The Neverending Story Blu-ray Review
PictureThat dreaded phrase of “a mixed bag” seems to sum up the visual transfer for The Neverending Story. But, and this is the important thing to remember, all of the detriments that I am about to describe are minimal ... noticeable, but minimal ... and certainly not enough to put fans off a potential purchase. When all said and done, this BD version does look better than any SD copy that I've seen.
With a VC-1 encode, this 2.35:1 transfer is wide and vivid, the vague remastering that has been done, sprucing up the colours and honing the blacks into a picture that, at times, can look quite splendid. Colours, especially the primaries are terrific and well-saturated, though you will notice that some of the thicker, more reddish-gorged backgrounds can tend to shimmer and fuzz-up. Skin-tones are very good, though, as is the radiance of eyes. The incandescent glowing of the pastel-pearls on Falkor's back are nicely presented as is the gleaming of his eyes. The rich orangey-red of the racing snail is gorgeous and the foliage of some of the sets looks suitably fresh and moist. The green of G'Mork's feral eyes is starkly bold and intense when seen penetrating the thick shadows of his lair.
Shadows are decent enough without being too Stygian and the disc definitely appears to look at its best during darker moments. Deep Roy and his chums sitting in the glen just before all hell breaks loose, for example, or the great travelling zoom that homes in on the blackened mouth of G'Mork's cave, with great detail presented upon the hanging leaves and vines around and in front of the grim opening. Detail can vary, though. The landscapes, in close-up, can look great, as can the striations on Rock-Biter's stony frame, but further back, we loose a lot of distinction. Thankfully, edges don't suffer much in the way of enhancement, but there can be some blooming whites that don't quite sit right.
Print damage is evident throughout. The image is prone to lots and lots of tiny little pops, nicks and flashes and a degree of contrast fluctuations in pockets of the picture. Grain is not a major issue. There is some, but only on odd occasions does it really become apparent ... such as on the different film-stock usually seen on the background plates during the flying sequences. Some FX shots are noticeably softer but, again, this is due to the type of film that has been used and the post-production handling of its integration with the live-action material. Check out the crazy floating hair - or whatever it is - dancing about the upper left hand portion of the screen after Atreyu gets washed up on the beach towards the final act. Now this stippling of damage spots may sound awful, but, in actual fact, all of these things are minute and easily liveable with. Being somewhat charitable, I suppose, I'm awarding this a 7 out of 10. There are moments that shine here and I'm certain that, unless another and much more exacting remaster takes place, The Neverending Story has never looked better. After all, this is purely a transfer of the existing print and, as such, it only reveals the shortcomings already inherent in it ... and adds virtually none of its own from compression.
SoundNo lossless audio here, folks.
We get a choice of DTS or DD 5.1 (both in English) and that's your lot. But, that said, the DTS track is probably the better one with which to bolster the movie, though in all honesty, there isn't that much between them. However, I stuck with the DTS and found that the overwhelming majority of the film is spread rather thinly across the front. The age of the material doesn't produce any overt problems, with the track sounding reasonably clean without reaching any ear-embracing sonic finesse.
Whilst the sub comes into play often and certainly provides some nice deep swelling shockwaves rippling underneath you, there is actually precious little in the way of active surround. Oh, you may enjoy the thunder that bleeds across from front to back during the storm and the Space 1999-style zapping sound effect as the poor knight gets fried in his armour that reaches around behind you, but this is not an engaging audio track at all. The stereo spread is reasonable, but not terrific, with a lot of things that could have been spatialised rooted firmly in the centre.
Dialogue may be clear, but it sounds a little too harsh at times and strained. The score, too, may sound nice and heavy with the volume cranked up and some tinkering done on your kit, but there isn't a great deal of warmth, energy or vitality to it in the first place - although I'm pretty certain I still managed to drive the neighbours mad with the end titles.
ExtrasSadly, there is nothing on this disc other than the movie itself, which is a complete shame. The talent and the imagination that has gone into making the movie and we get nothing to expand our knowledge of the production. And no, not even Limahl's music video with that awesomely leggy co-singer that he had at the time!
VerdictStill immensely enjoyable, The Neverending Story is prime-time, lush family fantasy from a period that produced some un-paralleled classics of the imagination. Combining the hypnotic visuals of Flash Gordon, the animatronics of Jim Henson and the occasional absurdity of Terry Gilliam, Wolfgang Petersen also brings a European flavour of myth and magic to the pot. Throw in some better than usual performances from the child stars and a dated, but terrific score from Klaus Doldinger and Georgio Moroder and you are a wonderful 80's nirvana of eye and soul-candy. It is great entertainment that unfurls captivating landscapes by the dozen and thoroughly enjoys its widescreen splendour.
Sadly undernourished on BD, the film still looks far better than any SD version that I have seen. Colours are great, even if the image remains soft and largely aged. Sound is a disappointment, though to be fair, if this is for the little ones, what are they going to care? Wish-fulfilment is the name of the game and The Neverending Story is still immensely enjoyable in its attempts to grant a few along the way almost twenty-five years on. Recommended for old fans and potential new ones.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £15.99
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