Before watching the movie:
I don’t really feel like watching this movie, but nothing else I had lined up interested me either. This one at least is fantasy, which can tie into the Harry Potter release, which I’m staying home from in order to blog. (Also because I’m broke.)
What I know about this movie is that it’s an 80s fantasy, obviously. Also apparently a kid finds a book that writes itself as he reads it, and then he goes inside the book and participates in the story, and learns a lesson about self-esteem that in the film version he didn’t need because he wasn’t a fat loser like in the book the film is based on.
People consider this movie an inspiration. I’m hoping it will prove them right, but I’m not a big fan of 80s fantasies, or 80s feel-good movies. Why am I watching this again?
After watching the movie:
Bastian Bux (not SEbastian, or anything close to normal like that, though I’ll grant it’s probably a German name) is a young boy still dealing with his mother’s death, but more immediately with a troop of bullies that chase him away from school. In an attempt to escape from them, he ducks into a used bookstore, where a creepy old man tells shows him a book that “isn’t safe.” Bastian steals it from him (with a note saying he’ll return it) and reads it in the barn the school uses as an attic instead of going to class. He finds inside an unbelievably engrossing, yet simplistic story of the quest of a boy his age to save the world of Fantasia from the growing void called the Nothing. As Bastian gets more engrossed in the story, a storm kicks up and… well, there’s not much at stake for Bastian.
Bastian is allegedly the main character of the story, but it’s hard to forget that for just about the whole thing, he’s just playing hooky, reading a book. Atreyu, the one who’s doing things, is definitely supposed to be identified with Bastian, but the connection is very weak. Atreyu is only a child so that Bastian can make the connection with him. If he didn’t have to be a child, he could have been shown with a much stronger performance. Bastian is actually well-performed, but he doesn’t have anything to do other than scream at a book. The third child actor, the Empress, I cannot stand. She’s trying to be exotic or mystic, I guess, but it comes off terribly.
The puppetry is relatively good for the period. There’s no attempt to lip sync, but there’s very nice articulation in the face anyway. It’s surprising that it’s actually not the work of Jim Henson’s studios. Although it’s easy to get distracted by the bad bluescreen compositions, especially with the luckdragon’s flying, it’s important to note that there are tons of effects that are relatively seamless.
Altogether, this is probably best enjoyed either by the very young, or those who don’t care about storytelling and believable characters. I wanted to give this film a chance, I really did. But I can’t get past the fact that I don’t like how the story is told. Even forgetting that I had something completely different in mind (I probably got it confused with some of the sequels, or something unrelated), it just doesn’t sit well with me. I hate to so soundly pan what many consider a childhood classic, but I’m not a child, and I couldn’t buy this film.
Watch this movie: before getting jaded by things like “subtext” and “sense”
Don’t watch this movie: under the influence of adulthood.