Monday, February 24, 2014

Movie Review #9: Time Bandits

Time Bandits is one of those movies I would see on TV every once in a while, catch little bits of it here and there, yet never actually watch. However, in my desire to better familiarize myself with Terry Gilliam, I decided to watch a few of his non-Python movies. I watched Fear and Loathing in Las Vega last year, so I figured I'd watch the ones leading up to it: Time Bandits, Brazil, The Adventures of Baron Munchenhausen, The Fisher King, and 12 Monkeys.

I'll likely do one each month until they're done, so they ought to keep me occupied until summer.


This movie will pretty much keep you guessing from start to finish. It's funny and weird, but be prepared for some slower parts when the pace slows down.


A boy with an active imagination notices that something weird goes on at night in his room as he's falling asleep. Then, suddenly, a group of dwarves burst into his room and take him on a journey through time, using a map that leads them from one time warp to the next as they steal things from one famous historical figure after another.


I'm pretty sure I happened to catch the ending to this movie once, but since I wasn't invested in the kid I guess I totally forgot about what happened to his parents. I'll certainly never forget that twist now, though.

Of the work I've seen from Gilliam, this is the most Python-esque, and not just because so many Pythons appeared in it. Although the movie wasn't completely bonkers like Holy Grail or Meaning of Life, it had a mix of abruptness, dry delivery, and absurdity that to me characterized the Pythons. In fact, the whole Middle Ages part would have fit perfectly in Holy Grail somewhere.

Still, I could definitely see Gilliam turning more toward a straight narrative rather than a sequence of sketches, and things get pretty dramatic right up until the literal deus ex machina at the climax.

As I understand it, Time Bandits, Brazil, and The Adventures of Baron Munchenhausen are a sort of loose trilogy, thematically approaching the concepts of childhood, middle age, and old age respectively. I'll see how true that is in the next few months, but I can say that Time Bandits conveyed childhood very well.

With the possible exception of  Napoleon's assault on Italy, each time period felt very similar to a setpiece that a child would enjoying playing in. This continues right up to the climax in the Evil Genius's lair, in which cowboys, archers, a tank, and a spaceship with a laser weapon attempt to destroy the Evil Genius in his castle made of huge Lego blocks. In the end, you can almost believe that the kid had dreamed up the whole thing when he wakes up in his bed. But then, just as reality and normalcy seem to be returning, surreality pops up once more just before the end credits.

As a final note: this movie has the pleasure of having one of my favorite depictions of God.


I'm getting the impression that every Terry Gilliam film is going to be a surreal experience, regardless of what the rest of the movie might be about. This one happens to be in the guise of a family-friendly adventure movie.

That said, surreal movies are, by nature, difficult to grasp. You'll walk away confused, though perhaps entertained. I recommend the movie, though, since the movie is not so surreal as the make the movie unwatchable for a casual audience.

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