‘The poor are going to be absolutely thrilled. Have you met them at all?’
There are certain films that everyone watched growing up. Jurassic Park, Men in Black, Star Wars, Harry Potter etc etc. There are other film however, that people think everyone else watched but it turns out they were not so ubiquitous after all. I just assumed until my mid twenties that everyone grew up watching Terry Gilliam’s fantasy fable Time Bandits. I have come to understand that, sadly, this isn’t the case.
I have started a kind of nostalgic, cinematic odyssey this past week, starting with Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and continuing with Time Bandits and I noticed lots of peculiar similarities. Both feature Sean Connery playing a king. Both feature the character of Robin Hood (played wonderfully by John Cleese here) and both have moments of utter wonder mixed with other scenes that are just plain baffling.
Time Bandits sees a group of misfit dwarfs steal a powerful map that allows them to travel time and space, robbing people blind. That loose concept allows for a lot of different set pieces and era’s and Gilliam makes the most of the story’s freedom.
Terry Gilliam is undoubtedly one of the most interesting directors working in Hollywood today, from his work with Monty Python, through Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Brazil, Twelve Monkeys and The Fisher King, he has built up a formidable and unique body of work. Time Bandits is his most family friendly film and his vivid imagination makes for a spectacular adventure. Fellow pythons John Cleese and Michael Palin come along for the ride, the latter as co writer as well as actor, and together they produce a film that is as memorable as it is fantastical.
The influence of both Alice in Wonderland and Wizard to Oz run rampant throughout, but in truth, Time Bandits is thematically closer to Return to Oz and there are parts of Gilliam’s film that are genuinely dark. Darkness is a good fit for Gilliam however, and it only becomes another welcome ingredient in an eclectic dish.
The enthusiastic cast have a ball throughout with David Warner particularly delivering a delightfully twisted performance as Evil. Connery is his heroic self, Cleese and Palin are hilarious as always and David Rappaport carries the film nicely as the dwarf leader Randall.
Gilliam’s directorial style is not for everyone but if you enjoyed any of his other films and you haven’t seen Time Bandits, I urge you to watch it. Just as good as it was when I watched it in my pyjamas as a 9 year old.