Blu-ray Review: Time Bandits (Criterion) | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Saturday, December 7th, 2019  

Time Bandits Blu-ray

Studio: Criterion

Dec 16, 2014 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


Six dwarfs steal a time-travel map from God and use it to skip between centuries, robbing historical figures of their riches. Along the way they pick up a little boy from our modern era, whose knowledge of knights, gladiators, and Napoleonic battles are a useful asset to them. They briefly lose him in Ancient Greece – where he’s adopted by Sean Connery – before doing battle with Evil himself. An obscure George Harrison composition plays as the credits roll.

WTF, right? Time Bandits belongs to the same school of batshit crazy, fantasy-driven kids’ movies that only could have been made in the 1980s. (See also: Labyrinth, The Neverending Story, The Dark Crystal, and Willow.) Chances are, unless you were one of those children who grew up with Time Bandits, it’s not going to be one of your favorite Terry Gilliam films as an adult. The premise sets up the film to play out episodically, and the larger story feels like little more than the excuse needed to facilitate the various epoch leaps. Still, it’s one of Gilliam’s oldest, oddest, and most successful: the film returned more than eight times its budget at the box office. Much of that prosperity can be attributed to the way the film appeals to children. The conflicts – a little boy and his roguish, good-natured pals versus a grotesque, evil wizard, a troll, etc. – are as black and white as those in a Disney animated fairy tale, and the rapid jumps between fantastic settings provides a fresh set of characters and obstacles at regular intervals. As an adventure tale to enjoy with your kids, you could do much worse than Time Bandits – you just can’t expect the depth of Gilliam’s more adult works. 

That’s not to say that Gilliam’s kids’ movie doesn’t have any appeal for the adult viewer. The cast surrounding our pint-size hero and his dwarf allies is both colorful and recognizable. Sean Connery appears as King Agamemnon, Ian Holm as Napoleon, John Cleese as Robin Hood; fellow Python Michael Palin play multiple roles opposite Shelley Duvall. Perennial bad guy David Warner dons a red cape and H.R. Giger-inspired headpiece to embody Evil; Sir Ralph Richardson plays his good counterpart. More impressive than this parade of stars, however, is the film’s art design, which still looks incredible today, and is lovingly-examined in an extra documentary on Criterion’s new Blu-ray edition of the film. Each of Time Bandits’ historical eras and fantasy lands is brilliantly realized in creative manners, un-handicapped by the tight budget restraints. Even if the story doesn’t inspire a childlike sense of wonderment, the sight of the film’s heroes riding on the head of a giant – or swinging between cages suspended over an infinite abyss – likely still will.

Alongside its newly-restored, hi-def transfer of the film, Criterion’s Blu-ray edition packs in a commentary, a lengthy Gilliam interview, a talk show appearance by Duvall, a photo gallery, trailer, and the previously-mentioned documentary about the film’s production design.

www.criterion.com/films/232-time-bandits

Author rating: 6.5/10

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Average reader rating: 9/10



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