An ostracized young boy named Bastian who loves to read steals a magical book which claims to have no ending. In it is the story of an otherworldly Magical Native American boy named Atreyu on a quest to save a Magical Land from vanishing. As Bastian reads more and more of the story, he finds that the book seems to be aware of him. Eventually, it is revealed that the magical land within the book is actually another dimension encompassing all of human imagination, and only a human with creative ideas can save it. Needless to say, this film doesn't so much break the Fourth Wall, as it never really has one to begin with; and that itself is a large part of the point.Michael Ende's novel The Neverending Story spawned three movies. The first one was very well received (except by, among others, Ende himself, who sued unsuccessfully to have the name changed because he disliked it so much and had his name taken out of the writing credits), the second less so, and the third is deeply unpopular. The first movie was based on the first half of the book and the second (rather more loosely) on the second half, while the third was not based on it at all apart from having the Old Man of Wandering Mountain show up.
The Neverending Story (1984)
The Neverending Story II: The Next Chapter (1991)
The Neverending Story III: Escape from Fantasia (1995)
Adaptational Villainy: In the book, Gmork was helping the Nothing because he envied Fantasticans and humans for having the one thing he didn't have: a place to call home. This made him somewhat sympathetic, if still petty, due to wanting to destroy two worlds out of spite. The film version, on the other hand, is simply portrayed as a Straw Nihilist who is hungry for power, and wants to control the despairing lives left in the Nothing's wake.
Christopher Hamill ("Limahl" is a Significant Anagram) was previously the lead singer of Kajagoogoo, best known for "Too Shy".
Now that Kajagoogoo reunited for good, they've adopted the song to themselves (of course with Limahl still on lead vocals), with bassist Nick Beggs (who was the band's lead vocalist after they fired Limahl in 1984) now singing the second voice, and Nick and the rest of the band members now handling all the background music.
Big Damn Heroes: Falkor's rescue of Atreyu from the Swamps of Sadness, his literal Despair Event Horizon, and the wolf, Gmork. Bastian even lampshades this with his huge exclamation of relief and collapse after the scene ends in the movie.
Bigger Bad: Gmork states that human apathy and lack of imagination is his true master:
Gmork: I am the servant of the force behind the nothing.
Blind Alley: Bastian escapes his bullies by hiding in a bookstore, while his chasers rush by. The following encounter with the bookstore owner sets off the story.
Breaking the Fourth Wall: Near the end of the film, the Childlike Empress tells Atreyu that as he was adventuring through Fantasia, the Earth-child Bastian was sharing his adventures by reading the story, then mentions that others are sharing Bastian's adventure, referencing the viewers. The last part she does whilst looking directly at the camera.
The Chessmaster: Unlike the book version, where Bastion steals the book and the store owner doesn't even remember it at the end of the novel, Mr. Koreander tricks him into taking it in this version, clearly intending for him to read it and use its power.
Compressed Adaptation: The film literally cut out half of the book. Thanks to Adaptation Displacement, most people don't even know anything was removed. The sequel, fortunately, picks up elements from the second half of the book, although it was still not quite there.
Five Second Foreshadowing: At the end of the first one, Atreyu sees a number of murals that show various events that have already happened to him. He then sees a mural showing a growling wolf in some rubble, he which definitely hasn't encountered. He then hears some growling, spins around and sees the wolf.
Framing Device: The film starts off looking like this trope is in effect. Until you realise that Fantasia is another dimension and not just a story being read by Bastian.
Getting Crap Past the Radar: The Sphinx have very prominent bare breasts. Said breasts also come with fairly notable nipples. The scene involve shows them a lot. The mood takes away from that, however.
Engywook: Atreyu has to face his true self. Falcor: So what? That won't be too hard for him. Engywook: Oh, that's what everyone thinks! But kind people find out that they are cruel. Brave men discover that they are really cowards! Confronted by their true selves, most men run away screaming!
Atreyu: What is the Nothing? Gmork: It's the emptiness that's left. It's like a despair, destroying this world. And I have been trying to help it. Atreyu: But why? Gmork: Because people who have no hopes are easy to control. And whoever has control has the power.
