wished that I had not re-watched the film because as an imaginative person I had always kept a fond place for Falkor and Bastian in my heart and now that's ruined. I would vote for this film to be in the childhood film canon, but I can't for the overall film canon. Now if you put up Princess Bride or Spirted Away or Sound of Music I could vote for those to be in the canon.

#5 sycasey 2.0

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Posted 29 January 2018 - 01:25 PM

View PostBuffyfan1992, on 29 January 2018 - 12:56 PM, said:

Now if you put up Princess Bride or Spirted Away or Sound of Music I could vote for those to be in the canon.


Sound of Music already lost, I think.

#6 sycasey 2.0

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Posted 29 January 2018 - 01:32 PM

Soft no for me, though I do enjoy this movie and think it has more interesting themes to it than most 80s kid fantasy (certainly more than Goonies).

My relationship to it has been interesting. I had vague memories of seeing it as a child, but it wasn't a formative experience for me or anything. I saw it again in my late 20s after some friends talked about how much they loved it, and found myself taken with the creative visual spectacle and the drama of the final scenes, with the Empress turning to the audience as she implores Bastian to use his imagination and save Fantasia. Its dark, grim nature also struck me as something unusual. It's very obviously German, about as nihilistic as you can get while remaining marketable to American family audiences.

After this week's rewatch I thought it fell a bit short of Canon status, for many of the reasons Dave laid out in the podcast episode: the arcs don't carry from scene to scene, and a lot of the individual challenges feel arbitrary, like they were just placed down in front of the hero at random, not to test a specific part of his character. That said, the visual creativity is still well on display, and the themes about the importance of imagination still hold up, so it's not exactly a failure either. It's just . . . not quite Canon. Sorry, Amy.

#7 FictionIsntReal

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Posted 29 January 2018 - 05:02 PM

I didn't see this until just now when it was nominated, and while one might object that I'm the wrong person to judge a movie intended for children, a Canon for films "to live on for all time" should be capable of withstanding the judgement of an adult. There was some cool creature design that one doesn't get to see as much in today's era of CGI, and some nice moments were singled out, but I don't think it was enough to merit inclusion in the Canon. As a "metaphor for reading", I think a book would do a better job, and after hearing how the latter half of the book is so contrary to the conclusion to the film, I can understand why the author hated this. I found Bastian a completely uninteresting character, even if I myself was extremely bookish at that age, and handing him that wish-fulfillment fantasy at the end isn't very satisfying in storytelling terms. I watched this for the first time over the weekend along with Return to Oz and Jan Svankmajer's Alice, and while it also doesn't reach the level of Canonical, it's the last I'd be most willing to rewatch. In conclusion: Dimensions of Dialogue for the Canon!

#8 Johnny Pomatto

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Posted 29 January 2018 - 09:24 PM

Uh oh. I've been afraid that this day would come. I've never really cared for THE NEVERENDING STORY, though I did watch it again this week to try to give it a fair shake. I found this episode to be very enlightening, and learning a bit about the German production helped give some of my issues context and an explanation. I really wish that we still lived in a time when movies geared towards children had some dark complexities and challenges that required some thought and coping with. Even movies that aren't necessarily great films (RETURN TO OZ, LABYRINTH, and THE NEVERENDING STORY) still have so much more depth and substance than the majority of what kids are subjected to today, with a few refreshing exceptions. And I don't blame you, Amy, for latching on to this film. I think we all have our beloved childhood favorites that have a deeper meaning to us because of our upbringing and memories. I certainly have a few myself, and some of those I would probably fight pretty hard to get Canon status for, but others I will allow to rest in my warm nostalgic brain without trying to sell them too hard on others.

To me, THE NEVERENDING STORY never quite whisks me away with its fantasy and themes. It could be that the budget, (perhaps was impressive for a German production at the time), seems to limit Fantasia from ever completely feeling like a real place and setting. There are some great characters in there (i too consider The Rock Biter to be my favorite), but too me, a Henson devotee, so many of the creatures and locations seem to be lacking a soul. It's appropriate that the villain of the story is "The Nothing" because so much of this film looks like Nothing to me. LABYRINTH undeniably has its problems and I did not vote for it to be allowed into The Canon, but one thing that it always succeeded at with me was creating a world that I felt would have existed even if the movie wasn't there to tell its story. The concept of creating a world through a descriptive book and having a boy fall into the fantasy that way is an excellent one, but we all know a film that achieves this idea significantly better. And while I would never let this fact alone keep me from casting a Yes vote, I did read THE NEVERENDING STORY at a young age and was incredibly fond of that book. It being undeniably superior is more praise for the book than a knock on the film, but I am cursed with having that to compare it to. It's not that I miss specifically what's missing from the book in the film, but it doesn't give me the same emotional catharsis that I got while reading it.

