Released in 1984, The NeverEnding Story departed from many of fantasy's templates. It also presaged aspects of the next generation of such films as Harry Potter's gleeful dragon rides and The Princess Bride's cranky-old-guy-gives-kid-a-book framing device. Viewers meet a colorful lot upon their arrival in the surreal kingdom of Fantasia, including a "racing snail" and a vaguely cannibalistic, rock-biting boulder. But these characters don't accompany the young hero, Atreyu, as Wizard of Oz-style quest companions. Instead, Atreyu mostly travels alone until he encounters Falkor, a dog-faced dragon. Back in the "ordinary world," Bastion, a bullied daydreamer, reads about Atreyu's adventures until he's asked to intervene. A snarling beast named Gmork informs Atreyu that Fantasia exists only in the imaginations of humans, but because this revelation takes place about two-thirds of the way through the film (and only foreshadows more interesting plot twists to come), it doesn't feel like an it-was-all-a-dream cop-out. The NeverEnding Story screens at 11:30 tonight at Liberty Hall (642 Massachusetts in Lawrence, 785-749-1972.) Tickets cost $5.
Liberty Hall Fri., May 9, 11:30 p.m., 2008