Time Bandits (1981)

A young boy (Warnock) jumps into a time hole with six dwarves who have stolen the Supreme Being’s (Richardson, Rollerball) map for time travel locations. They then proceed to go from age to age, including meeting Napoleon (Holm, Alien) and Robin Hood (Cleese,And Now for Something Completely Different), in order to steal riches from each individual time. Conflicts occur when the Supreme Being’s arch-nemesis, Evil Genius (Warner, The Island), wants to get the map to learn about technology and to conquer the universe.

This comic-fantasy by director Terry Gilliam (The Adventures of Baron Munchausen12 Monkeys) is a decent fantasy flick, but the comedy leaves much to be desired. It’s never very funny, albeit quirky with a slight twinge of whimsy. Like all of Gilliam’s films, Time Bandits suffers from unevenness caused by the mix of light comedy and vicious brutality.

The costumes and sets are terrific, and the ensemble of actors is impressive, but the script is chock-full of wonderful ideas that are never developed into anything of great substance. It also has one of my least favorite endings in film history, all at once having the tired clichés of the Deus ex Machina cop-out, the “It was all a dream” cop-out, the “Maybe it wasn’t all a dream” cop-out, and the “We don’t know how to wrap this up so let’s just zoom out” cop-out.

It’s still viable entertainment to be sure, but it’s difficult to not be disappointed at all of the unrealized potential greatness that could have been had given the talent and imagination brought together here.

Qwipster’s rating: B-

MPAA Rated: PG for violence, language and disturbing images (would be PG-13 today)
Running Time: 110 min.


Cast: Craig Warnock, David Warner, Sean Connery, John Cleese, Ian Holm
Director: Terry Gilliam
Screenplay: Michael Palin, Terry Gilliam