The Film (4/5)
Time Bandits is a film for children, that refuses to acknowledge it is a film for children. It was made in the early 80's during seemingly the last time that filmmakers could get away with making truly dark films directed at a family audience before studios and theater chains got scared away from making and carrying such product. Time Bandits is the first film in what director Terry Gilliam refers to as his Trilogy of Imagination. It would be followed in that sequence by his next two films Brazil (my personal favorite of his work, also on Blu-ray from Criterion), and the Adventures of Baron Munchausen. Time Bandits, possibly more than any other of the films explores the concept of imagination more accurately than the other 3 just simply by framing it through the eyes of a child, and also by the very nature of the film which skips through multiple scenarios during the films running time.
The film follows an 11 year old boy named Kevin (Craig Warnock) who on two consecutive nights begins to receive unexpected visits in his bedroom. The first night he views a knight on horseback, and on the second a group of dwarves appear being chased by the Supreme Being. Kevin gets caught up with the dwarves who have a map of the universe that contains all the holes in the fabric of time. They are using the map to steal all the great valuables from history by appearing at a respective time zone, getting involved in the situation at hand, and making off with what loot they can. Unfortunately for Kevin and the Dwarves an entity named Evil is also interested in the map, and is attempting to intercept it from them at various points on their journey.
Time Bandits, more so than his debut solo feature (he co-directed Monty Python and the Holy Grain with Terry Jones) Jabberwocky, feels like the first absolute declaration of the Terry Gilliam whose work we would begin to value in the coming decades. Much like his later films from his next film Brazil all the way through to his recent Tideland (as of this writing I have not seen the Zero Theorem). The film explodes with imagination, and much like it's main protagonist actually feels like the work came from the mind of a child. Due to it's main narrative construct the film changes setting every 10-15 minutes, much as you would likely see children do. The film much like Gilliam's work with Monty Python is also quite satiric in nature, in this case pointing out the commercial and overtly technological nature of our day to day existence. This was in 1981, before the personal computer movement even truly had a foothold in the world.
Time Bandits is a family film in the true sense of the phrase. I find myself enjoying the film now on a non-nostalgic level, and I can see the film through different lenses than I viewed it as a child. The film is truly one that is crafted for both children and adult audiences alike. While I will say I do think Gilliam will have gone on to create better films, this may be his most memorable outing as a solo filmmaker.
Criterion have presented Time Bandits in a 1:85:1 1080p MPEG-4 AVC encoded transfer. The transfer was supervised by Terry Gilliam and James White of Arrow Video. We do have a review of the Arrow Video Blu-ray, but I have not viewed that release to compare, but based on the notes provided by Criterion it is safe to say that this edition is taken from the same restoration that Arrow utilized.
This is not a complaint as the Blu-ray looks and sounds fantastic. There is excellent color, detail, and blacks present. We have a nice intact grain structure throughout the film. The audio is presented LPCM 2.0 track in English. The dialogue, score, and effects are mixed appropriately with no issues that were detected on my listen.
A tremendous amount of material has been put together for the Criterion Blu-ray of Time Bandits. The Blu-ray includes a commentary by Gilliam with members of the cast and crew. Further on from that, we have an 80 minute conversation with Gilliam, a 24 minute piece with the production designer on the film, the trailer for the film, and a leaflet with liner notes and a copy of the films map.
One of director Terry Gilliam's finest films Time Bandits is an absolute revelation on this Criterion Blu-ray. The A/V restoration is fantastic, and the extras are elaborate and truly add to the package. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.