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Blu-ray Reviews

HTF BLU-RAY REVIEW: The NeverEnding Story



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#1 of 12 OFFLINE   Cameron Yee

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Posted March 06 2010 - 01:42 PM

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The NeverEnding Story

Release Date: Available now
Studio: Warner Brothers
Packaging/Materials: Single-disc Blu-ray case
Year: 1984
Rating: PG
Running Time: 1:34:00
MSRP: $28.99

  THE FEATURE
Video 1080p high definition 16x9 2.35:1
Audio DTS-HD Master Audio: English 5.1 / Dolby Digital: French 2.0 and Portuguese
Subtitles English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, Swedish

The Feature: 4/5

Still grieving over the loss of his mother, emotionally neglected by his father, and the victim of bullying by classmates, Bastian (Barret Oliver) spends much of his time lost in books. Ducking into a mysterious shop to flee the latest round of abuse, he comes across an intriguing tome called The NeverEnding Story. Unable to resist its allure, he borrows it and hides in the school attic to read through its voluminous pages. Telling the story of the land of Fantasia, its impending destruction by a malevolent force called The Nothing, and the efforts by the native boy Atreju (Noah Hathaway) to save his home, The NeverEnding Story proves to be an absorbing tale. Though Bastian has been caught up in stories before, this particular one will do it in a rather unexpected way, challenging the depths of his imagination and ultimately his sense of self-worth.

Adapted from Michael Ende's German language novel, "The NeverEnding Story" is impressive for its presentation of a fully formed and confidently fantastical world, though the seams of its adaptation to film show through at times. Most notably the narrative moves too swiftly in the first act, with the barest amount of time given for viewers to find their footing in the new environment. Fortunately, by the time Atreju faces his first major challenge, the feelings of disorientation and the impulse to catch up have largely passed. For younger audiences, to whom the film will appeal the most, this won't likely matter. The visual style, special effects, and wondrous quality of the characters and settings will undoubtedly embed the film in children's memories for years. Though somehow the movie never made it into my childhood viewing experiences, I would not hesitate to share it with or recommend it to any young person today.

Video Quality: 4/5

The film is accurately framed at 2.35:1 and presented in 1080p with the VC-1 codec. Contrast generally displays the full range of values, but there are some moments when the image looks a little flat or overly contrasty, obscuring shadow detail. Fine object detail is quite good, creating a satisfying clarity in hair and fabrics with no indication of digital sharpening measures. Colors appear deep and nicely saturated, particularly with reds and oranges, though flesh tones are pinkish in a few scenes and one scene displays some visible color shifts. There are other issues inherent to the source - flickering, white "sparkle" and dust blobs - but they tend to be understandable given the age of the film. With the visible and healthy grain structure, the image also shows no signs of excessive noise reduction measures.

Audio Quality: 3.5/5

Apparently presented for the first time in 5.1 audio (at least for this Blu-ray region), the DTS-HD Master Audio track would be great if it weren't for its excessive levels of LFE. Though it certainly has a "wow" factor, it's not integrated with the rest of the array and stands out like a lone tree in the middle of a grassy plain. At one point I had to turn down the volume, afraid that I would get the dreaded "clack" from my subwoofer bottoming out. That aside, the track has good detail and clarity in its center channel and the surround channel mix, providing slight environmental and directional effects, seems balanced.

Special Features: 0/5

This may be the first Blu-ray I've reviewed that doesn't have a single extra. Though I'm admittedly not the most enthusiastic about special features, at least a theatrical trailer or TV spot would have been appreciated.

Recap

The Feature: 4/5
Video Quality: 4/5
Audio Quality: 3.5/5
Special Features: 0/5
Overall Score (not an average): 3.5/5


Warner Brothers turns in a satisfying video presentation - but a notably unbalanced audio presentation - for an entertainingly fantastical children's movie. With nary a special feature, the Blu-ray release is the very definition of "bare bones."




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#2 of 12 ONLINE   Dick

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Posted March 10 2010 - 04:59 AM

This is one I definitely want, but not for the price on the stickers I've seen so far. Even Wal-Mart is charging $20.00 for this bare-bones (hey, Warner - you used to at least put a trailer on almost everything!) 80's catalog title. I know, I paid more than that for the laser disc back aways, but there is a new normal, which Warner Bros itself has helped to create (i.e. the Blu double-features available for fifteen bucks street), and when I can fetch a copy of NEVERENDING STORY for $15.00 or less, I'll do it. Same with CLASH OF THE TITANS. Had the company made these two a double feature at the same price as the others they're releasing, I'd have had them by now.



#3 of 12 OFFLINE   Todd Erwin

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Posted March 10 2010 - 05:01 AM

Looks like Amazon read your post.


