This wasn't a good day for Bastian Bux (Jonathan Brandis): first he smashed up his kitchen by accident, then at school swimming lessons he could not jump off the highest diving board as everyone else was doing because he was too scared, thus earning the ridicule of his peers, then that night when he had returned home, his father was going out again with no time for his son, and to make matters worse he criticised the old jumper Bastian was wearing having forgotten it was the boy's late mother who knitted it for him. Luckily Bastian has a book to lose himself in - literally.
The common joke about The Neverending Story is if it's neverending, how come it only lasted ninety minutes? Shouldn't it still be going on? Well, be careful what you wish for, or at least what you joke about, because some six belated years after the orginal movie became a childhood favourite for many, this sequel arrived in the hope it would prolong the franchise. The first part had taken the initial half of Michael Ende's book and spun a yarn from it with some of the most expensive special effects ever seen in a European movie, and this second instalment was supposed to be the second half of the novel.
Now, Ende had been notoriously unhappy with the first film, not feeling it had done justice to his creations and taking his name off the opening credits, yet here for Part II there he was, credited right up front at the beginning. Did this mean he was more satisfied with the second effort than he was with the first? If so, this suggested some crisis of quality control in the mind of the author as it was plain to see the sequel was far inferior, and the only people who rated it above the original were those who sentamentalised its young star. That said, this was perfectly understandable when Brandis turned out to be yet another child actor with a tragic conclusion to their lives for he killed himself at age 27.
But even offering allowances to the fragile mental state of the lead, none of which came across in his performance which was perfectly professional, this was a real slog through what had previously been quite captivating. Aficionados of Ende's book were up in arms that so much had been changed in its journey to the big screen, and they appeared to have a point as Part II was a pale shadow, with the much appreciated effects now looking cheap and lacking, unfortunate when there were so many of them littering the plot. Bastian had been brought back to the land of Fantasia to help out in stopping the Emptiness, which sounded a lot like the Nothing from before, only in this case there was a wicked sorceress to contend with who ensures the hero loses his memories.
All Bastian has to do is make a wish on his amulet and a memory will slip away thereby giving the sorceress Xayide (Clarissa Burt) more power, but this is flimsy stuff and there's barely enough to hang a thirty minute short on here, never mind an hour and a half of movie. Some characters returned, with the boy warrior Atreyu now played by Kenny Morrison, and Falkor the dragon making a reappearance for instance, but the novelty had worn off and the message about the importance of settling into a good book was largely replaced with mithering self-esteem lessons for the uncertain Bastian. The book aspect was taken care of by now having the father reading the tome and finding it a pageturner when he realises his missing son is the main character, but the only way this would encourage bibliophiles would be to put them off watching movies like this and finding something to digest from their bookshelf instead. The sense of a half-arsed cash-in was never far away. Music by Robert Folk.
The nineties saw him offer medical drama Lorenzo's Oil (he was once a medical student) plus curious sequel Babe: Pig in the City and in the 2000s he enjoyed the international success of the animated Happy Feet and its sequel. In 2015 he successfully revived his most celebrated franchise in Mad Max: Fury Road. Not to be confused with the other Australian director George Miller.