A few weeks ago, and knowing we have been cutting back on Blu-Ray reviews, the marketing manager for Village Roadshow asked if I would be interested in reviewing The NeverEnding Story on Blu-Ray. For me, this was a no brainer. During my years in late primary school and early high school this was a favourite movie of mine which was a regular viewing experience. Time has passed though and I haven't seen The NeverEnding Story for probably 20 years now so when I received this disc, it wasn't long before we were checking it out.
The NeverEnding Story is a tale about a lonely schoolboy who retreats to an attic where he becomes engrossed in a book titled The NeverEnding Story. It is the tale of a magical kingdom appropriately named Fantasia, since it is a world born of human fantasies. However, as humanity loses faith in the power of imagination, the once-thriving Fantasia is being destroyed by great storms of Nothingness. Dangerously ill herself, Fantasia's youthful empress (Tani Stronach) sends the young warrior Atreju (Noah Hathaway) on a quest to find a cure for the kingdom.
While The NeverEnding Story hasn't quite stood the test as time as well as some other movies it is actually quite a bit darker, in terms of tone and visually, then I recalled. Due to this I probably enjoyed this movie a little more then I could have had it remained light and cheerful. A classic movie which the entire family can enjoy together.
The NeverEnding Story is presented on Blu-Ray in the films original 2.35:1 aspect ratio and, for the most part, this is a solid release with a definite improvement in the sharpness and level of detail as one would expect over the DVD release. The transfer has a consistent level of grain giving the release a film-like look. Something tha really strikes you about this film is the brilliant vibrant use of colours. From the dark opening scenes in the forest to arriving at Fantasia with the brilliant red skies there are moments that really shine but as the film moves towards its darker conclusion the detail remains int he image.
Unfortunately the films transfer is also a little inconsistent with some shimmering in the image with inconsistent light levels. There were also some blemishes and marks on the print which occasionally distract, and some scenes seem a little soft too. Finally while the HD video transfer adds additional detail and sharpness it also shows the limitations of the special effects, primarily the green/bluescreening when Falkor is flying.
I've always loved the fantasy style audio and effects in this movie and the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (16-bit/48Khz) track on this release makes sure we are getting the best possible experience. A large majority of the audio in this release,including the heavy synthesizer styled music, is front channel focused, but there are times when the surround sound channels kick in nicely. The LFE also kicks in at times to dramatic effect, especially when The Nothing strikes, or the Rock Biter is stomping around.
The two other audio tracks on this disc include a French Dolby Digital 2.0 track encoded at 192kbps and a Portuguese Dolby Digital 1.0 (yes, mono) track also encoded at 192kbps. There are plenty of subtitle tracks including English, French, Spanish, Portugese, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, Swedish.
Very disappointingly The Neverending Story on Blu-Ray is completely devoid of extras and while we can understand the 25GB storage limit on this single layer disc means space is tight, surely bumping this now classic to a dual layer disc could have seen some of the DVD's extras from the European Special Edition ported over for the first time. A major missed opportunity to provide a great value-added proposition.
Review By: Dave Warner