Time Bandits

A part of this view­ing list: Cri­te­ri­on Col­lec­tion Spine #37: Ter­ry Gilliam’s Time Ban­dits.


Woops. This movie total­ly didn’t do a damn thing for me. And usu­al­ly I real­ly like Ter­ry Gilliam. I would have pre­ferred some­thing like The Adven­tures of Baron Mun­chausen as the Cri­te­ri­on pick, if they were going to go with a Gilliam kid’s movie, since that film is both enter­tain­ing, won­der­ful and well made. Time Ban­dits doesn’t seem like any of those to me, but I’m hop­ing that it was nec­es­sary prac­tice for Gilliam in order for him to pro­duce Mun­chausen. It is a pret­ty good children’s film, although the char­ac­ter­is­tic Gilliam dark­ness might focus the demo­graph­ic on old­er chil­dren. A younger one might not under­stand the whim­si­cal Napoleon, the tech­no­crat­ic decla­ma­tions of Evil or cope with the explo­sive end­ing of the par­ents. The film cer­tain­ly doesn’t strike me as some­thing fun­ny. Sil­ly, def­i­nite­ly, chil­dren will laugh at the danc­ing dwarves, but actu­al humor is rarely to be found. It is Mon­ty Python with­out the punch.


The film­mak­ing is Gilliam™; a sort of steam­punkesque mag­i­cal real­ism, where things like knights break­ing through wardrobes in 20th cen­tu­ry Britain seem plau­si­ble main­ly because the sets are as banal as real life and the future already appears obso­lete. What I mean is that a view­er doesn’t have to sus­pend dis­be­lief to see and enter into a room that looks like what any boy’s room looked like in 1981, and when the mag­ic occurs, it is the type of mag­ic that a boy would imag­ine hap­pen­ing in his room. Gilliam nev­er dives too deeply into the rich ter­ri­to­ry he presents. Instead the con­stant flit­ting about allows him to keep the film at a lev­el that chil­dren can under­stand and that also appears to be a bit dream­like; set­ting up the “it was only a dream, or was it?” cliché end­ing.


It often seem like Gilliam keeps mak­ing movies in attempts to either elu­ci­date a com­pli­cat­ed thought or pin down a spe­cif­ic world­view that is his Truth. He’s ambi­tious, in the respect that his goal appears to be a uni­fied the­o­ry, where­as oth­er direc­tors are con­tent with the expli­ca­tion of a small piece of truth. Gilliam is a philoso­pher who acci­den­tal­ly became a film­mak­er and uses that medi­um as his the­sis vehi­cle. He cer­tain­ly seems to express a Camu­sian exis­ten­tial­ist absur­di­ty, focused less on the absur­di­ty of exis­tence peri­od, and instead on the absur­di­ty of exis­tence now. And while this idea that humans waste their lives con­vinc­ing and dream­ing about bet­ter things pro­vides frus­tra­tion, the fact that these fan­ta­sy escapes are often bet­ter than actu­al life, and the fact that Gilliam is a cre­ator and pur­vey­or of such fan­ci­fuls is an irony that I am cer­tain Gilliam is aware of.