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The Cinematic Katzenjammer: Nov 2: Time Bandits


Nov 2: Time Bandits

"A young boy accidentally joins a band of dwarves as they jump from time-period to time-period looking for treasure to steal."
Directed by: Terry Gilliam, Rated: PG, 116 minutes

Time Bandits is what happens when you take Monty Python humor, throw in a bunch of little people, time traveling, and Sean Connery. Yes, that sounds like all sorts of awesome but the finished product isn't as glorious as one would assume. It's a very friendly adventure through time and space but it lacks a focused point of view and, instead of saving the world, we must settle with a bunch of thieves jumping into all sorts of eras and ages. While director Terry Gilliam does a wonderful job with his bizarre style and look at things, Time Bandits feels like it's lacking something that you can never really pinpoint.

Heeeeyyy!!! (these guys just make you cheer and smile)

Kevin is a young boy who's much more interested in learning new things than his parents, who spend their evenings watching mindless game shows on TV. One night, a band of little thieves emerge from Kevin's closet and tell him that they're jumping through time and robbing from whoever they run into to build up a vast fortune. On their tail is the Supreme Being (God) who's looking to get back the map of time the thieves stole. Along their adventures, the group encounter Napoleon (Ian Holm), Robin Hood (John Cleese) and Agamemnon (Sean Connery), all in their respective time periods. Also looking for the map is the Evil Genius (David Warner), who is pretty much the devil. He's wanting the map to use it to allow evil to take over the world.

'God' has never looked so creepy

Terry Gilliam crafts a beautiful film that utilizes the greatest of practical effects on huge set pieces that scream his style. The film jumps around time periods, both historical and fictional, and the characters that the time bandits encounter grow more and more bizarre. The acting is also superb, with the cast of little people stealing the show. David Rappaport is a terrific, yet greedy bandit leader and his supporting mini thieves fall in line right behind him. However, the film isn't much more than a series of humorous events and good acting, as the linear story that ties everything together feels rather lacking. It's part chase, part adventure, and part heist, but no one aspect takes control. While the film is clearly meant more for children (minus a handful of innuendos), you can understand the lack of a central focal point as the film has the attention span that a child would have. It's a shame because the film has great ideas and Gilliam's twisted charm plays its part front and center, but it never takes off.

Why can't we have more movies like this? 

While the film has its faults, it's still worth checking out for the imagination alone. Gilliam is a genius in every one of his films, from Brazil to The Imaginarum of Doctor Parnassus. He utilizes practical effects that come across as magic and reminds you that the glam and glitter of computer effects are not the greatest substitute for the effects of old. The set pieces Gilliam also creates are just as beautiful and the world he manages to create is fleshed out more than enough to have you wanting to live in it. Had Time Bandits found its central core and a more focused...focus, it could easily be an absolute masterpiece. However, it falls short but still manages to be memorable in its own wild way.

The Good:
terrific effects, elaborate set pieces, and solid acting
The Bad:
a lack of focus that distracts from the film
The Ugly:
wondering why something this original has not been remade, but then thinking about the destruction of CGI that would be wrecked upon it


Discussion Question:
Do you think the use of practical effects and large sets is a dead art? Or is there no hope for such things in this digital world?


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At November 2, 2012 at 10:50 PM , Blogger Nikhat said...

This film has one of the oddest endings ever. Pretty sure that if I had watched it as a child, I would have been scarred for life.

At November 2, 2012 at 11:27 PM , Blogger Nick said...

It fits though.. kind of lol. It's bizarre and weird and very.. Gilliam lol

At November 4, 2012 at 12:26 AM , Blogger Richard Kirkham said...

The story I read about the film is that they cast Agamemnon, in the script as "He takes off the bull head and it is the biggest movie star in the world". Then they got Connery and the script came true. The ending is creepy but there is a little hope from the biggest movie star in the world.

I loved this movie when I saw it in theaters, but it has some factors that make it a bit wearisome. The dwarfs all yell at each other and run around too much, some of the segments go on too long (Napoleon, and some are simply silly (Titanic). Ralph Richardson as God was good casting, an absent minded deity who could not be bothered.

The parents doing the exact opposite of what their son warns them about is a nice turnaround on the kids who usually do the same thing.

At November 4, 2012 at 11:16 AM , Blogger Nick said...

I agree that a few bits were dragging on too long. I wish there was more variety in the places they visited and more historical figures on screen. It also would have been interesting to see Gilliam tackle dinosaurs :)

At November 4, 2012 at 7:17 PM , Blogger Bubbawheat said...

Of Gilliam's more or less trilogy, my favorite is Baron Munchausen. I enjoy Time Bandits quite a bit, but I agree that it's not quite perfect. Still a mostly fun ride though.

At November 4, 2012 at 11:55 PM , Blogger Nick said...

Very true. I need to revisit Baron as well, it's been FOREVER.


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