I do appreciate this film a bit more now, and was fully preparing to come down hard on it before I watched it and listened to the episode, but instead I'm gonna have to give a soft but definitive NO on allowing THE NEVERENDING STORY into The Canon. Now I think I might have to go rewatch Will Vinton's THE ADVENTURES OF MARK TWAIN, because Dave name dropping it in the episode has made me think of little else since hearing it. I wouldn't vote that into The Canon either, but I sure do enjoy it. And that's... ok.

#9 Travis Johnson

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Posted 29 January 2018 - 09:55 PM

No from me. I love The Neverending Story and it's one of the foundational cinematic fantasy texts for me as a person, but it doesn't hang together and its triumphs are never impactful or profound enough to overcome its narrative and thematic weaknesses.

It's great to see on-screen fantasy creations that draw from a more Mittel-European well than just riffing on Tolkien and his compatriots, but that's window dressing, not core narrative.

Speaking of Tolkien, TNE lacks his painstaking worldbuilding, but also never stretches far enough into the other direction into creating a dreamlike, Id-driven phantasmagoria; instead, it kind of squats in the middle, with its underlying rules being arbitrary, but not cleaving to anything recognisable as either dream-logic or fairy-tale-logic. The film never quite takes the final necessary plunge into the collective unconscious to dredge up universal signifiers and abstractions that resonate with the viewer; instead, with a few notable exceptions (lookin' at you, Gmork), its creatures and cultures feel haphazard and, while frequently striking, sort of bereft of symbolic purpose.

Frankly, everything TNE is trying to do thematically, Labyrinth does better (and with a better soundtrack!), and if Henson's film doesn't make the grade, Petersen's effort has no chance to my mind.

#10 Cooper Blackdale

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Posted 29 January 2018 - 11:11 PM

Loooooved this movie as a kid, and it definitely belongs in the Kids' Canon (if there were such a thing) but I can't in good conscience recommend it to any adult who's never seen it. There are some beautifully-made kids' films that don't (or shouldn't) hold much appeal for an adult (other than nostalgia), and I think this is one of them.

Side note: I'm not sure if a Kids' Canon would be a great idea, or a terrible one.

Other side note: If you're ever in Vancouver and want a quick tour of some of the filming locations, hit me up. (But bear in mind that some of those alleys tend to smell like piss these days.)
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#11 Cooper Blackdale

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Posted 29 January 2018 - 11:41 PM

View PostJohnny Pomatto, on 29 January 2018 - 09:24 PM, said:

It's appropriate that the villain of the story is "The Nothing" because so much of this film looks like Nothing to me.

Ouch!
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#12 Judas_Priestly

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Posted 30 January 2018 - 07:16 AM

This might be the easiest Yes vote I've ever cast. To say that the challenges Atreyu faces aren't substantial enough is to take only a surface-level reading of them. To look for your reflection to find that you only exist within someone else's imagination would be TERRIFYING if you encountered it in real life. And when you consider that Bastian is escaping into his own private fantasy world to avoid having to face the pain of his mother's death, then shouting her name into the storm to save Fastasia is not an insignificant event. And by the way, I'm positive that the audience is not supposed to be able to understand the name, because it gives us the opportunity to perhaps hear a name that would be more significant to us personally than any Bastian could have given; especially considering that is the moment when the Empress is pleading with us, the audience, to use our own imaginations and not to let the magic die.
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#13 ActualButt

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Posted 30 January 2018 - 09:09 AM

Movie gender marketing aside (I'm a guy and a big fan of The Princess Bride, Labyrinth and Dark Crystal, but I also never really got the appeal of The Goonies), The NeverEnding Story just never resonated with me. Maybe I missed the meta qualities but overall the fantasy just wasn't all that fantastic. The acting is bad, the effects are weak compared to its contemporaries, and nothing in it really left an indelible mark on me as a kid. But how could it compared to the pure puppet work and creative genius of Brian Fround in the Dark Crystal, or the whimsy and wordplay of The Princess Bride? In a world where those movies (and Labyrinth) exist, this one just does not have a place of its own in The Canon.

