Thursday, February 26, 2009

Neverending Soda

Yadda yadda, Hollywood would rather go back to the well to dredge up old franchises instead of coming up with new things. You know the drill. If its critically & financially successful, a string of theoretically unnecessary sequels are bound to follow (Pirates of the Caribbean, Saw), or worse, a remake (The Manchurian Candidate) if the sequel machine has died down/is nonexistent. Its so common that most audiences are pretty damn jaded about the potential of said followups being worthwhile, usually accompanied by a hefty dose of internet nerdRAGE. Fondly remembered franchises from childhood are particularly prone to rage, so if you’re into seething rage at your fond childhood memories being violated in non-consensual sexual terms, this should get the hatred pumping through your veins.

However…it has been a very long time since 1984. (Wolfgang Petersen directed Troy also, a movie that fills me with rage) The Neverending Story is beloved for being a charming, well-made flight of fancy that stands on its own as a great movie. Yeah, there’s hefty doses of cheese in it, but also a great source of nightmare fuel for the kiddies, which any great children’s movie has (Those Sphinxes, man. Sphinxes with death beam eyes). Seriously, the best children’s movies are ones where the threats are truly disturbing and frightening so that you legitimately wonder how and if the hero overcomes it. Look at Labyrinth: Jennifer Connolly has to rescue her baby brother from David Bowie before the kid turns into a goblin muppet forever. Think about that for a moment.

I just realized I’ve gone off on a tangent. So, anyway, before you go off on a rampage about how the remake’s gonna suck and how it should never be made and wah wah wah, ask yourself, did you ever read the book? Yeah, I know, “don’t compare the book to the movie because the book’s always better.” But, that’s kind of my point here. The movie’s great (the sequels, I’m told are considerably less so) but the book is bloody amazing. Think G’mork is freaky in the movie? Ten times more so in the book as he has his showdown with Atreyu. The Nothing eats away at creatures while they try to warn other characters to get away. The movie is only the first half of the book, roughly. After Bastian gets to Fantastica (yes, Fantastica, which is much cooler sounding than Fantasia; which reminds me of Mickey Mouse in a wizard hat), it actually gets darker as the book examines a child with the powers of a god and wish fulfillment. Then it gets darker still before the heartwarming ending. Its fantastic, and throughout, Michael Ende’s narration is full of wit and charm (ok, yes, my copy’s an English translation, but the wit jumps the language barrier).

My advice? Swallow the rage. Calm down. Read the book and think of the potential that something like this has at being awesome. Think of someone like Guillermo del Toro directing a two movie situation with an effects team as experienced as the Jim Henson Company. Not that it actually will happen, but oh how sweet it would be. Of course the execs could screw it up royally in a bid to make some quick cash, but the concept itself of a more book loyal adaptation has got legs.

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