Throwback Thursday Review of “Time Bandits”
Directed by: Terry Gilliam
Length: 110 minutes
Man, I miss the 80s. Maybe it was my naive, childhood understanding of the world, but things seemed… better. People seemed happier and more optimistic, the future seemed brighter and more exciting, and movies seemed more imaginative and daring. It was a decade that was dominated by the family-friendly, fantasy films like E.T., The Neverending Story, The Princess Bride, Legend, Mac and Me. Okay maybe I went too far with Mac and Me, but you get the picture.
The focus on wildly original, fantastical movies in the 80s was perfect for Terry Gilliam. Gilliam is a director with seemingly a million stories to tell, and just as many visually magical creations to bring those stories to life. In “Time Bandits”, he invited his audience to dive head first into his masterful blend of history and sorcery and in the process created one of the great family, fantasy fantasy films of the 80s or any decade.
Craig Warnock plays Kevin, the young hero of the film, who gets swept up in the adventure of a lifetime when a group of time/dimension traveling bandits end up (briefly) in his bedroom. They have stolen a dimensional map from the supreme being (Ralph Richardson) and are using it to travel to different times and dimensions stealing whatever loot they can find. It turns out that the supreme being is not the only one hunting for the map. Evil (the great David Warner) also has designs on steeling the map and taking over all of creation.
The whole cast are great. Warner and David Rappaport playing head bandit Randall are especially good, and there are a handful of fun cameos including Sean Connery, Shelly Duvall, and Gilliam’s old pal John Cleese playing a hilarious Robin Hood.
By today’s standard, “Time Bandits” is an incredibly dark family film. In the first 15 minutes you see a man who is on fire and multiple soldiers executed by a firing squad. Some parents today would shield their children’s fragile eyes from such atrocities. That was the 80s though. Kids movies, and cartoons for that matter, were dark. They dealt with things like death, bravery, and heroism in a much more “This is what life is like, kid, so get used to it” kind of way.
If you, like me, don’t mind the family night movie challenging your kid(s), and maybe even scaring them a bit “Time Bandits” is a perfect adventure to watch (as are all of the other films I mentioned above). If you are just a movie lover, looking to get into Terry Gilliam’s work “Bandits” is a great place to start. Many (myself included) view it as his most accessible film. Also, the fine people at Criterion have released it on a stunning blu ray that I bought just for this review… well that and so I can watch it many more times in the future. Just watch the trailer below, and tell me that doesn’t look awesome!