Jan 22, 2010

[Movies] Time Bandits (1981)

Time BanditsThe mind of Terry Gilliam is probably a very scary place to be. From his popular beginnings as a member of Monty Python to his very diverse variety of movies, his creativity certainly takes him to very strange places. It seems like across this films, he's almost struggling to try and get things out of his head and onto the page or the screen. The results are mixed and not necessarily easy to get into, but then there's no questioning that there's a lot more to his creative vision than most realize.

There seem to be recurring themes across many of his movies beyond the often dark tone or feel to things. Some things that come to mind is his love of explosions, naturally the need for humor and other things like cannon balls, sets made to appear like a stage or the French. This is just my opinion mind you and perhaps you might feel that my observations are totally off the mark.

Regardless, a Terry Gilliam movie is something to be enjoyed with a very open mind or perhaps even certainly hallucinogenic drugs. Regardless of how hard such movies are to understand at times, you can expect an entertaining ride.

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 06:  Terry Gilliam s...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

Time Bandits is an interesting yet sometimes confusing fantasy epic that only Terry Gilliam could put together. The story involves a young boy named Kevin (Craig Warnock) who is largely ignored by his parents. One night he's surprised to find a knight of a horse bursting out of his closet only to disappear just as quickly before his parents can come check on him. The strangeness of his wardrobe is repeated the next night when six vertically-challenged men tumble out. They're trying to escape from a giant floating head and they do so by pushing Kevin's bedroom wall in until they gain enough distance from the head to escape into a hole in space and time.

The little men are apparently former employees of someone known as the Supreme Being. They helped put the universe together largely by creating various small bushes and trees but had decided to strike out on their own. In their possession is a map of space and time that reveals all the holes and portals between time periods and worlds which they're now using to travel all of history. They're trying to find anything of value in the past with the hopes of selling these artifacts for profit. Kevin gets dragged along for the right since it turns out that he knows a lot more about history than any of the time bandits. While all this is happening, a dark figure only known as Evil is watching the progress of the bandits and hopes to get the map in order to escape his prison.

Not to sound overly prejudiced, but there's something highly disturbing about watching a group of dwarves / midgets running around on-screen, getting into a variety of aspects. Many people may find this sort of thing amusing, but I can't help but find it all rather disturbing instead. It's like how people have such diverse opinions of clowns. Thus having the protagonists in this film be played by men of a different level of height entirely added to the surreal feel to things, for me.

The story is not one that's easy to swallow right away and it wasn't until they had traveled across the dimensions a bit more before I really started to get a grasp of what the story was about. A certain suspension of belief, a love for fantasy and an appreciation for the silly and the fantastic will help you get past that. I feel like it's the kind of story that the adult mind has a bit more of a challenge to comprehend given the filters of experience as compared to the simpler yet more flexible mind of a young child. It's a theory best applied to other Gilliam movies like Baron Munchausen or something.

One has to given Gilliam credit for how creatively diverse his sets and sequences are. He managed to travel to time periods like ancient Greece or even the middle ages with a now real Robin Hood. It's not quite a big budget movie and this is well before CGI so it ends up involving a lot of miniatures and creative set designs - perhaps something he learned during his time with the Pythons.

Time Bandits is certainly fun although quite cheeky in its humor all throughout the movie. IT deserves 4 Michael Palin characters out of a possible 5.

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