The 1984 film adaptation of Michael Ende's The Neverending Story was a huge deal to me the first time I saw it. It was a movie that changed my imagination for the rest of my life. How cool was it that there was a place, Fantasia, where every legend, every fictional creature ever dreamed up by man, had a place to live. Who wouldn't want to live there?
Can you imagine a place where Sherlock Holmes, Robin Hood, Eeyore, Buffy Summers, Mame Dennis, Zeus, and Isis, all had a place to mingle and coexist? They would all band together to fight against Trollocs, Orcs, Sauron, Ursulla, Michael Meyers, and others of their ilk. And yes, I do still play this game in my head. Every time I read a book, watch a movie, or get sucked into a TV show, every single character is sorted in this imaginary land in my head; the good guys on one side of the planet, the bad guys on the other. At one point in time, I kept lists, had the characters divided into guilds, and had them forming governments and businesses. I'm no longer that obsessed with the idea, but I can't totally let it go either.
As great as the idea of Fantasia was for me, the best part of the me, was who the real hero was. It wasn't the obvious choice, the young warrior Atreyu. In the end, the real hero was the nerdy, bullied kid, who just wanted to escape his feelings of neglect and displacement. Bastian Balthazar Bux just wants to escape his existence. He has no real friends, he's not getting the attention he needs at home, and he's being bullied in school. When he gets lost in the story of Fantasia, it's not long before he realizes that he's not just reading a book, that he is in fact witnesses to, and to a degree, participating in, something far greater than himself.
It's this young boy, this junior bibliophile, who has the key to saving Fantasia. Its on his tiny shoulders, and it's his imagination that must save the day. This is a case where all it takes for the hero to save the day, is to use his mind. For a nerdy, junior bibliophile watching this movie for the first time, it was life affirming. It gave me hope that I didn't need to be some super strong athlete, to make a difference.
I own this movie, and I still watch it from time to time. My heart still beats faster as Bastian struggles with the truth. I still cheer, sometimes out loud, when he accepts the idea that he can make a difference.