Film Review: ‘Time Bandits’ (1981)

(re-post from an older version of my blog)

Directed by Terry Gilliam; written by Michael Palin and Terry Gilliam.

“Who are the TIME BANDITS? Where do they come from and how much do they cost?

They are timeless yet always late; immortal; yet destructible; capable of intergalactic, inter-cosmic travel, yet unable to tie their own shoelaces.

Six cheeky dwarves steal a precious map showing a series of time holes scattered across the universe enabling them to travel back in time. Whilst visiting the past, they cause havoc and rob famous historical figures of their riches in the process.

Watching from afar is the Evil Genius, who will stop at nothing to get his hands on their map for his own evil purpose. With 11 year old Kevin in tow, a great time travelling adventure ensues, full of superb make believe characters and very famous faces!”

After reading the back of the DVD and then watching the film you have to wonder if the same film was in the box because to me, the description above does not describe ‘The Time Bandits’. Another curiosity about the DVD is why none of the main cast have their names mentioned on the cover, surely it’s the lead characters and not the ones who pop briefly who should get top billing?

‘Time Bandits’ could be described as the missing Python film, the action and story are certainly very Python-esque right down to the ‘wacky’ characters such as the parents who are obsessed with gadgets and ultimately meet their fate after touching a piece of concentrated evil.

From entertaining a size-obsessed Napoleon with a stunningly bad rendition of ‘Me and My Shadow’ were off for a diluted romp across time where we meet Robin Hood (who is just as cheesy and swarmy as you’ve always believed) and Agamemnon (who despite being Greek has a Scottish accent) before ending up in the Land of Mysteries to face the Evil Genius.

Being a children’s film, inconstancies and the such like can be excused, and there is plenty to amuse adults watching the film. Like most children’s film the pace drops off around the middle and the ending goes out with a bang with a full on battle involving a space fighter, a tank and a spot of magic. It would have been fun to see them venture into the future but I believe that is one of the deleted scenes.

I would have loved to have seen more stuff with the map, not just jumping through a few more time portals but perhaps a little more with the Evil Genius and the map. Let us see the havoc that would have bee caused if the Evil Genius had been allowed to change the fabric of the universe.

I would have liked a bit more of the Evil Genius actually, and with the Ogre.

Overall, it’s a great kids film. If you haven’t seen it, give it a go but if you have seen it and are planning a re-watch you might be disappointed that it isn’t as fantastical as it could have been.

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