Face-Off: The NeverEnding Story vs. Labyrinth

In our previous Face-Off, THE FIFTH ELEMENT took down STARGATE in a battle of the 90's sci-fi flicks. Most of you agreed with my decision, and some of you went the other way, but I'm guessing we can all agree that both films will enjoy a greater legacy than the already forgotten INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE.

This week, with Steven Spielberg's adaptation of Roald Dahl's THE BFG coming to theaters, some of you may be getting nostalgic for the stories of your childhood. Of course, if you're not a child of the 80's, then you're probably just baffled by all of the bizarre shit that was marketed toward children back then (not that there aren't some wack ass cartoons out there nowadays). THE NEVERENDING STORY and LABYRINTH are two of the most memorable films of the genre, but let's explore which is the better film overall. Oh, before we set out, do try and avoid the Swamps of Sadness and the Bog of Eternal Stench. Okay, come on, feet.
Keeping his feet on the ground in the real world, Barret Oliver's Bastian is your average bookish outcast, lamenting his departed mother and wishing for a fantasy world more exciting than his own. Traversing that world is Noah Hathaway's Atreyu, a fearless child warrior who will stop at nothing to save Fantasia.
While Sarah is far from the most interesting protagonist ever put onscreen, the then 14 year-old Jennifer Connelly brings her incredible talent to the character, giving Sarah humanity, grace, humor, and defiance. Meanwhile, David Bowie as the thin, white Goblin King Jareth is one of the most iconic, captivating, and memorable characters of the genre.
The Childlike Empress, the luck dragon Falkor, Atreyu's horse Artax, the gnomes Urgl and Engywook, the Rock Biter, Teeny Weeny and his racing snail, Nighthob and his narcoleptic bat, the evil wolf-thing Gmork, the Empress' servant Cairon, Bastian's father, the school bullies, and of course, the grumpy bookseller Mr. Coreander.
Hoggle the dwarf, Ludo the beast, Sir Didymus the fox knight, his trusted steed Ambrosius, the kindly worm, the wiseman and his bird hat, the junk lady, the four guards, the fireys, the false alarm statues, the door knockers, Sarah's father and stepmother, her stepbrother Toby, and a host of bumbling goblins.
While hiding out from bullies, Bastian reads a captivating book about Fantastia, a fantastic world threatened to be destroyed by the Nothing. As the warrior Atreyu sets out to save his people, Bastian learns the fate of Fantasia and its inhabitants lies in his own hands.
Fed up with the drudgery of stepsisterhood, Sarah wishes for the Goblin King to take her baby stepbrother Toby far away from her. When he obliges, she has 13 hours in which to reach the center of the Labyrinth lest Toby become lost to her forever.
In an unlikely follow up to DAS BOOT, Wolfgang Petersen brings a sense of depth and solemnity to THE NEVERENDING STORY. Some of the effects, ADR, and overly goofy moments keep the film from holding up all that well today, but THE NEVERENDING STORY still takes a point for just how ambitious and emotionally evocative it is.
The man, the muppet, Jim Henson himself directs LABYRINTH with a deft hand, ensuring both the characters and the world feel 100% real while still maintaining a dreamlike quality. Throw in a battle sequence featuring a horde of goblins versus sentient rocks and a climactic scene set in M.C. Escher's "Relativity" for good measure.
Klaus Doldinger's score (as well as Giorgio Moroder's theme song for the North American release) feels extremely 80's for better or for worse, but it absolutely works, ranging from ethereal ambience to sweeping synth fanfare.
Bowie, period. David Bowie's original songs provide some of LABYRINTH's most memorable moments, and Trevor Jones' score ties in melodies from the songs with eerie synths, pulsing beats, and grand ornamentations.
THE NEVERENDING STORY spawned two sequels and little else. References to the film can still be found all over the place, though, including in band names, comedy sketches, craft beer, and more.
With talks of a new film in the works, an annual masquerade ball in Hollywood, and a wealth of fiction set in the world of the Labyrinth, it's safe to say LABYRINTH has achieved cult status, but as with THE NEVERENDING STORY, there's little else to point to beyond a general love and affection of the film itself.
IMDB: 7.4
Rotten Tomatoes: 81% (Audience Score: 82%)
Metacritic: 46 (User Score: 6.8)
Domestic Total Gross: $20,158,808
IMDB: 7.4
Rotten Tomatoes: 66% (Audience Score: 86%)
Metacritic: 50 (User Score: 8.8)
Domestic Total Gross: $12,729,917
"Never give up, and good luck will find you."

"They look like big, good, strong hands, don't they? I always thought that's what they were."

"A hole would be something. No, it was nothing."

"We don't even care whether or not we care."

"Come for me, G'mork! I am Atreyu!"

"Next is the Magic Mirror Gate. Atreyu will have to look his true self in the face."
"So? That shouldn't be so hard."
"Oh, that's what everyone thinks! But kind people find out that they are cruel. Brave men find out that they are really cowards. Confronted by their true selves, most men run away screaming."

"Why don't you do what you dream, Bastian?"
"But I can't, I have to keep my feet on the ground!"
"Call my name. Bastian, please! Save us!"
"All right! I'll do it! I'll save you! I will do what I dream!"

"One grain of sand. It is all that remains of my vast empire."

"The more wishes you make, the more magnificent Fantasia will become."

"Bastian made many other wishes, and had many amazing adventures until he came back to the real world... but that's another story."
"You remind me of the babe."
"What babe?"
"The babe with the power."
"What power?"
"The power of voodoo."
"Who do?"
"You do."
"Do what?"
"Remind me of the babe."

"I wish the Goblin King would come and take you away. Right now."

"You have thirteen hours in which to solve the labyrinth before your baby brother becomes one of us forever."

"Did you say 'hello?'"
"No, I said 'allo,' but that's close enough."

"If she'd have kept on going down that way she'd have gone straight to that castle."

"So, the Labyrinth is a piece of cake, is it? Well, let's see how you deal with this little slice..."

"I ask for so little. Just fear me, love me, do as I say and I will be your slave."

"Damn. I can never remember that line."

"You have no power over me."

"I don't know why, but every now and again in my life. For no reason at all, I need you; all of you."
I will always love THE NEVERENDING STORY, and I have a ton of respect for everything it accomplishes, but it just doesn't hold up quite as well as LABYRINTH, a film which combines the magic of Jim Henson and George Lucas with a script by Monty Python's Terry Jones and the combined talents of David Bowie and Jennifer Connelly. Let me know your thoughts and which is your favorite of all the wonderfully weird family films out there in the comments below. In the meantime, I'll leave you with this bit of 1980's epicness:

Agree? Disagree? Which do you prefer?

If you have a suggestion for a future Face-Off, let us know below or send me an email at [email protected].



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