The Neverending Story is a film that I saw for the first time as a young boy, a story about a boy my age and my type; quiet and shy and timid and scared. A boy who'd like to be strong and courageous, but doesn't see how that would ever happen. And then the boy discovers a book full of adventure and gets so caught up in it as to become a part of it. This was my kind of movie. Even as a grown man, it still is.
The Neverending Story is the book that the film is based on, though I didn't know the film was based on a book until I began working at BookPeople. I wondered if the book could be as great as the film, but worried that it couldn't possibly and put off reading it as a result. Then Danny assigned it to me and there was no avoiding it.
Thank goodness. Everything that is great about the movie is even better in the book, which previous experience with book to film adaptations should have convinced me already was so. In both cases the story is about reality, fantasy, escape friendship, imagination, and story itself. And that's enough. But in the case of the novel, that's only half the story. Literally. The book reaches its halfway point at the same place the movie ends. After that, the book goes on to also be about power, free will, individuality, isolation, grief, choice, growth, change, meaning, memory, identity, and love. It is the second half that fleshes out the first and makes the entire story far richer than the film's first half offering.
Let's be clear, I still love the film. But it simply fails to tell the whole story (or never attempts to, the result is the same) and the whole story, in this case, is brilliant. Where the first half is about the wishes and fantasies of a young boy, the second half is about what happens when those fantasies come true and why young boys (especially timid boys who long to be strong) ought to be careful what they wish for. The second half is coming of age story, it's about how real strength and courage cannot (and should not) come easy, it's about how betting older and bigger doesn't count for much if we don't get wiser as well. It's an amazing tale that I wish I had discovered at a young age and am glad to have discovered now. It is a story that I look forward to reading with my young son.
Then we'll see if he still likes the movie.