Funny, I was just reading about the insane amount of money that the Friday the 13th remake made, and what to my wondering eyes should appear but news of another remake of a film I hold dear. (Okay, so I’m not a poet.) The Kennedy/Marshall Co. (who brought you The Case of the Curiously Long Movie) and Leonard DiCaprio’s Appian Way production company have acquired rights to The NeverEnding Story. They are apparently in discussions with Warner Bros. about “reviving the 25-year-old franchise with a modern spin.”
This remake bug is damned infectious. (Total Recall? The Crow?) Remaking slasher films is just a way to repackage sequels so people will see them in the theater. But remaking iconic fantasy films like The NeverEnding Story is a challenge—to the genre, to the fans of the work—and it’s not one to be undertaken lightly.
The only potential improvement to this particular franchise would be in the special effects. (And, I guess, hewing closer to the narrative from the book. But I didn’t spend my toddler years endlessly re-reading some book, so that feature is lost on me.) The caveat I would make is that they must, absolutely, keep the puppets. Falkor, the luck dragon, remains the most impressive feature of a nearly thirty-year-old movie. Since then, the Henson shop has produced hundreds of fully realized character puppets for genre media. Farscape boasted not one, but two major puppet characters who were as richly developed as the human co-stars. (Rygel the 16th ceases to be a muppet after about three episodes. Pilot is arguably the most endearing character of all.) For all its faults, the 2005 movie version of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (itself a remake/revision of an older, less polished miniseries) did produce some pretty spectacularly dumpy looking Vogons. If they want the new Story to fly, the puppets stay. If we’ve learned anything from the failures of George Lucas, it’s that the digital revolution...isn’t.
One other suggestion? Keep Atreyu androgynous. No one else agrees with my pet theory, but I always suspected that despite the girlification factor of it having been the 1980s, Atreyu was feminized as a means of making him an accessible character to both male and female viewers. Of course, Bastian, the story’s reader, was a boy, so his self-insert character into The NeverEnding Story had to be a boy. But some girls must have picked up the book at some point. (This girl definitely watched the movie a few too many times for it to be healthy.) So maybe a girl-type Atreyu would be an in for them as well, and the new version might play on that. Maybe the Bastian character could even be a girl this time around. If this is already a sacrilegious remake—and it is—why not?
What would you keep or change with this remake?