Before Gilliam made Brazil (reviewed here), he directed a small “special sequence” of the Meaning of Life (which has an opening sequence that very much reminds of Brazil and is probably part of the inspiration). And before that was Time Bandits, the first of the Dreams Trilogy.
Time Bandits is a fantasy film about the whimsy and dreams of Kevin, a child who has a love of history and meets up with six little people, the Time Bandits. From there, they go on an adventure through history and we see Kevin’s perceptions of history and philosophies of larger concepts he can’t completely understand. Time Bandits has a pacing similar to Brazil and Munchausen, and really, just a slow easy pace that Gilliam seems to prefer. In Brazil, it dragged the entire film. In Time Bandits, I felt it fit. There was always something happening that had meaning, always something to think about as you watch.
Time Bandits is a children’s fantasy film made for adults. Not in the sense of Your Highness, but in the sense that as adults we look at the film differently than a child would, and we gain further understanding of our characters through that different perspective. Kevin might not quite get that his perception of Robin Hood and his merry men are actually just a group of terrible bandits and a ridiculously posh Robin Hood seems to play into a subtle understanding on socialism. Kevin might not know that Agamemnon’s kindly nature stands for a father he wished for, one who loved and who trusted him and was interested in him. Kevin might not understand that the ultimate evil of the universe and all his minions are covered in the same plastic wrap his parent’s furniture is.
More like chaise-LYNCH, am I right?
There are a lot of little things in the movie that make the experience a wonderful one. This is not a movie about a character arc, because a child is too young to truly understand the arc they are on. This is about delving into their mindset. Now, the ending ends in a ridiculous way that is almost haphazard in refusing to allow the audience even a single moment of understanding. But that is quite literally the last ten seconds of the movie that leave me that baffled, and there is enough around to allow us to postulate the meaning, which while a little amateurish, isn’t as bad as an entirely confusing film like Brazil.
Also, I need to praise the humor, which always fit and was never distracting to me. ALSO also, love has to go to the six little people actors who played the Time Bandits. They are instantly likable, believable, lovable, all with small arcs and great moments. The escape sequence in the Tower of Infinite Evil (or whatever it is called) is filled with amazing tension.
Randall, Fidget, Og, Strutter, Wally, and Vermin. Creators of shrubbery. True story.
Overall, the film is really enjoyable, and one I love. It isn’t perfect, as its pacing is a bit long, a lot of the lighting in some sequences is pretty samey and washes everything out, Kevin’s actor is not good (as to be expected from a child actor), and the ending's ending is incredibly off-putting. But I think it is a great film worth a watch.