Quick Movie Review: The NeverEnding Story II: The Next Chapter (1991)

neverending story 2

One of the things that makes the first NeverEnding Story so amazing is its unique storytelling. It follows Bastian’s journey of reading Atreyu’s adventure in the storybook, while at the same time placing Bastian in the mind of Atreyu, eventually summoning him into the book itself.

The NeverEnding Story II takes place a few years after the events from the first film. Bastian, this time played by Jonathan Brandis, discovers that words from the NeverEnding Story book are missing from its pages. Summoned inside again, he must face a new threat to the land of Fantasia.

While taking place in the same world, the version created for this sequel is confusing and often times suffocating. Whereas the Fantasia in the original film feels like a place you would actually want to visit. Here, it’s a much more lazily created world, relying mostly on what’s already been established in our minds by its predecessor.

This time, Bastian must save Fantasia from the evil sorceress Xayide. We’re never quite sure what threat she poses to the universe, but we do know that she doesn’t want Bastian there to stop her.

And in order to do so, she creates a machine that strips Bastian of one of his memories each time he makes a wish with his magical necklace. But since he’s unaware of this machine, he continues to make wishes. And the film finds absolutely every opportunity for him to keep making more wishes.

There are few things more frustrating in a movie than when the audience knows of a threat to the protagonist that the protagonist won’t figure out for almost the entire film. Watching him fall into the same trap repeatedly, not knowing that it’s harming him, makes us want to rip our hair out.

The film relies on the protagonist’s cluelessness to move the story along. Which isn’t usually a good thing unless we’re watching a comedy. Though this movie almost becomes one. But since the first film is so beloved, those normally-laughable moments are more disappointing than anything.

The sequel also gives the evil more of a face and personality–an insult to the original, whose evil is a malevolent force rather than an actual character–punctuating and emphasizing its truly deep themes.

The NeverEnding Story II never seems to know what it’s trying to say. All it wants to do is be appealing to young kids, while its predecessor is aimed at the kid in all of us.

It just tries to be too appealing, bringing a type of sitcom-y humor to the franchise. Instead of being the wide-eyed, innocent Bastian, they’ve made him a sarcastic smart aleck. He’s basically not even the same character. And neither is Atreyu. Here, he is a vulnerable child with an ego. Before, he was a strong and humble warrior inside the body of a child.

In the first NeverEnding Story, you couldn’t wait to get back inside of Fantasia. While most of the highlights in the sequel take place in the real world.

There’s an intriguing subplot involving the relationship between Bastian and his father. The entire film should have been grounded in this, but instead tries to conjure up forced depth through other means. But even those are never fully realized either.

By the end of the film, we still never quite figure out what Bastian’s purpose in Fantasia is.

It’s not exactly unwatchable, but it’s pretty poor. The lore of Fantasia itself–where it’s found–is still enough to make it externally appealing. But every time you get sucked in, the bad acting and atrocious dialogue take you right out.

Twizard Rating: 50

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Quick Movie Review: Rocky V (1990)

rocky v

So apparently Rocky V is considered the worst in the franchise. I’m not sure why. To be honest, the things people say it does wrong Rocky films have been doing since the beginning. Like contrived plot points, or innocuous plot holes, or tragic things happening due to Rocky’s lack of self-awareness. Maybe it’s just that now people are finally noticing it. But truthfully, I enjoyed it because it’s NOT like all the others.

Released in 1990, it’s perhaps the smartest Rocky film up to this point. The depth has never been more nuanced than it is here. It’s deep without being corny. Deeper than the others because it doesn’t try too hard to be. It finally breaks away from the tired formula, so for once you’re not sure where the story’s going.

Amidst all the improvements, it still has the feel of a Rocky movie, doing well to go along with the trend of each film being a different phase in the boxer’s life. Immediately after the bout with Ivan Drago from the previous film, Rocky is suffering some noticeable brain damage. A Don King parody, promoter George Washington Duke, is trying to get him back into the ring for a title fight. But Rocky keeps deflecting, finally retiring from the sport.

A young, promising fighter, Tommy Gunn, approaches Rocky in hopes that the former boxer will coach him so he can get to the championship level. Tensions rise when Rocky’s own 14 year old son, Robert, is getting less and less attention from his father during a time when he should be retired and at home with his family. Robert feels like he’s being replaced by Tommy and what results is an actual realistic depiction of what would happen between father and son.

Something about this subplot hits home for any guy. Whether it’s happened to you or not, you truly feel for Robert. However, it’s not presented in a cliched fashion. It’s not as black and white as most movies would have made it be. Subtly, we also realize that his dad isn’t as bad as he could be, either.

This installment has a brilliant way of connecting everything inside of itself. Of the original 5 films, this one has, by far, the best script. The narrative, alone, is an obvious improvement from its two predecessors at least. Although it’s a little longer, it’s a lot more fluid in its storytelling.

Sylvester Stallone does his best job not overacting in the title role–something he tends to do intermittently throughout this series. He’s getting better.

Unlike the past films, the events in this one are a direct result of realistic situations Rocky has been put in. If anything, Rocky seems to have actual sincere motives this time. Ones that we can actually relate to or empathize with. For once, Rocky seems to have his back against the wall the way it should have felt–and wanted to be–in previous films. And no matter what your opinion is on these films up to this point, Rocky V is the perfect bookend to the original quintilogy.

Twizard Rating: 92