Actors: Sean Connery, Shelley Duvall, Ralph Richardson
Director: Terry Gilliam
Format: Widescreen, Blu-ray, Restored, Special Edition, Subtitled
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Number of discs: 1
Rated: NR (Not Rated)
Studio: Criterion Collection
Release Date: December 9, 2014
Run Time: 116 minutes
Terry Gilliam emerged as a filmmaking talent to be watched with his initial work done with the Monty Python troupe, with his feature debut being Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975). Although Time Bandits (1981) shifted into a darker fantasy tone that has since become stylistically recognizable as distinctly Gilliam, he still utilizes many of the talents from Monty Python (even co-writing the screenplay with Michael Palin). This creates a blend of irreverent zaniness and childlike sentimentality, fanciful settings and realistic concerns. It is a children’s film that doesn’t pander or dumb down, and one which contains layers of meaning to be stripped away with repeat viewings and maturation.
Despite being a fantasy family film, the themes and the mood of Time Bandits can often become surprisingly dark. The beginning of the film is even more unsettling today than I imagine it was thirty-some years ago, mostly because of how accurate the futuristic prediction seems to have been. Our young hero, Kevin (Craig Warnock), is being neglected by his technology-obsessed parents when his imagination provides the opportunity for adventure, new friends, and his own personal revolution. This fantasy begins with the sudden arrival of a band of time-traveling dwarf thieves, who have stolen a map from the Supreme Being (Ralph Richardson) and are fleeing by jumping across time and space.
Kevin joins them as they take treasure from legends such as Napoleon (Ian Holm) and Agamemnon (Sean Connery), only to have it taken away from them by Robin Hood (John Cleese). The greatest of temptations for treasure, however, ends up being a trap set for them by the Evil Genius (David Warner), who wants the map for himself. The film jumps from location to location with incredible energy, giving the film a whirlwind feeling to a narrative that always felt like a modern science fiction update of The Wizard of Oz anyway.
Time Bandits has been released on Blu-ray previously, but this director-approved Blu-ray Special Edition features a new 2K digital restoration that was supervised personally by Gilliam. The playback also comes with an optional audio commentary track featuring Gilliam, co-writer and actor Michael Palin, and actors John Cleese, David Warner and Craig Warnock. The extras include a new featurette, narrated by David Morgan and featuring production designer Milly Burns and costume designer James Acheson. Also included is a conversation between Gilliam and film scholar Peter von Bagh, recorded at the 1998 Midnight Sun Film Festival, an interview by bit actress Shelley Duvall on Tom Snyder’s “Tomorrow” show from 1981, and a gallery of rare photographs taken on set. The package also comes with an insert that has an essay by critic David Sterritt, and a collectible Blu-ray cover.
Entertainment Value: 8.5/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 8.5/10
Historical Significance: 9/10
Special Features: 9/10