The NeverEnding Story (1984)


Drama, thriller, science fiction, epic adventure and disaster, comedy, there is no genre holding back Wolfgang Petersen from directing an exciting movie. The NeverEnding Story (original - German - title: Die Unendliche Geschichte) is his fairy fantasy adventure movie, suitable for kids just as much as it for adults in a certain state of mind.

Petersen wrote his screenplay based on a popular German novel released in 1979 written by Michael Ende. Ende, who was not pleased that the movie was going in a completely different direction than his story, writes about a two boys: Bastian (Barret Oliver) and Atreyu (Noah Hathaway). Atreyu is the star of a book Bastian stumbled upon after hiding from the bullying bullies that were bullying him. Fantasia, the magical world Atreyu lives in, is threatened by a big Nothing that is eating away bigger and bigger parts of it. With help from rock biters, ogres, night hobs, other fairy tale creatures and even Bastian, Atreyu has to save his world and all kinds of kinds in the process.

The NeverEnding Story offers a fresh outsiders’ perspective of what a Hollywood film should have looked like in the 80s. Even though this is Petersen’s first English-spoken movie, it was still produced in West Germany, resulting in some fine and fresh excitements regarding narrative, special effects and lunacy. It starts of pretty innocent without all that much spectacle, with a fantasy story that feels too distant to become engaging for the first half an hour or so. It’s the little things that can grab your attention, mostly the funny sounding names (Gmork, Folkar, Artax, Urgl, Engywook) and places (Desert Of Shattered Hopes, Swamp Of Sadness, The Crystal Towers), which, combined with the spacy score by Giorgio Moroder and the fun looking set and production design cause for an easy to watch movie, but nothing all that spectacular.

It starts to get real fun when Bastian, the boy reading the book, gets involved. Petersen starts to play with your mind somewhat, and while kids easily look past that and can enjoy the jolly adventures, it all becomes more and more exciting for the adults as well. And what do you know, by the time the weed really started to kick in and Atreyu started to fly on friendly Falkor the Luck Dragon’s back to find the boundaries of Fantasia, I started loving this movie. All in good fashion and honesty, The NeverEnding is not a better movie than, say, The Princess Bride (1987) or Jumanji (1995), but the shameless big trip it is evolving into is pretty cool stuff. I would like to try the stuff the filmmakers were on.


Falkor:   I knew he would be safe.

Engywook:   Nonsense ! You don’t understand anything! The worst one is coming up. Next is the Magic Mirror gate. Atreyu has to face his true self.

Falkor:   So what ? That won’t be too hard for him.

Engywook:   Oh ! That’s what everyone thinks. But kind people find that they are cruel, brave men discover that they are really cowards. Confronted with their true selves most men run away screaming !


My favorite scene from The Neverending Story when Bastian faces his fears and finds out he’s the brave warrior, Atreyu….. the weather is perfect to settle in with this movie, we must help Bastien & Atreyu battle THE NOTHING and give the princess her name!  :)

  • Engywook:Next is the Magic Mirror gate. Atreyu has to face his true self.
  • Falkor:So what? That won't be too hard for him.
  • Engywook:Oh! That's what everyone thinks. But kind people find that they are cruel; brave men discover that they are really cowards. Confronted with their true selves, most men run away screaming.

I was discussing with a friend the other day how even the most harmless images from our youth can terrify us even to this day; regardless of how trivial they are. 

In the movie “The Neverending Story”, there is a character named Engywook. He plays an eccentric old elf man thing in the story, who lives near the big gate (I have not seen this movie in years, I don’t remember what anything is called…). He was played by an actor named Sydney Bromley, who was a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company (featured as The Porter in Hugh Hefner’s Macbeth). He was also featured as a man sitting at the bar in the movie version of Half a Six Pence.

Anyway, I’m digressing like no other. Before I even watched my VHS copy of “The Neverending Story”, I looked at the back cover. As a small 7 year old, I saw the above picture on the back of the box, amongst the description, and was a little freaked out. Whenever I went to the bathroom, I’d run to the window and roll down the shade in fear of seeing that face in the window, waiting to eat me. For some reason, I was sure he feasted on small children.

Looking at the picture now, I laugh, because it’s quite the laughable facial expression. And yet still, sometimes Engywook’s face still appears in the window and I freak out.