I remember watching that movie often as a child, I really don't remember a great deal about it, I guess the filter of time has erased much of the story. I really don't think that is a horrible thing, lots of things get lost in the shuffle of time, memories being the top of the list. But someone brought that movie up on Facebook, and the fact is, I am older now, with a few more miles on the clock, and a drastically different mindset than the last time I watched it. Right now, from what I remember about The Never-Ending Story, its really depressing.
When I was a kid, I loved that movie, I would watch it whenever it came on, my parents got it on VHS, I think I had a copy of it on DVD. When we are children, what we take in during a movie is filtered, and placed into relevant or not. So, a lot of what I saw in that movie as a kid was disregarded almost instantly when some new character was introduced, or the next part of the story was told.
I didn't even recall that the main character's, the person reading the story to us the viewers, Mother had just passed away, and he is suffering from depression, and loss. The truth is, when we are children, we often can't relate, we don't understand death like we do as we get older, until we experience it in person, and even then, we might not understand it fully until we are older. The truth is, the loss of a parent is not something most can understand until they are much older. Our parents are almost always there for everything. At the age most of us watch that movie, both of our parents are there, likely sitting next to us, or in the other room.
We have Artax the horse, giving up in the swamp. Yeah, I couldn't imagine becoming so sad that you give up and die. We also have Morla the one of the oldest beings in the land, who is completely apathetic to everything. You have The Nothing (I call it The Nothingness), which seeks to leave nothing behind. Words cannot describe how depressing this movie gets once the horse dies, but as kids, we really don't get it.
When Artax buys the farm, yeah I am down playing the death of a major characters friend, our minds can't register it. Just as our minds couldn't register the death and depression of Bastian, we can't understand the pain felt by Atreyu. Again, that is if you were old enough, and unlucky enough to have lost a pet. The older me sits back and thinks about this movie, and I can't help but try and silence the warning sirens going off in my head. If they kill off a major characters friend, a horse no less, in the first act of the movie, its going to get a lot worse. Yeah, many movies start off with the main character loosing a parent or sibling, but animals are normally safe. But not in this one, they are going to try and pull out every heart string we have. I can still deal with the death of the horse, yes he has a great relationship with Atreyu, but we don't have that relationship. Really, it softens that blow.
We encounter Morla, who has through life become so disenfranchised, so apathetic to the world that when she dies, she doesn't even care. As children, we really can't see it, at that time in our lives, the world could be ending, and we would be sheltered from it to the bitter end by our parents. We have no concept of being that beaten down at that age. At this time in my life, I can fully understand the sentiment that character displays. The struggle of getting up every morning, trying to put one foot in front of the other. The pointlessness of it all. Yeah, it is that depressing from where I am.
But we get that creepy luck dragon, and the fact is, he is an upper in an otherwise depressionfest of a movie. Sure, he might be a child molester, but he is also the bright spot in a movie that is pretty damned depressing. He gives us hope that things will get better. Yay... Things will get better. I wish that were true.
Ultimately, because Bastion can't get his self together, we watch as the world of Fantasia falls apart at the seems. Sadly there are no zombies when the world comes a apart at the wheels, but hey, its a kid flick. We eventually run into the Rock Eater, and he is lamenting something that as adults we have felt. Well, I can say I have. He is sitting idle, crying that for all the strength that he had, the strength in his hands, his very being that he couldn't save his friends from the Nothingness. As with the previous people we have seen in this state of being, we as children cannot understand this type of failure. I think this one hit me hardest when I learned that a man like my brother had passed away. For all of his faults, for all of his demons, I wanted to see him escape. I wanted to see him free of his alcoholism, I would have done almost everything in my power to help him. But I was powerless, as weak as a new born baby compared to his addictions and demons. I have lost a great deal in this life, and for all my fighting spirit, for all my resolve the strength in my hands, and in my heart is powerless to stop it all. It pains me now when I see the Rock Eater in that state, it reminds me of my own failings as a person, my own weakness. I hate and pity that character for it. But, when we have those emotions towards that character for those things, we really hate ourselves. But in some way we also pity him, because we understand how he feels on a base level. To have lost so much that is so dear to you and to fell powerless to stop it.
Yeah, it has a happy ending. Most kids movies do. If we look at it from an adults perspective we really wonder how it is that kids can find anything happy? Bastion finally comes to grips with his mothers death. In some way, he envisions her living on in the empress. Atreyu reunites with Artax, and is happy. The Rock-Eater meets up with his friends again. We leave that movie in a happy place. Meanwhile in the real world, we still can't come to terms with the death of a loved one. The things we have lost are still gone, and we may or may never recover them. For the most part we all become Morla, unable to care what the outcome is, so long as it is over.