Friday, February 20, 2009
Time Bandits, from 1981 (and rated PG), is a darkly imaginative fantasy directed and written by Terry Gilliam of Monty Python (and director of such movies as Baron Munchausen -- which I’ll write about another time -- Brazil, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, 12 Monkeys, The Fisher King, and more). He’s an incredible talent, and rumors have persisted for years of a sequel to Time Bandits; I’d be one of the first in line!
It’s difficult to know whether this film was conceived as a true kids’ movie, or a film that would appeal to teens and young adult fans of Monty Python. There is so much about it that seems directly aimed at a child’s imagination (which is, in fact, what the film is about: the battle between unfettered, free imagination and the constraints of society/religion/technology -- yeah, the philosophy is a bit of a blur), but as noted in my opening sentence, it is rather dark. It may also not sit well with deeply religious viewers who may not favor the idea of questioning our origins or the existence of a true “Supreme Being.” Uh, it may also not sit well with parents who may be taken aback at the end, when our child hero’s parents are apparently zapped and disappear for good (this is an inconsequential component to the story, really, not much of a spoiler; and the parents weren’t very nice, although, honestly, I didn’t think they were that bad; maybe I missed something).
Regardless, its redeeming features far outweigh its questionable ones. It is brilliantly detailed and rendered, from sets to costumes and special effects. It’s mind bogglingly creative, and tons of fun, and also has moments of the absurdist Python humor that is so much fun. (Warning: if you are thinking your 11 or 12-year old might be ready for MP & the Holy Grail or Life of Bryan, know that the latter is rated R and the former is only PG, but has some parental warnings you may want to know about -- check IMDB.)
Supreme Being: I should do something very extroverted and vengeful to you. Honestly, I'm too tired. So, I think I'll transfer you to the undergrowth department, brackens, more shrubs, that sort of thing... with a 19% cut in salary, backdated to the beginning of time.
Randall: Oh, thank you, sir.
Supreme Being: Yes, well, I am the nice one.
Robin Hood, Napoleon, the Titanic, and King Agamemnon of Ancient Greece make appearances, and in one most amazing scene, the gang fall from a time hole onto a ship where a horrible, hungry ogre and his beautiful wife makes plans for an unfortunate feast; the rest of this scene is a sublime testament to Gilliam’s artistic vision and talent, especially considering the clunky special effects tools that were available back in the dark ages of 1981.
Robin Hood: [Departing cheerfully, saying goodbye to the Time Bandits--] Thank you very much! Thank you very much! Thank you very, very, very much.
[Under his breath]
Robin Hood: Awful people.