|Posted on June 6, 2012 at 7:40 AM|
As I mentioned last week, the book The Neverending Story follows the adventures of Bastian, a boy whose life on Earth is tough because his mother has died and his father is hypercritical of him. However, the movie of the same name covered only half the story. The second movie, The Neverending Story II: the Next Chapter, concludes the adventure, with all the philosophy of the first movie still in place—obviously. The message is still clear that when people stop using their imagination, they lose hope and a reason to live.
Most of the characters in TNeS-II are played by different actors, which I found disappointing; the sole exception is Thomas Hill as Mr. Koreander. This time, Bastian tries out for the swim team at school, but when the coach wants him to dive off the high board, it seems as though he’s about to jump into a thundering waterfall, not unlike Niagara. He backs out, saying he has cramps.
It doesn’t help that the coach calls his fear a “high wimp factor,” nor that his father criticizes his sweater. “Look at that old rag you’re wearing.”
Annoyed, Bastian says, “I like it.”
“Well, I don’t.” Never mind that Bastian’s mother had knitted it for him as a Christmas present before she died.
When he returns to Koreander’s bookstore, Bastian finds The Neverending Story again, and from it he hears the childlike empress begging him to come back and help Fantasia once more. Again the land is in danger. The next thing he knows, he’s sailing in a gossamer boat on an acidic sea—which apparently does not affect the boat—heading for Silver City.
After he docks and deboards, however, awnings begin to fall and pavement starts to split. Rising from the damage come two or three giant monsters with lobster mouths, caliper hands and feet, and drills and buzz saws as weapons. They chase Bastian back to the boat; he narrowly escapes them while they fall into the acid.
The giants are the minions of Xayide, a witch with a wicked plot against Bastian. In effect, she takes the place of Gmork in the first half, primarily because both have an eye on destroying Fantasia. To do this, she has a fellow called Tri-Face invent a special machine. His fantasy name comes from his rotating visage to become one of several men. His machine looks like a glass head in a glass globe, resting on a claw-like stand.
“Every time the Earthling uses a wish,” says Tri-Face, “my new invention makes him lose a memory. With each wish, the liquid in his head forms a memory ball. It falls down and is collected in the beaker below.”
To ensure Bastian literally empties his head, Xayide sends Nimbly, a human-sized bird, to get in Bastian’s ear and urge him to make one flamboyant wish after another. “Auryn will help you,” he says, referring to the circular snake medallion Bastian wears prominently. If the Auryn represents Jesus, this is like saying, “I can have whatever I want. The Lord will help me.”
When Bastian sees a holograph of the childlike empress, she says she’s a prisoner in her own ivory castle. “We are the creatures of human fantasies,” she says. “We need your dreams and stories to exist, but the people in your world no longer believe in us.” She says Bastian has to give the problem a name, and later he comes up with one: the Emptiness. Sound familiar?
The idea of emptiness is reflected when words disappear from the pages, Koreander’s store seal vanishes from inside the book’s front cover, and eventually the store itself is a vacant building. In Fantasia, the giants turn out to be empty, in spite of their threat. So do the rocks the rockbiter and his baby eat. So does Bastian’s head as he gradually loses memories.
A couple of times, Xayide looks into one of the discarded balls and sees what he has lost. She herself can’t understand why a human boy would treasure such things as his parents’ love, for instance. Or a time when an errant baseball shattered a window, when his father showed forgiveness. But after Nimbly sees one, he starts to question which one he should be helping. To his credit, he decides to side with Bastian rather than work against him; he now joins Atreyu trying to free him from the witch’s grip.
The more the balls fall into the beaker, the more control the witch gains over Bastian’s mind. As with transcendental meditation, an empty mind is a dangerous thing in the enemy’s hands. Though Bastian essentially arrests her by the Auryn’s power, and attempts to return her to Silver City, in fact she orders him around—and he sees nothing wrong with it. She plants doubt in his mind about Atreyu’s faithfulness, until the boys get into a fight and Atreyu falls off a cliff.
The story comes down to Bastian having two memories left: his mother and his father. Meanwhile, his father has found the book and is reading everything his son is going through. Like Bastian in the first movie, his father can’t believe he himself is also part of the story. Bastian sacrifices his mother’s memory to bring Atreyu back to life, and Xayide insists he use his last wish to go home. Instead he wishes for her to have a heart, and Fantasia is restored. Destroyed land and buildings become whole, and the childlike empress is freed.
The only way he finally can get home is to dive into the cataract he thought he had seen in the swimming pool. “You’ve found courage,” says his father. “Jump!” And Bastian hears him. He makes the leap, and the “never-ending story” ends.
Symbols in this film are more of a challenge to figure out. Obviously Xayide is the Devil, who obscures our memories of our former faith in Jesus. The giant lobsters are his demons—though they usually don’t show up with such destructive force. Xayide’s control of Bastian’s mind is not unlike Satan’s control when we reject the Lord and follow wickedness.
The wishes could represent self-serving prayers, spoken in the name of Jesus. The first ones Nimbly tries to get Bastian to use turning the acid into water, or coloring it purple, or other frivolous acts. It’s not unlike us praying for a big car or a big house, or riches beyond belief. Sometimes the prayers are subtler but no less selfish, such as demanding God get us a hot date. Or begging Him to help us win a game. The more Satan encourages us to think of ourselves first, the more he controls us, exactly as Xayide did.
“3 Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. 4 Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart. 5 Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him and He will do this” (Psalm 37:3-5).
People who follow the “name it claim it” theology use the end of verse 4 to validate themselves, but look at it in context. The words in italics are especially important. To receive the desires of our heart, we must also trust the Lord, do good, delight in and commit to Him. If we satisfy the conditions, our heart desires will also be His heart desires for us.
This keeps our wishes (prayers) from being self-centered, thereby giving Satan a foothold (Ephesians 4:7). However, let’s not make the mistake of saying all prayers for ourselves should be banned. If we have health issues, dire financial straits, or serious concerns for our future, it’s valid to ask God to intervene. Houses and cars and wealth? He gives those to us—or withholds them—as He sees fit. In His infinite wisdom, He alone knows what we need.
Conquering his fear of diving is another way Bastian’s experience mirrors ours. We all have fears, many of them unreasonable; these are called phobias. We need the courage and the encouragement from friends and family to overcome our fears and grow in the Lord. Sometimes it’s the only way we can go Home.
The Bible records Earth’s life from beginning to end, and beyond. Human interactions with God never truly ends with the last word of the Book. There is always more to tell, more to experience—more to cherish.
Praise God for His extraordinary gifts!