After attending school in Los Angeles, Terry Gilliam moved to New York within the early Nineteen Sixties, the place he helped to run an underfunded satire journal known as Assist! The journal had a characteristic that turned actual individuals into cartoons, the place they’d design a cartoon strip and rent actual actors to play the roles. When looking for comedian actors who had been sport, he met John Cleese and Graham Chapman.
That story, recounted by Gilliam to David Letterman in 1982 throughout an interview selling Time Bandits, just isn’t how Monty Python fashioned, however it’s shut sufficient. At its peak, Python sketches and films bounced with the shock and pleasure of a Sunday newspaper strip. However when the working situations of Python deteriorated, Gilliam took that model and crafted one thing of his personal.
Time Bandits was his third directorial credit score, however in some ways, it’s additionally the debut of Gilliam’s model. That model entails massive, elaborate set items; a robust mistrust in authority; an awesome perception within the energy of creativeness; and a few fairly good jokes alongside the best way. Gilliam has framed Time Bandits as his exploration of a kid’s creativeness, which may be far darker than what we often see in films and TV.
Time-jumping is a pure construction for sketch comedians seeking to make full-length footage, be they the members of Monty Python, Mel Brooks, or the writers of Invoice & Ted (who first got here up with their concept whereas doing stand-up). It’s straightforward to slaughter sacred cows when sporting a toga or a crown as a result of trendy individuals don’t truly know what historical past was like.
Perhaps it was extra like this than you notice, Brooks would argue in Historical past of the World Half One. Gilliam did the identical in his first co-directed film, Monty Python and the Holy Grail. As soon as a time interval has been exhausted, the gamers can merely transfer on to the following one, as seen in the long run of Holy Grail, when modern-day police come and arrest everybody current.
With Time Bandits, Gilliam caught with the notion of framing his story inside historical past, however he frames this one with rather more marvel and awe. The film is constructed round Craig Warnock (who solely acted as soon as extra after this) as Kevin, the kid of uncaring, trendy mother and father who would relatively watch TV than examine historical historical past with him.
Then, fairly all of the sudden, six little individuals barrel out of his closet. They’re on the run from the Supreme Being, having stolen a magical map that guides them to varied time holes, which permit them to journey between area and time.
Finally, the self-appointed chief of the gang Randall (performed by British actor David Rappaport in what would flip right into a breakout function) tells Kevin that whereas the Supreme Being made the universe, this band of little individuals formed it. They’re going by historical past stealing all the things they will as a result of they wish to lastly receives a commission for his or her work. That’s, if they will preserve the Evil Genius from stealing the map and turning everybody into unthinking computer systems.
If the idea of God didn’t exist already, Terry Gilliam would have invented it.
If the idea of God didn’t exist already, Terry Gilliam would have invented it. God, portrayed right here by London theatrical legend Sir Ralph Richardson, performs a significant function in Time Bandits. Why does one thing magic occur? God. Why do individuals all of the sudden must run from Level A to Level B? God. Why does evil occur? God brushes this basic query off, saying it has “one thing to do with free will.” God stays a continuing authority for Gilliam to poke and prod.
This enables Kevin, Randall, and the remainder to maneuver between Napoleon and Robin Hood with ease, the latter performed by fellow Python and longtime private antagonist John Cleese. Cleese performs Robin Hood as a smooth-talking politician, glad-handing the bandits and redistributing their wealth to the poor — however solely after having one of many Merry Males punch them within the face.
Visually, the film takes on moments of grand magnificence and utter chaos. When the little persons are on display, it’s a busy cacophony straight out of the Marx Brothers. To Gilliam’s credit score, the bodily situation of the little individuals is barely ever referenced as soon as, as a weird reply to a unique query from Cleese’s Robin Hood. Every of them, together with Kenny Baker of Star Wars (the unique R2-D2), runs round inflicting havoc and has a number of traits that distinguish them from the others.
Maybe sensing that the film couldn’t be based mostly round a single little one, varied scenes are punched up with celeb cameos. Shelly Duval is especially great in just some scenes as a perpetually unfortunate lover Dame Pansy. Sean Connery additionally makes a robust look because the world’s coolest dad, King Agamemnon.
In 2002, Gilliam stated in an interview that he “by no means wished to make naturalistic movies. I’ve at all times preferred the concept movie is an artifice, and that that is admitted proper from the beginning. So we create a world that isn’t true to a sensible naturalistic world, however is truthful…that’s the predominant factor.” Time Bandits tries to be truthful to a baby’s creativeness, in all its marvel and horror.
Time Bandits is streaming on HBO Max within the U.S.