The Heavy: Gmork fills this role. The Nothing is probably the actual Big Bad, but Atreyu has to fight him. Gmork even says something to this effect:
Atreyu: Who are you, really?
G'mork: I am the servant of the power behind the Nothing.
Narrator: The film suddenly sprouts a narrator only at the very, very end. It would be all too easy to construct a lofty critical reason for this, such as, "It's to emphasize thematically that the real story is only beginning etc..." but in all likelihood it was just because of earlier scenes being cut or a sloppy mistake in the film's writing or editing.
Near Villain Victory: Unbelievably near. By the end, all that remains of Fantasia is the Childlike Empress and a single grain of sand.
No Fourth Wall: The Childlike Empress explicitly tells that others have been following Bastian through his experiences, like he had been following Atreyu.
Urban Legends: The "Swamp of Sadness" scene was evidently a troubled production site. Depending on who you ask, the horse that played Artax got caught in the elevator and died (Which scarred Atreyu's actor for life) or Atreyu's actor got caught in the elevator and almost drowned. Not to mention, he was thrown off a horse during training and stepped on, which certainly wouldn't have helped...
We All Live in America: At least the original German versions of the movies (let alone the books) base the story in Germany. How come Bastian's hometown does nothing to not look like a US city then?
Stargate City: It's not a US city; the movies were filmed in Vancouver.
Who Names Their Kid "Dude"?: When Bastian reads that the Childlike Empress needs a new name, he remarks to himself that his mother had a beautiful name, which he'd like to give to the Empress if it were up to him. When it turns out at the end of the film that it is up to him, the name that he shouts is obscured by Dramatic Thunder but seems to be the same as the new name that he gives her in the book: "Moon Child."
The live action series Tales from the Neverending Story goes with the "Moon Child was inspired by Bastian's mother's name" idea from the movie (despite being yet another Alternate Continuity), but clarifies that his mom's actual name was Selene (after the Greek moon goddess).
Death of Personality: The Emptiness slowly does this to Bastian by erasing his memories every time he makes a wish.
Idiot Ball: Bastian seems to be clutching the idiot ball for dear life, in for no other reason is how easily he's manipulated by Xayide. You'd think he'd be less inclined to make wishes, particularly for such reasons, when the self-professed villain and her bird-boy lackey (who he should be able to notice is working for her) both keep insisting he make wishes. Not only that, he accepts magical (possibly boobytrapped) gifts from her and despite knowing and having far more reason to trust Atreyu than her, for some reason continues act like Atreyu is some kind of idiot when he insists the Xayide shouldn't be trusted.
Bastian also is given opportunities to make wishes with the Auryn, (Unknown to him that making wishes will cause his memories to be removed from his mind) but most of the time he doesn't even make the wishes. A good example would be when Xayide sends her minions after Bastian, Nimbly tells him to make a wish but he doesn't and Nimbly has to save him.
Informed Ability: In a serious case of Badass Decay, Atreyu, despite being described as a great warrior in the first film and even killing G'mork with a stone dagger, is easily murdered by Bastian here.
Arbitrary Equipment Restriction: A rare non-video game example: What's the Childlike Empress' answer as to why Bastian can't wish the Fantasians back into Fantasia before just wishing the book away from the Nasties and restoring their world? A simple scolding "No Bastian!" ...and that's all the excuse we and him need to hear apparently. It becomes totally pointless in the end as Barky, the tree person, uses the Auryn like a Reset Button to reverse the damage that's been done to Fantasia.
Just Eat Gilligan: Bastian asks a perfectly reasonable question, "Why can't I just wish the problem was solved?" the empress says no, because the characters lost would not be returned. Bastian then asks "Why can't I just wish them back?" the empress simply responds with "No." Bastian has to go through the entire movie premise just because the empress just didn't feel like it.
Large Ham / Ham and Cheese: Jack Black provides this as the movie's only real saving grace. What's written as a one-dimensional bully antagonist Jack Black plays as a diabolical mastermind, hell-bent on getting Bastian with a determination Captain Ahab would be proud of.