Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Review Day: The Neverending Story by Michael Ende & The Host Film

The Neverending Story by Michael Ende

I decided to read this book because I grew up on the 1984 film of the same name. Though we're talking about child actors in the eighties and the dazzling special effects of the by-gone era, it's still one of my favorite films today, mostly for one reason: the writing is AWESOME! It's the kind of show that makes me think, No wonder I'm a writer, and a romantic, and an idealist, who loves to write all kinds of epic drama! I grew up on this show! 

Anyway, I saw that it came from a book and decided I wanted to read it, just to see what differences there were and to revel even more in a story I love.

Unfortunately, the book was very hard to read. It's not because the writing is bad or the author sucked, but rather because it was originally written in German and so the English version is a translation. I wouldn't describe the translation as choppy so much as written in completely passive voice. It's reminiscent of Tolkien or C.S. Lewis at their worst. Despite an interesting, ridiculously unique story, the way it's written is just plain boring, which made it a difficult book to get through.

Comparing it with the film, the entirety of the movie takes place in the first half of the book. That's right! They left out fully half the novel. But that's probably because, being geared toward kids, they only had ninety minutes to work with. Everything that happened in the film was almost spot-on with the book, though. Bastian was a fat, bullied kid, which (the fat part anyway) wasn't true in the film. Near the end of the film (don't worry, this isn't a spoiler; just a last line) it says something along the lines of, "Bastian made many wishes and had many more amazing adventures. But that's another story..." Basically, the second half of the book comprises all the adventures he had in Fastastica. (The film changes it to Fantasia. A film after my own heart. :D)

Many of the adventures drag on, while a few of them are very intriguing. I especially liked one of the final ones where he met an old, blind minor who collect glass plates from his mine. The plates held the dreams of human beings from the world. He explains to Bastian that when you wake and don't remember your dream, it becomes entombed in the mine. When the minor collected them, they became part of Fantastica. Bastian has to go looking for one of his own dreams, because he's lost all of his human memories by that point, and the only way to get back to the real world is to remember some part of who he was. I thought it was a very interesting, touching story.
How cute is this picture?

The book ended on a very sweet note, as well, with an improvement in the relationship between Bastian and his father. This is something I would have appreciated in the film, as they went out of their way to show how rocky things were between the two, but never followed up on it.

One other note: the film's writers were freakin' geniuses! There were so many lines I came across that were in the film, but slightly altered. Where they were profound and powerful in the movie, they fell flat in the book. Granted, it could be an issue of translation again, but from what I can tell, the writers took something that was mediocre, but had potential and made it something awe-inspiring.
The G'mork

Example (from book): 
(G'mork): "When it comes to controlling human beings there is no better instrument than lies. Because, you see, humans live by beliefs. And beliefs can be manipulated. the power to manipulate beliefs is the only thing that counts. That's why I sided with the powerful and served them--because I wanted to share their power...
"The human world is full of weak-minded people, who think they're as clever as can be and are convinced that it's terribly important to persuade even the children that Fantastica doesn't exist. Maybe they will make good use of you."
Atreyu stood there with bowed head.

The Childlike Emperess

Example (from film):
Atreyu: I can't get beyond the boundaries of Fantasia!
[G'mork laughs and Atreyu gets a little angry]
Atreyu: What's so funny about that?
G'mork: Fantasia has no boundaries.
Atreyu: That's not true! You're lying.
G'mork: Foolish boy. Don't you know anything about Fantasia? It's the world of human fantasy. Every part, every creature of it, is a piece of the dreams and hopes of mankind. Therefore, it has no boundaries.
Atreyu: But why is Fantasia dying, then?
G'mork: Because people have begun to lose their hopes and forget their dreams. So the Nothing grows stronger.
Atreyu: What is the Nothing?
G'mork: It's the emptiness that's left. It's like a despair, destroying this world. And I have been trying to help it.
Atreyu: But why?
G'mork: Because people who have no hopes are easy to control; and whoever has the control... has the power!

What do YOU think? Which version do you think is more powerful?


The Host Movie Review

So I finally got to see the Host movie--and just in the nick of time, too. It's gone down to only two showings a day, which means it will probably leave the local theater next week!

I really liked it. To create a two hour film out of a 600 page book, and still hit all the major points is quite an accomplishment. While there were a couple of lines I loved in the book that didn't make it into the film, at no point did I go, Oh my gosh! I can't believe they cut that part! They did all of the major things and did an excellent job with the key scenes as well.

The actors all portrayed their respective characters very well--exactly as I pictured it in the book. I loved William Hurt as Jebb. He was perfect! (As a small change, they made him Melanie's uncle which, unless I totally missed it, wasn't the case in the book.)  Max Irons was great as Jared (exactly like I'd pictured him in the book) and Jake Abel was great as Ian. (I spent most of the movie trying to figure out what I knew him from. Not until I cam home and looked him up on did I realize that I knew him from Supernatural. Go him!) And of course Saoirse Ronan was excellent as Wanderer/Wanda/Melanie. (Does everyone know her name is pronounced SEER-shuh? Weird, right? Irish, I think.) I thought Diane Kruger was great as the Seeker--might even have made her more relatable than she was in the book--though in the book, the Seeker wasn't nearly that pretty. (As with most things Kruger does, never in real life are people in those professions that gorgeous. There's a reason her career takes place in front of a camera.)

Anyway, not going to say much about the story. For that, see my book review. It was well-executed with great music and performances all around. Even having read the book, I still got teary-eyed at the end, which means the film makers did their job, and very well. 

Have you seen The Host film?

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