Posted on 2/28/05 06:59 PM
Review of Time Bandits (Gilliam, 1981)
Overview: It has come to my attention that there are actually some members of RT who have NOT yet scene this masterpiece of film. I have just one thing to say: Shame on you! Well, not really, but you TRULY are losing out on one of the best pure fantasy films of all time. There's just nothing like it. This film, written by Monty Python's Michael Pallin and Terry Gilliam (who also directs it), boasts an all-star cast including Sean Connery, John Cleese, Ian Hold, Shelly Duvall, Ralph Richardson, Katherine Helmond, and a bunch of well known midget.
Time Bandits is this wonderfully hilarious epic tale about this group bumbling dwarves who have stolen a map from the Supreme Being (their former employer) that shows holes in the space-time continuum that have been in place since the beginning of a rather imperfect creation of the universe (what do you expect - there's bound to be errors if you have to do a rush job and get everything done in 7 days!). They have stolen the map with the idea that they can go back in time and steal all the great treasures from everyone and become filthy rich. During their escape from the Supreme Being, they end up in the bedroom of Kevin, a 10 year-old boy who has a great love of all the old heroes from fantasy and history. Kevin joins them while escaping from the Supreme being, and it quickly becomes clear that Kevin is the only one with an ounce of sense.
Time Bandits takes us on this wonderful romp through all these great periods in time, including ancient Greece, the Titanic, Robin Hood, Napoleon, and other more mythic ages. As the adventure continues, every time these dwarves successfully rob something, it ends up getting taken away from them. Worse, all, the dwarves keep taking advantage and deflating all of Kevin's heroes, such as Napoleon, Robin Hood and Agamemnon, keep ending up getting lessened or deflated in some way. Throughout the picture, we also get to see the Time Bandits continually interrupting a rediculous Michael Palin courting Shelly Duvall in various time periods. Pallin always has something "wrong" with him, either a hairpiece, non-working member, a growth on his nose, or some other unflattering issue.
On top of this, the ultimate evil force in the universe, called Evil Genius is plotting to steal the map from the dwarves so that he can escape from the Fortress of Ultimate Darkness. Evil Genius, played wonderfully by David Warner, is an absolute over-the-top riot! His evil plot involves using the map to understand digital watches, video cassette recorders, car telephones, computers , lasers and all other forms of technology so that he can eventually challenge this insane supreme being who wastes his time creating butterflies and daffodils and 43 species of parrots.
The Crafting of Time Bandits: Time Bandits is filled with wonderful shots and interesting use of the camera. In his quirky way, Gilliam continually keeps us off-balance as nothing ever goes the way you expect. The visuals only serve to enhance this. We get everything from close-up shots with out of focus backgrounds, interesting use of shadow and lighting, a diversity of color choices, and the most interesting collection of set pieces one could imagine. We also get some wonderfully intelligent crafting - for instance, Kevin's horrid suburban family house has all the furniture covered in plastic, which we see repeated in the Evil Genius' henchman, who are also all covered in plastic. Truly, Gilliam has created a universe which allows him to borrow liberally from any period in time and mesh them together as he sees fit, and he does this with comedic aplomb.
Get the DiviMax Edition: Time Bandits has been released in an original version, a Criterion edition and the most recent, a DiviMax version. The Criterion edition is an especially bad deal as it costs a fortune and comes complete with interlacing and sound problems. With the DiviMax version we get a Superbit video transfer and 5.1 Dolby Digital EX sound. We also get treated to a wonderful hour-long Terry Gilliam Film Retrospective that goes in detail through the making of each of his films (complete with interviews from the likes of Brad Pitt, Shelley Duvall and others), and a half-hour interview with Gilliam and Pallin on the writing of Time Bandits. Both are superb.
Bottom Line: If you want to pass on one of the best pure fantasies ever made, by all means, pass on this. If, on the other hand, you don't want to be the object of RT ridicule, maybe you should give Time Bandits a try. The pacing is superb, the action is fun, the acting is terrific, and the comedy is consistently top notch. Best yet, Time Bandits is one of those movies you'll continue to enjoy more every time you watch it. Its truly one of my favorite movies of all time. If ever there were a MUST SEE in my movie reviews, its this one.