#4 of 12 OFFLINE   Southpaw

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Posted March 13 2010 - 12:26 AM

Interesting article regarding Wolfgang not even knowing that there was a pending BD release of TNS:
http://www.blu-ray.com/news/?id=4284

Is it customary for directors to know that their past catalog titles are getting released?


#5 of 12 OFFLINE   Cameron Yee

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Posted March 13 2010 - 05:07 AM

Movie Haiku

Bullied and lonely
Books help him escape it all
One book most of all

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#6 of 12 OFFLINE   Charlie O.

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Posted March 15 2010 - 01:47 PM

 I guess is the same American theatrical cut used on the DVD correct?

#7 of 12 OFFLINE   cineMANIAC

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Posted March 16 2010 - 05:30 AM

What's this "International Version" I keep hearing about? Are we talking a couple of minutes missing or were entire sequences dropped - I would love to see this alternate version.
 

RIP Roberto Gomez Bolanos. 


#8 of 12 OFFLINE   Brian Borst

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Posted March 16 2010 - 08:05 AM

Actually, this is the International version. The German cut is about 8 minutes longer and features the following differences:

Quote:
 
  • Title sequence: The German version has white text on black background and the original title music by Klaus Doldinger, which is a bit gloomy to represent Bastian's dream about his mom that he's waking up from in the first scene, the music then continues playing in the background till the breakfast scene. The US version instead has the text placed on a colourful artificial clouds scenario and the "NeverEnding Story" pop song by Giorgio Moroder, performed by Limahl.
  • When Bastian woke up and closed the book, the US version right cuts to the breakfast scene, but the German version shows 48 seconds more footage: Bastian puts the book away, turns around to switch the lamp off, he then swings over to sit down on the edge of the bed for a little while and looks sad. His dad comes down the stairs, enters the kitchen, looks in a mirror and opens the refrigerator door.
  • At the end of the breakfast scene when they finished talking and Bastian's dad leaves, the German version shows 14 seconds more footage: Bastian still looks sad and thoughtful, he slowly butters his bread and holds his head with the other hand, plus we hear the sound of dad's car driving away in the background.
  • Koreander's book store, alternative close-up shots of the book: Once the cover has the title "Die Unendliche Geschichte" for the German version and once it has the title "The NeverEnding Story" for the US version.
  • Koreander's phone call is slightly longer in the German version (alternative take as it is part of the following notepad shot), but the US version has a short additional insert of Bastian: He hastily grabs the book and runs away with it (just under 1 second).
  • Bastian leaves a message for Koreander on the notepad, alternative close-ups: Once the note says "Nicht Böse sein. Ich brings bald zurück" for the German version and once it says "Don't Worry, I'll return Your Book" for the US version.
  • When Bastian enters the school's attic, the German version has more footage at the beginning: He comes in, walks down the stairs and looks around for a bit (19 seconds) longer.
  • In the US version there's a little bit of synthesizer music by Moroder when we first see the Racing Snail, in the German version is no music there (also some other scenes in the movie that are originally quiet were filled with music for the US version, either with additional music by Moroder or with pieces from Doldinger's music that were taken from other scenes).
  • The Nothing approaches and Rockbiter looks worried, trees hit out in direction of the camera and in the US version Rockbiter just drives away with his bike then (7 seconds, probably taken from the material that showed Rockbiter arriving before). The German version doesn't show him driving away, but has a different and longer scene following here: Bastian jumps up in fright after the trees hit out, then the school's caretaker enters the attic and carries a bunch of teaching material, the man stumbles, falls and complains. Bastian hides until the caretaker leaves the attic, jumps on his mattress and continues reading the book then (1 minute, 5 seconds).
  • Different music for the presentation of the Ivory Tower: The German version has a majestic and gentle theme by Doldinger featuring an orchestra (mainly strings, plus choir, trumpet and harp), the US version has a powerful synthesizer pop theme by Moroder instead. Also in several other scenes in the US version of the movie Doldinger's great original orchestral music was replaced with new electronic sounds (similar to what was done to Jerry Goldsmith's work in Ridley Scott's movie "Legend" back then).
  • During Cairon's speech on the terrace of the Ivory Tower: The US version has extra inserts with shots of some of the bizarre people of Phantasia. The German version of that scene has the same running time but one shot less of the people with the huge heads, no shot of the guy with the elephant head, no shots of the people with three/two faces, and shows more of Cairon and Night Hob's reaction instead.
  • When Atreyu leaves the Ivory Tower, the following scenes that show him riding through several landscapes of Phantasia were differently edited: The US version has some sequences placed in a different order and combines them, with the first appearance of Gmork placed at the end, and then cuts to the scene with Atreyu and Artax resting. The German version shows the ride in stages, interrupted in the middle by the Gmork appearance and slowly fades over to the resting scene at the end.
  • The US version jumps to another music right when Atreyu received the Auryn and starts his quest (still Doldinger music, but taken from a theme composed for an other scene), after the different editing mentioned above the original music was too short and so a similar longer track was needed. There are also a few more scenes during the movie where the Doldinger music was moved to other places where it didn't appear originally.
  • Artax sinks into the swamp, Atreyu desperately screams and tries to rescue his horse, without success. The German version slowly fades to the next scene and is about 3 seconds longer here than the US version (which fades out a little earlier and to black instead).
  • In the German version the scene of Artax' death and the following scene of Atreyu sitting in the swamp crying has very sad and powerful orchestral music by Klaus Doldinger (strings, panpipes), for the US version it was replaced with simple synthesizer music by Giorgio Moroder.
  • Falkor approaches the swamp and saves Atreyu from the Gmork, the German version has the more thrilling Doldinger music and shows one more shot of the Gmork (about 2 seconds) at the end who looks angry because he missed Atreyu.
  • When Bastian throws the book away in a corner of the attic: Alternative shots of the book again, once with the German and once with the English title. Plus alternative takes for the German and US version of him picking up the book from the floor.
  • Atreyu's flight on Falkor: In the German version the scene is 19 seconds longer, because the US version has removed two shots (approaching the lake in the mountains plus the following frontal shot of Atreyu on Falkor) and has changed some of the slow fade-overs to simple cuts to make it even shorter.
  • Before Falkor dives into the sea to pick up the Auryn from the bottom: The US version has a short extra insert (about 4 seconds) that shows some kind of a sparkling point of light in the blue sea (or sky?).
  • Atreyu back on Falkor, when they ask Auryn to guide them the way to the Ivory Tower it starts glowing: Here the US version jumps from the Doldinger music to Moroder's Ivory Tower theme, while in the German version the original music continues to play and leads to Doldinger's second Ivory Tower theme then.
  • On the attic, when the Childlike Empress tries to get Bastian to speak out her name: He's in doubt if it's really him who could save Phantasia, the German version shows 4 seconds more footage of him where he actually asks if he had the power to do so.
  • After the windows on the attic burst open, the German version has 12 seconds more footage: Bastian is scared and hides under the blanket, a shot of the attic from a distance of him laying on the mattress and a close shot of him looking out from under the blanket. Plus an additional line for the Childlike Empress, she wonders whether he dares to save them and moans "Help us!".
  • The Nothing is about to destroy even the Ivory Tower and the terrace already falls apart: The German version shows that in eight shots and an 4 seconds extra line for Bastian who says he wish he could do it (helping them), plus one shot of the Childlike Empress who briefly looks up to the left corner after a bang that scared her. The US version shows only four of the eight shots of the terrace falling apart.
  • End Credits sequence: The German version ends with two of Doldinger's themes, the US version ends with the Limahl song.
I haven't seen it, but it's supposedly a little bit darker than the International version.

