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Please Hollywood, Never Reboot ‘The NeverEnding Story’

The Big Picture

  • Hollywood’s obsession with 1980s nostalgia has led to endless reboots and sequels, with The NeverEnding Story being a potential candidate. However, a remake would only be another cog in an IP machine devoid of the original’s fun visual flourishes.
  • The modern cinematic landscape’s love for excessive dialogue and self-referential wit would undercut the majesty of the land of Fantasia, which is meant to be filled with joyfully unexpected weirdness.
  • A remake would struggle to capture the dark tone of the original, as it would either become too frivolous or lean too heavily into grim and dark tendencies. The unique and complicated elements of The NeverEnding Story would not thrive in the modern pop culture landscape.

Years into Hollywood’s obsession with 1980s nostalgia, it doesn’t appear that this fixation will be stopping anytime soon. The age of Rubik’s cubes, leg warmers, and Amblin family movies has proven to be a gold mine for modern films and TV shows, particularly properties like Stranger Things and It. This love for exploiting every ounce of 1980s pop culture has extended to endless reboots and sequels to popular movies from this era of cinema. If you’re examining projects from this era that have both stood the test of time and seem famous enough to spawn a remake, then you’ll inevitably stumble onto The NeverEnding Story.

A 1984 fantasy feature from director Wolfgang Petersen adapted from a book of the same name by Michael Ende, the original The NeverEnding Story movie was a big box-office hit and has proven incredibly popular even in modern pop culture. Arguably most prominently, Season 3 of Stranger Things incorporated its big theme song into a pivotal moment in its final episodes. Meanwhile, a gut-wrenching moment where The NeverEnding Story‘s Atreyu (Noah Hathaway) loses his horse in a swamp proved so traumatic for a generation of youngsters that it lives on in endless memes today. There are undoubtedly studio executives who would be salivating at the idea of getting to deliver a modern remake of The NeverEnding Story, but please, for the love of Falkor, please don’t let such a project ever emerge.

Has a ‘The NeverEnding Story’ Remake Ever Been Considered?

Image via Warner Bros. 

In early 2009, it looked like this remake was inevitable when Warner Bros. teamed up with The Kennedy/Marshall Company and Leonardo DiCaprio‘s production outfit Appian Way to conjure up a remake of The NeverEnding Story. Attaching these producers to the prospective project indicated that Warner Bros. was hoping the magic touch of DiCaprio and producers Frank Marshall and Kathleen Kennedy (the latter duo had extensive experience producing Steven Spielberg movies) could result in a new fantasy classic. Also, back in 2009, Warner Bros. was starting to grapple with the fact that its moneymaker fantasy franchise Harry Potter was two years from wrapping up. Suddenly, the exploits of Falkor and friends were looking mighty enticing as a potential Harry Potter replacement.

However, much like the Rockbiter couldn’t hold onto his dear friends even in the face of evil despite his “big, good, strong hands,” Warner Bros. couldn’t produce a remake even with all the talent it assembled. Kathleen Kennedy later revealed that legal issues related to the rights to the original NeverEnding Story books prevented the remake from coming to fruition. Warner Bros. might’ve been more eager to endure all that legal red tape if there hadn’t been a bevy of fantasy box-office duds trying to chase Harry Potter’s thunder. With titles like Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief underperforming, the studio pumped the brakes on live-action fantasy blockbusters and shifted its focus to DC blockbusters as a Harry Potter replacement.

RELATED: This Is the Scariest Moment in ‘Harry Potter’

A decade later, though, the concept of reviving this property in live-action surged again when the rights to The NeverEnding Story became the center of a massive bidding war across all the major movie and TV studios. This development and the persistent presence of a potential The NeverEnding Story remake in the news indicates that studios are eager to give this book another adaptation decades after the first movie. It may have been a long time since it was in theaters, but that still doesn’t mean the world needs a remake of that 1984 film.

Why Is a Remake of ‘The NeverEnding Story’ a Bad Idea?

Image via Warner Bros. 

The biggest problem with a NeverEnding Story remake in the modern world isn’t necessarily that the original film is a flawless classic that would be sullied by an update. The idea of remaking The NeverEnding Story in the current cinematic landscape is much like the prospect of doing a live-action remake of The Hunchback of Notre Dame; an update would undoubtedly exacerbate the flaws of the original and remove the bold dark elements. Modern fantasy cinema’s love for heaps of expository dialogue and self-referential wit (see: any of the live-action remakes of classic Disney cartoons) would undercut the majesty of the land of Fantasia. This is a world that’s supposed to be filled with joyfully unexpected weirdness (as seen by how supposedly key character Falkor doesn’t show up until the third act), not characters pausing the plot to explain every aspect of the mythology or remark “well, that just happened” when something odd happens.

It’s also difficult to imagine any modern studio allowing the world of The NeverEnding Story to still be realized with practical effects over CGI, especially if the property got snatched up by a streamer. The tactility of the Fantasia sets and characters like Rockbiter made this world seem extra immersive, not to mention lent extra weight to any of the somber moments. Imagining this story filtered through the CG effects work of modern blockbuster movies like The Flash or the default visual aesthetic of big-budget fantasy TV shows is enough to send a shiver up one’s spine. If there was the possibility of an interesting creative vision being applied to this story, that’d be one thing. However, a remake would only end up being another cog in an IP machine devoid of the fun visual flourishes that made the original 1984 feature so enjoyable.

Then there’s the dark tone of the original The NeverEnding Story, and it’s hard to imagine a modern pop culture property being able to capture it properly. A 2020s incarnation of this yarn is either going to be too frivolous (or, arguably even more ominously), would lean way too hard into the “edginess” of its predecessor, and create a fantasy land soaked in grim, dark tendencies. The thought of a The NeverEnding Story movie that had the attitude of “this ain’t your grandma’s fantasy blockbuster!” is good for a temporary chuckle but would be a nightmare to actually experience on the big screen. That complicated tone is just one of many elements of The NeverEnding Story that just doesn’t feel like it would thrive in the modern movie landscape.

‘The NeverEnding Story’ Is a One-of-a-Kind Fantasy

a kid trying to save Artax the horse from drowning in a lake of black goo in 'The NeverEnding Story'
Image via Warner Bros. 

Part of why The NeverEnding Story has so stuck around with 1980s kids is that it was a fantasy movie like nothing else they’d ever seen. It delivered characters like Falkor that had never been realized in live-action before with a complicated tone that felt different from other fantasy features of past eras. What became so famous in the first place for its willingness to try new things is, of course, being eyeballed by modern Hollywood as any easy-to-make money through a remake. Artists of the past put in the energy to make something fresh (albeit also adapted from a novel) and now heads of conglomerates want to exploit all that work for “streaming content.” Such is the distressing state of modern pop culture.

Moviegoers, both young and old, deserve new fantasy stories that speak to them and their sensibilities in the current world, not just rehashes of The NeverEnding Story. That original film will always be there for die-hard fans, while that catchy theme song will also endure forever in various formats. Let’s give a new generation of moviegoers fantasy storytelling that can resonate with them in the same way that The NeverEnding Story left such an indelible mark on people back in the 1980s. There are countless good reasons why a remake of this particular 1984 film would be an endlessly bad idea in the modern pop culture landscape. However, the fact that it would crowd out original fantasy storytelling that can belong exclusively to the next generation is an especially urgent reason to forego the chance to continue The NeverEnding Story.

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