#14 Lexotron

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Posted 30 January 2018 - 11:36 AM

When I was a kid, the dying horse made me cry. I watched this again as an adult and felt nothing. Maybe that speaks to the whole point of the movie.

I still love the practical effects, character design and general weirdness but I'd rather see something with fleshed out characters and a story other than "boring kid bumbles through the plot until magical deus ex machina" (c.f. Harry Potter, Star Wars, Hunger Games, etc.). I'm voting "no".

#15 LTL

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Posted 30 January 2018 - 01:55 PM

If we had to debate 'Sign O The Times' and 'Ghostbusters'; I'm a hard NO on this!

#16 jonesjxd

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Posted 31 January 2018 - 01:32 PM

I really did enjoy watching the movie again after probably twenty years, and I think lesser films have made the canon, but I also think much greater movies have been rejected from the canon. I would've liked to have seen this get pitted against Labyrinth because I would've voted for it in a heartbeat, I might have even voted for it if it were pitted against Dark Crystal, but on it's own merits I don't believe NeverEnding Story deserves to be in the Canon, sorry Amy :(

#17 scurvy

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Posted 31 January 2018 - 07:24 PM

Am a huge fan of this movie, and the book. I watched it as a kid, loved it, have rewatched it mutliple times and have enjoyed watching it with my own kids now, who loved it.
However, should not go in the Canon.
The problem is that it's not very well made. It's very enjoyable, very memorable, has some really good scenes, but ignores things like pacing and plot too easily. The main character is uninteresting, the luck dragon is awesome, but the CGI flying scenes really don't hold up (they could have done less to better effect right?), and the ending is unfulfilling even if it is enjoyable. My kids genuinely whooped with delight as they chased down those bullies. But as an end to the film it ties up nothing, it's a great scene, but not cohesive.
Putting aside the question of whether it's better than the book, or faithful to the book, I would ask a simple question. Could this film be better made then or now? I think the answer is yes on both counts. Its flaws don't make it better, they are flaws. So no canon for me.

#18 Cronopio

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Posted 01 February 2018 - 11:05 AM

For me, The Neverending Story film is to children's literature as David Lynch's Dune is to sci fi. It's got fascinating visuals and memorable moments, but in the end it just doesn't hang together. I loved it as a kid, my children love it, and I share Amy's admiration for ambitious failures, but I'm going to vote no. Not a referendum on Amy's childhood, or mine.

#19 50 Shades of Chauncey Gardiner

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Posted 02 February 2018 - 09:05 AM

If one looks at full-fledged fantasy on film, the 1980's were not kind.

Most overcompensated their lack of character, direction and story with top-notch production design, costumes, makeup and visual effects with few exceptions. THE NEVERENDING STORY is not one of them. Said exceptions include the likes of CONAN THE BARBARIAN, EXCALIBUR, TIME BANDITS and THE PRINCESS BRIDE - all great films that broke the mold.

I must confess THE NEVERENDING STORY was never apart of my childhood growing up in the decade. But I am going to throw my vote to "Yes" out of pure admiration and respect to Amy.

#20 RachaelB

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Posted 04 February 2018 - 01:48 AM

Well, shoot.
I guess it's doomed at this point, but I only see it as canon worthy in terms of its nostalgia value.
NOT just as what I associate with a better time.
Rather, just that I went through life with some not-fully-conscious awareness of creepy moments. It was just whimsical enough fro me and also creepy in the vein of "The last Unicorn," "The Hobbit," "Labyrinth," Little Nemo" and all Bluth cartoons.
It matters than I saw it at a time when I didn't fully understand stories, or didn't retain them, and only internalized the creepy, whimsical moments, and that had some effect on my life outlook.

I think the Canon of film could benefit from being able to demonstrate to futurlings that the Millennial generation grew up with memories of practical effects used in terrifying, magical ways that made them the way they are. I mean, maybe we became so sarcastic and entitled yet pessimistic because we saw sphinx boobs and equine mud-drownings. Or whatever.