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#9 of 12 OFFLINE   RobertSiegel

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Posted March 27 2010 - 07:13 AM

Is there a German Blu-ray available? I would love to see the other version and hear the movie with an orchestral score, although I do really like the score used for the US release.

Classics on Blu-ray is what it is all about!


#10 of 12 OFFLINE   Brian Borst

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Posted March 27 2010 - 09:19 AM

I don't think it is. But the real problem with the German version is that it's, in fact, German. It's dubbed, so it's of no use to anyone who wants to see the movie in English.

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#11 of 12 OFFLINE   mattCR

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Posted April 10 2011 - 12:41 PM

Just a minor update on this title, while no extras at $29 made it not such a good deal, it has found it's way to Walmart's $7 Bluray corner, and is =exactly= bitrate and track the same, so no alterations.  At $7-10, this is a must buy.


My kids sat and watched this today, and I was surprised how well it holds up; and the blacks in this presentation put the earlier DVD absolutely to shame, it looks fantastic


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#12 of 12 OFFLINE   Adam Gregorich

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Posted April 10 2011 - 01:23 PM



Originally Posted by mattCR 

Just a minor update on this title, while no extras at $29 made it not such a good deal, it has found it's way to Walmart's $7 Bluray corner, and is =exactly= bitrate and track the same, so no alterations.  At $7-10, this is a must buy.


My kids sat and watched this today, and I was surprised how well it holds up; and the blacks in this presentation put the earlier DVD absolutely to shame, it looks fantastic


I thought it was worth it at $20.  At under $10 it is a complete no brainer.